Dáil Éireann - Volume 367 - 30 May, 1986

Estimates, 1986. - Vote 41: Labour (Revised Estimate).

Minister for Labour (Mr. Quinn): I move:

That a sum not exceeding £171,498,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 1986, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Labour, including certain services administered by that Office, and for payment of certain grants and grants-in-aid.

The responsibilities assigned to my Department constitute a critical element in the formulation and promotion of social policies in line with our economic objectives as a nation. In implementing their economic policies the Government must seek to ensure a proper balance between equity and efficiency. Looking after the interests of disadvantaged groups in the labour market and establishing broad equality of opportunity constitute social policy objectives which, in my view, must remain central to [708] economic recovery and to improvements in the working of the labour market.

While the administrative scope of labour affairs has been greatly diversified, the key role of the Department of Labour still lies in promoting the welfare of workers and in ensuring equity and efficiency in the labour market. The competence of this Department and their scope for initiative are not restricted to the limited range of regulative functions prescribed in our code of worker protection. My Department are engaged in a continuous process of reform to ensure that they remain an effective instrument of Government policy.

Across the range of programmes and activities for which I am responsible as Minister, four priorities determine my Department's approach to achieving their objectives. These priorities are: the promotion of the State's commitment to the right to work and social justice for all; the development of our human resources; keeping open channels of communication between employers and workers; the investigation of the links between economic growth and social progress.

Throughout the industrialised countries the current high level of unemployment represents the major challenge to our societies and has called for a questioning of the development of employment services and the scope for more effective instruments of intervention.

In moving the Estimates for my Department last year, I drew particular attention to the needs of the long term unemployed. I observed how the centre of gravity of manpower policy in all European Community States had shifted from the transition from school to work to the continuing growth of the long term unemployed. In October 1985 there were 98,813 long term unemployed or 43 per cent of those unemployed; as against 34,658 in the same category five years ago. Long term unemployment in other countries, has also increased steadily — more than the general level of unemployment, particularly because of the problems faced by young people without [709] qualifications and by older unskilled and semi-skilled workers.

Many of those affected have family responsibilities. Even in favourable employment conditions the long term unemployed have always been seriously disadvantaged in access to jobs and in the range of career opportunities open to them. Their situation will continue to deteriorate unless special measures are adopted to alleviate their position.

It is not acceptable to me that a growing segment of the labour force should be condemned to a life of enforced idleness and deprivation. People deteriorate physically and psychologically when they cannot escape from long term unemployment. The State and the community at large have a duty to try to reintegrate them into the labour market. This Government has sought to harness the energy and drive of those who are currently unemployed by providing opportunities for socially useful work. It comes as no surprise to me that those who reject a major role for the State in taking direct action to tackle unemployment also reject the idea of socially useful work. These are the advocates of a narrow commercialism who insist on “real work and real things” implying that only that which is commercial is worth while. Their idea is that only private industry creates wealth and that only those goods and services sold on the market count as wealth. They are now putting over their message in revivalist terms and with revivalist vigour on occasions. We are told that wealth is created in the private sector, spent in the public sector; or created in manufacturing, spent in services. I am convinced that this kind of Gladstonian moralism has to be challenged if the potentially dynamic role of community-based projects for the disadvantaged is to be developed.

The challenge of unemployment calls for a contribution from all sectors of the community, even where that means accommodation to a change in expectations not least for the majority who now have jobs. Even the scope for Government intervention in support of training and job creation is being dismissed by the [710] new advocates of a return to a “night watchman” role for the State.

Mr. Keating: That is nonsense.

Mr. Quinn: They claim that their policies would give rise to “a climate in which enterprise can flourish”. What this means can be seen from the lessons of what has happened elsewhere. Nobody should be fooled — looking after number one means an abdication of responsibility for the unemployed.

The development of special intervention measures can be justified both on grounds of equity and because they make better use of economic resources. The implementation of the social employment scheme over the last 12 months has shown how it is possible to break the vicious circle in which the long term unemployed get trapped at the bottom of the jobs queue simply because they are long term unemployed.

The social employment scheme has made a marked contribution to growth in employment in the over 25 age group. There has been a slowing down in the increase in unemployment among older workers over the past 12 months. At present 9,500 persons are employed on more than 2,200 projects. We will attain our target of 10,000 persons on the scheme by the middle of the year, in fact, by the end of June.

Approximately a third of the projects now in operation are sponsored by voluntary organisations. These organisations cover a wide variety of activities from community welfare work, sport groups to arts and theatre projects of various kinds. The remaining 70 per cent of projects are sponsored by public sector bodies. These include local authorities, schools and health boards. I would like to acknowledge the debt which we owe to all the sponsors who are helping us help unemployed people. The high standard of the projects is impressive and the scheme has already been credited in many communities with counteracting many of the adverse effects associated with long term unemployment.

Concern had been expressed in some [711] quarters about the possible non-availability of prospective participants for certain projects. I recently secured Government approval for a number of changes in the eligibility criteria with a view to increasing the number of potential beneficiaries. These changes ensure:

(1) that all over 25s on unemployment assistance can participate; previously a 12 month period on the live register was also required;

(2) that people over 25 on unemployment benefit for at least 12 months can participate; previously the scheme applied only to those on unemployment assistance; and

(3) that an extra £15 a week will be provided for those who had previously been receiving an allowance for an adult dependant as part of the social welfare payment.

The relaxation of the eligibility criteria should increase the participation of married women, whose difficulties in qualifying for the scheme delayed the implementation of some projects. The payment of the new allowance will ensure that participation in the scheme is financially attractive to the married person with up to three child dependants and will ensure that more people can take part.

I have already indicated that my intention is to ensure that information on model projects is widely disseminated. This should enable worthwhile projects to be developed on a flexible and sensitive basis and avoid an uneven response in different areas of the country.

Unfortunately, the full potential of the scheme has not as yet been tapped. The sponsorship role for local authorities should ensure that the scope for intervention to meet the needs of the long term unemployed is not dependent on the expectation of a spontaneous response from voluntary bodies at local level. Outside of the Dublin area, local authorities now have over 5,000 people working on the scheme. Urban unemployment is most keenly felt and Dublin has the highest concentration of the older long [712] term unemployed workers. The social employment scheme is working in local authorities all over the country. It can work in Dublin. I again appeal to all concerned not to delay its implementation further. We owe it to the unemployed to make it work.

With regard to the general unemployment situation the most recent live register figure for the numbers unemployed is 232,256 people. This figure is unacceptably high. It is attributable to the major upheaval being experienced in international markets, redundancies arising from increased automation and the increase in the Irish labour force.

Let me turn to investment in training. The State's role in manpower training is one of the prime targets of the advocates of “free market” doctrines. What they seem to disregard is that investment in the skills and knowledge of our people is no less important than investment in new industrial processes. The State's involvement in the provision of training arises from one simple fact: left to their own devices employers would not supply sufficient quality or quantity of training to meet either their own requirements or those of the economy generally.

Continuing high levels of unemployment presents a particular challenge to AnCO. The building on experience programme has been specially tailored to the needs of the adult long term unemployed. Its combination of formal training and practical experience in a work environment enables participants to reassess their career potential and employment opportunities. The programme is now fully operational in most of AnCO's training centres and external training agencies. It is expected that 3,000 will participate in 1986, and the placement rate to date has been 57 per cent.

I regret that the level of training for the over 25s will fall below the 1985 level. This is primarily due to the revised guidelines for the European Social Fund which removed support for the over 25s who are less than one year unemployed. Nevertheless, I have, with the Government's agreement, directed [713] AnCO to carry out £1 million of enterprise training for those over 25 who have been unemployed for less than one year without matching ESF contributions. I am examining the position of such training in the future.

The overall strategy of the AnCO enterprise training programme is supportive of small business with its emphasis on identifying, encouraging and training potential entrepreneurs. Trainees are assisted to develop prototypes, test product ideas, marketing potential and similar activities. Research and development on open learning systems for entrepreneurs are being intensified. Up to 3,500 will avail of enterprise training in 1986. Enterprise training programmes result in a high rate of job creation, particularly through multiplier effects.

The technical assistance grants scheme is being reviewed by my Department and the Department of Finance in order to ensure that its increased Exchequer allocation is utilised in the most effective manner. The technical assistance grants scheme was one of the first casualties of the new guideline for the European Social Fund. The review is nearly complete and will help to ensure that grants available under the scheme will be devoted to priority areas. AnCO, working in conjunction with the Youth Employment Agency, continued the expansion of community training workshops in 1985. There are now 75 workshops countrywide including 24 specially designed for young travellers. The priority status of youth training has ensured that activity levels in 1986 will be maintained at the 1985 level.

During the year, AnCO participated actively in the development of the social guarantee for young people and introduced the skills foundation programme as their special contribution to the transition from school to work of those leaving school at the end of junior cycle. Over 2,000 early school-leavers will be accommodated on the programme in 1986.

I would also like to refer to two other youth programmes for which AnCO is responsible. First, AnCO will introduce this year a programme of structured [714] training linked with employment to aid young people in jobs which offer little or no training or career prospects. The youth traineeship initiative is being introduced on a pilot basis. Second, I would also like to refer to the work carried out by AnCO apprentices on St. Anthony's Franciscan Monastry in Louvain. Ireland can feel justly proud of the renovation that has been carried out to this old building, parts of which date back to the early 1600s.

CERT Limited will continue to provide training opportunities for young people wishing to enter the hotel and catering industry and an in-company training and advisory service to the industry itself.

In 1986, over 1,400 young people will pursue craft training under CERT programmes in designated colleges throughout the country. In addition, over 600 young persons will be given short 13 week basic skills training courses facilitating their entry into the industry. CERT have also established a training centre which will operate for two years in the inner city of Dublin.

In 1985, CERT achieved a placement rate of 100 per cent for trainees completing craft courses while 84 per cent of those completing the short courses were placed in employment immediately on completion. There is every reason to believe that this type of placement rate will continue to be achieved in 1986.

Local community based responses have an important role to play in alleviating unemployment and contributing to job creation. There is a growing realisation of the importance of local communities and their potential for stimulating viable self-sustaining employment to supplement mainstream job creation measures.

During 1986, the Youth Employment Agency will be focussing greater attention on the area of job creation, particularly community enterprise. The community enterprise programme is being developed as the agency's main job creation programme and efforts will be made to improve the quality of training [715] and advice available to the young self-employed, co-operative and community business ventures.

Issues of quality and survival are critical to the ultimate success of job creation programmes including the youth self employment programme, the community enterprise programme and also the enterprise allowance scheme. The agency plan to take a number of initiatives in 1986 to try and improve the quality and survival of projects including improved training and advice supports for young self-employment and community groups.

The most recent school-leavers survey study conducted by my Department has again highlighted the importance of educational qualifications in determining employment prospects, as well as the difficulties which unqualified school-leavers face on entering the labour market. A recent survey by the Youth Employment Agency shows that the employment experience of low achievers in the educational system does not improve over time. In fact, the gap between low and high achievers widens.

The social guarantee commits the EC member states to do their utmost to ensure that all young people leaving compulsory education can benefit from a period of full time training and/or initial work experience of at least six months' duration, and is clearly designed to lessen the disadvantages which, at present, confront those present, confront those leaving the educational system without any formal qualifications. The Youth Employment Agency are entrusted with responsibility for implementing the guarantee and priority attention is being given to early school-leavers who experience particular difficulty in obtaining and maintaining employment. The agency will be presenting their first report on the implementation of the guarantee later this year. The significant progress which has been made already is largely due to the degree of linkage and co-operation in the activities of the manpower agencies.

I now propose to deal with some of the special measures for temporary employment, work experience, self employment [716] and job creation which are administered by the National Manpower Service.

The Teamwork scheme offers valuable work experience to a category of the unemployed — the registered unemployed aged 20 to 24 years who now account for 70 per cent of youth unemployment. Because of this factor and of the significant improvements-achieved in the operation of the scheme, the Government recently agreed to allocate a further £2 million to the scheme.

The sum of £7 million now available this year will enable the provision of 1,547 man years of employment and the involvement of approximately 2,500 young people in the scheme. Approximately 80 per cent of young persons recruited for Teamwork are taken from the live register.

The enterprise allowance scheme is designed for unemployed people with a worthwhile idea for self-employment. In lieu of their social welfare payments, they may opt for a special weekly payment while setting up their own enterprises. In some circumstances, they may qualify for a lump sum payment to acquire assets. The scheme provides for a weekly payment of £30 for a single person and £50 for a married person.

More than 12,000 people have availed of the scheme to date to establish small enterprises. Almost one quarter of participants on the scheme are under 25 years of age illustrating the enthusiasm of our young people to grasp an opportunity to take their place in the economy. The youth employment levy plays a major role in the funding of this scheme. Payments in respect of the under 25 year olds are funded from the levy.

In 1986, we are budgeting for 5,150 man years of activity under the scheme at a cost of £11.1 million.

The employment incentive scheme has been in operation since 1977 and since then notified recruitments under the scheme have reached 55,250. Expenditure on the scheme in the first four months of 1986 amounts to £1,368,000 which represents payment for 1,712 recruitments.

About 79 per cent of recruitments [717] under the scheme are young people and the remaining 21 per cent are over 25 years of age. Approximately 50 per cent of the over 25s are long term unemployed. Recruitments under the scheme in general average about 57 per cent male and 43 per cent female. The main areas of employment are services and manufacturing with 64 per cent and 21 per cent of recruitment respectively. Recruitments in construction total 9 per cent; hotel and catering total 3 per cent; and others, including agriculture and horticulture, total 3 per cent.

In the context of the Government's announcement last October of a series of measures to combat unemployment, the scheme was extended to increase to four the number of jobs which an employer may have assisted under the scheme.

There has been an increase of approximately 34 per cent notified recruitment in the first three months of 1986 over the same period in 1985.

Assistance to self employment and the employment by firms of graduates is also provided by the Youth Employment Agency's youth self employment programme, scientists and technologists employment programme and marketplace.

The work experience programme continues to be an effective measure in assisting the young people to overcome the “catch 22” situation of “no experience — no jobs” and in alleviating the youth unemployment situation.

In 1985, 65 per cent of the participants succeeded in securing employment on completing the programme and this pattern is continuing during 1986. As well as being an effective employment intervention tool, it is also a popular programme with young people who have come to regard it as the best avenue to gaining a foothold in the world of work. A provision of £4.550 million, which is funded from the youth employment levy, is allocated for activities in 1986.

The National Manpower Service now provide the gateway for the unemployed to the wide range of training courses, [718] work experience places, special employment schemes and opportunities for enterprise development.

The service is also actively engaged in helping to implement the social guarantee. Staff are being redeployed to those areas where there is greatest need for their services.

A further stage in the process of steamlining manpower office activities and improving efficiency will be achieved with the computerisation of all offices within two and a half years. The records in the Dublin area are already computerised. An extensive retraining programme has been developed for NMS staff to help them adjust and to keep up with the changing role of the service in the mid-eighties.

I have dealt in depth with the employment and training schemes administered by my Department and their associated agencies because I believe that the extent to which Government's intervention measures are contributing to economic and social development is not appreciated. On average, 45,000 people will participate in employment and training schemes on any one day in 1986. The skills of many of these participants are being improved and their career prospects enhanced. Many people have been assisted to start their own businesses or to become self-employed. Many others, through the marginal wage subsidy scheme, are now in jobs which they would not otherwise have. Community facilities have, in many cases, been improved and this can be readily seen in towns and villages in Ireland. A start has been made with getting the community involved in its own development through job creation programmes. The State investment has been substantial. When account is taken, however, of European Social Fund receipts and what would otherwise be paid in unemployment compensation, I believe that the State and the community get good value for money. Nevertheless I accept that our policies, programmes and institutional arrangments which have grown up piecemeal in the last 20 years need to be stated in a more coherent fashion and this will be [719] done in the White Paper on Manpower Policy.

When introducing the Estimate last year I said that I could see certain danger signs that could affect our income from the ESF in the years ahead. I pointed to the increasing competition for limited resources, the impact of the accession of Spain and Portugal and said that organisations which benefit from the fund would have to take account of these changed circumstances. The fund has always been of great importance to Ireland and we have managed to obtain a far higher percentage share of the fund than we would be entitled to on a strict per capita population basis.

To an extent the fears I expressed have been realised. The general EC budgetary problem has resulted in a shortage of money for the social fund. The demands of Spain and Portugal on the fund in 1986 have turned out to be greater than anticipated with the result that our share and the shares of the other member states have been reduced. Our share has declined from 12.2 per cent, or £192 millions, in a Community of 10 to approximately 9.5 per or £169 millions in a Community of 12. I consider our 1986 share to be very satisfactory in the circumstances but the way the new criteria have been applied by the EC Commission has created some problems.

The shortage of money in the ESF has obliged the Commission to enforce strict criteria and limits on the types of programmes and the categories of persons who may benefit from the fund. The emphasis is now on programmes which lead directly to employment and, in the case of unemployed persons over 25, these must be unemployed for at least a year to qualify the ESF assistance. The introduction of these stricter rules and criteria may mean that certain training programmes which have been assisted by the ESF in the past may not qualify in the future.

The whole of Ireland including Northern Ireland along with Portugal, Greece, the Mezzogiorno of Italy, certain regions [720] of Spain and the French overseas departments, are designated as a region of absolute priority in the special fund. The regions of absolute priority benefit from a higher rate of assistance than other regions and a minimum percentage of the fund budget is reserved for them. This minimum percentage was fixed by the Council at 44.2 per cent on the accession of Spain and Portugal but, in my view — I expressed this forcibly at the meeting — it is not enough in view of the needs and the unemployment problems in the priority regions. I intend to press within the Council of Ministers for an upward revision of this percentage figure. Our present position within the EC has been the subject of discussion, in this House and elsewhere, in recent months.

It is appropriate that we carry out a stocktaking of our benefits and disappointments in the Community with a view to pressing the rest of the Community to take account of our legitimate cause for concern. I want to see employment creation placed at the forefront of all EC agendas and to see a recognition of the problems of those member states and regions on the periphery of the Community. The recent fall in inflation levels and in oil prices has stimulated hopes of economic growth. It has also spurred member states to accelerate the completion of the internal market. While Ireland supports progress towards achieving the completion of the internal market we must bear in mind that the internal market with its implicit reduction in the protective tariff barriers and custom barriers that exist will not bring uniform or equal benefits to all member states. The strong industrialised countries in the centre of the Community stand to gain far more than the less developed countries. Some of those stronger countries are among those who wish to restrict spending on the Community funds.

I strongly believe that Community solidarity requires that the stronger economies should transfer resources to the weaker regions. If this cannot be done with the existing structural funds I consider that a completely new community facility should be developed to assist [721] measures to stimulate employment. It is my intention to pursue this possibility vigorously in the Council of Ministers. These objectives are dependent on Community finances being put on a proper footing and this in turn requires that the own resources of the Community be increased in the near future. At present the own resources level is at 1.4 per cent of VAT revenue and related receipts. That will have to move closer to 2 per cent if we are to have the level of Community resources required to make the impact which I believe would be necessary if the internal market is to be completed.

The board of Ostlanna Iompair Éireann have made significant strides in returning the company to profitability and the hotels succeeded more or less in reaching break even point in 1985. This success confirms the Government's confidence in a vibrant public sector enterprise. The trade unions have made their contribution to the improved trading performance. They have demonstrated commitment to their members' jobs and flexibility in co-operating with management to secure the company's future. Their example could usefully be followed by other unions in other sectors of the economy.

The provision of over £3 million in 1986 represents the balance of a State commitment to ensure the future of a valuable State resource and an important part of our tourist infrastructure. With a trading profit of some £500,000 forecast for 1986, OIE have indeed come a long way in the last few years.

Our industrial relations performance in 1985, as measured by statistics for strikes and work days lost as a result of strikes, was reasonably satisfactory over much of the economy. There was a substantial reduction in the number of strikes compared with the previous year; the total was in fact the lowest recorded since 1967. In the private sector, the number of days lost due to strikes was the lowest since the compilation of separate statistics for private and public sectors began in 1976. The figure for the public sector, however, was significantly higher than in [722] previous years due to the one-day stoppage of public service employees in October and stoppages by teachers.

Last year also saw a continuation of the steady downward trend in the incidence of unofficial strikes, the number of such strikes was the lowest since the compilation of separate statistics for official and unofficial strikes began in 1976. The number of days lost through official strikes was also the lowest recorded over the period. In recent years, we have seen a turn-around from a situation where about two thirds of all strikes were unofficial to a situation where little more than a third are unofficial. While, there is no cause for complacency, this is a clear reversal of a pattern that appeared for a long period to be firmly established.

The steady reduction in inflation throughout 1985 may have made the peaceful conclusion of wage round agreements somewhat easier. The continued decline in inflation to what are unprecedently low levels by the standards of the past two decades will clearly have a big impact on the course of wage bargaining in the coming year. We have lived with relatively high inflation for so long that our response to levels of price increase as low as 2 to 3 per cent is difficult to predict. If we ignore the fact that we are entering a new period of relative price stability and refuse to modify habits learned during periods of high inflation, the potential benefit of the improvement in competitiveness and employment will soon be dissipated.

Clearly, a new approach on the part of employers and trade unions is required in order to adjust to this new situation. A good deal of discussion and explanation is called for on the part of all involved in industrial relations, particularly those in positions of influence. We should be careful to avoid a repetition of slogans and generalisations from the past, since these often mask a refusal to assess realistically the facts of the present. The foremost consideration, of course, must be the need to take full advantage of improved economic conditions to maintain and expand employment.

Let me turn to industrial relations [723] reform. Welcome as the improvement in aspects of our strike record is, we should not make too much of developments over the course of a single year. The general reduction in the number of strikes and days lost in the past few years is, without doubt, largely a consequence of the deep economic recession during that time. A similar trend has occurred in many other countries and in some of the cases the drop in conflict levels has been of a significantly greater magnitude than that experienced here.

The association of the decline in conflict with the economic recession raises the possibility that an improvement in economic performance could lead to increased industrial relations difficulties. This seems to me to be something of an unhappy reflection on our industrial relations. It involves a tacit admission that it is only the present levels of joblessness, closures and redundancies that are preventing a return to the high levels of industrial conflict we saw in the latter half of the seventies. That would be unacceptable. Our industrial relations need to be improved and the weaknesses in our system need to be corrected. This must be achieved by the patient and determined reform of structures and practices and not by depending on the continuance of recession.

I arranged for a copy of the proposals on industrial relations reform published by my Department in January of this year to be sent to all Deputies. The proposals comprise an integrated set of reforms dealing with trade dispute law, the official dispute-settling institutions, codes of practice, trade union rationalisation and the minimum wage-fixing machinery. I am proposing the replacement of the Trade Disputes Act, 1906, the cornerstone of existing trade disputes law, by a new Act which would recognise in a positive way the right of workers to strike and take industrial action. The Act would carefully delineate the circumstances in which the right to strike would apply and in doing so would seek to ensure that the rights and responsibilities of the parties to the industrial relations process were [724] recognised. I am also proposing the establishment of a new labour relations commission which would be given general responsibility for the promotion of good industrial relations as well as for the provision of conciliation advisory and other services. I believe that such a body could do much to encourage and assist the many modest and gradual changes in individual employments from which any more general overall reform of our industrial relations must ultimately spring.

The proposals are currently under consideration by the FUE and ICTU. While further consultations are necessary and will be held, it is my intention to introduce the necessary legislation this year.

I turn now to trade union education. I consider it essential that we should have a well organised and well educated trade union movement. Towards this end it is important that trade union officials and representatives are given the necessary training to enable them effectively to carry out their functions. The provision of such training makes an important contribution to good industrial relations. With this in mind my Department provide an annual grant to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions towards the cost of its education, training and advisory services. The allocation for 1986 is £677,000.

I want to deal with the restructuring of the trade union movement. Trade union rationalisation can make an important contribution towards improvements in our system of industrial relations at both plant and national level. The present situation where a large number of trade unions represent a relatively small workforce and where multi-union employments are commonplace exacerbates our industrial relations problems. While responsibility for rationalisation of the trade union movement rests largely with the movement itself, there is nevertheless, a role for Government. The Trade Union Act, 1975, is the vehicle by which this role is effected. Its purpose is to facilitate amalgamations between unions by simplifying procedures and making grants available towards the costs involved. Grants are payable under the Act by my Department towards amalgamation [725] expenses and I would like to see more trade unions availing of them.

In regard to worker participation, the legislation I am proposing for the extension of worker participation in State enterprise involves two separate initiatives. The first will extend the arrangements for the direct election of worker representatives to the boards of an additional range of State enterprise, on a basis similar to that provided for in the Worker Participation [State Enterprises] Act, 1977. The second initiative will give legislative support to the development of worker participation below the level of the board and will apply in State enterprises generally. This is a new development which will provide a vehicle for information exchange and consultation involving the workforce, middle management and boards of directors. It is intended to ensure that employees receive information about the enterprise for which they work as well as an active voice and an opportunity for influence in the affairs of the enterprise. I expect to be in a position shortly to circulate this legislation.

Regarding flexibility and the change process since I came into office, I have taken a clearcut stance on the role of legislation in the employment field. Undoubtedly the relevance or reasonableness of some forms of regulation can be questioned on the ground that the concerns which originally inspired them are no longer well founded. At my request an independent survey of employers' attitudes towards protective legislation and related procedures was undertaken in recent months. Hitherto there has been a lack of systematic study in this area. I propose to publish the results of this survey when it is completed and I look forward to a more informed debate on the merits of regulatory measures.

I recognise that the improvement of working conditions and the better management of the production apparatus need not rely entirely upon detailed regulation, but certainly requires a [726] pragmatic and flexible approach to current problems. In fact in many employments the difficulties experienced in the current recession have highlighted the need to secure co-operative attitudes and some degree of common purpose and commitment from employees. Some managements have found that substantial gains in terms of industrial relations and improvements in morale can be achieved by securing acceptance for changes in the host of subtle distinctions which have grown up around the different categories of employees within the firm. Trade union interest in non-pay issues is increasing and can, with adequate planning and consultation, be tapped to boost the ability of a firm to react quickly and flexibly to new technology.

I turn to equal opportunity now. One mistaken notion which has apparently taken root in the private sector is the idea that equal opportunity in employment as a social policy objective is no longer an issue, since most forms of overt sex discrimination have been effectively removed. Indirect discrimination is a much more intractable problem, however, which employers will need to take into account in order to tackle practices based on requirements which, while applied equally to both sexes, have an unfavourable impact upon women.

In the proposals for amending legislation on employment equality which I intend to bring forward this year, I hope to remove some of the obstacles which have limited the progressive development of the twin concepts of equal pay for work of equal value and indirect discrimination in our equality case law.

The existence of the anti-discrimination legislation, however, is not enough in itself to achieve equal opportunity in employment. I fully endorse the need to take positive steps to redress the effect of past discrimination. Outdated attitudes still influence decisions about recruitment, selection, training, promotion, work organisation etc.

I have established a working party drawing upon Government Departments and the Employment Equality Agency to monitor progress in the application of [727] equal opportunity initiatives in line with the Government guidelines conveyed to all public sector bodies in November of 1984.

In the coming year I propose to reinforce Government policy on the adoption and implementation of equal opportunity standards by asking public sector bodies to consider taking advantage of the positive action provisions in the equality legislation and to develop special training courses for women who require more motivation and career objective in order to progress. AnCO have already established expertise in operating career development programmes within their organisation and can be contracted by other public and private sector companies to undertake similar programmes.

I turn now to work safety and health system. Earlier this year I announced that the Government had approved the drafting of a framework Bill concerning safety, health and welfare in all workplaces to give effect to the main recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry chaired by Mr. Justice Barrington. I hope to be in a position to introduce the legislation in the Oireachtas in the autumn of this year.

In contrast with the limited scope of existing safety measures, the proposed legislation will apply to all employers, employees and the self-employed and to both the public and private sectors. The overall objective will be to provide for the best possible standards of occupational safety and health in all workplaces. The legislation will set out general duties of care for employers, employees and the self-employed as well as for manufacturers, suppliers and designers of plant and equipment for use at work.

I believe that my Department can play a positive role in redressing some of the serious deficiencies in our health and safety system. In the interests of pressing forward with the implementation of the Barrington Commission's recommendations I established an Interim Board for Safety and Health. They will consider and report on the rationalisation of the existing system of occupational safety [728] and health and the transitional arrangements which may be necessary for change over to the new system proposed by the commission.

With regard to employment protection, the Redundancy Payments and the Protection of Employees (Employers' Insolvency) Schemes are the responsibility of my Department. The large number of redundancies during the last two years has made a heavy demand on the resources of the Redundancy and Employers' Insolvency Fund. The Protection of Employees (Employers' Insolvency) Act, 1984, continues to create a drain on the fund. Accordingly, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, I increased the employers' contribution rate to 0.6 per cent of PRSI with effect from 6 April 1986.

In the course of 1985 a total of £4.06 million was paid from the Redundancy and Employers' Insolvency Fund to approximately 4,000 employees whose employers were insolvent under the Protection of Employees (Employers' Insolvency) Act.

While the Act deals with situations where employers may be regarded as “formally” insolvent, for example, a company in liquidation or receivership, there are other situations where in many instances an employer ceases business and no formal winding up or termination process takes place. In many of these situations employees are left with outstanding entitlements due to them. I am particularly anxious to avail of provisions in the Act whereby regulations may be made to declare such employers insolvent for the purposes of the Act, so that the employees concerned may be paid their outstanding entitlements from the fund. My Department have been examining this problem in consultation with the Attorney General and I hope to be in a position in the near future to make the appropriate regulations under the Act.

A review of the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977, has been completed and I hope to be in a position to introduce amending proposals in the near future. In developing these proposals, I have been mindful of the need to ensure that while workers [729] are given full protection in their employment, the Act will not operate in such a way as to discourage new recruitment.

The aim of the amending legislation will be to facilitate continued improvement in the standards of personnel management in this area, by ironing out some operational difficulties which have come to attention.

Let me turn now to the question of information. I am convinced that not only the representative organisations of employers and workers, but also the wide range of groups concerned with remedying the effects of unemployment at community level, have a decisive role to play in the shaping and execution of labour administration policy and in my Department's efforts to improve their own contribution generally. Our sensitivity to any defects, difficulties or abuses encountered in working conditions, or in gaining access to employment, is dependent on the qualify of these relations. The dissemination of information is a crucial factor in developing these contacts. That is why I think it is important that the Department charged with the central role in policy-making for the wide range of labour affairs should report regularly on their own direct responsibilities. Accordingly, a copy of the second annual report on my Department's activities is being made available to all Deputies.

I recommend the Estimate to the House.

Mr. B. Ahern: This is not an Estimate which our party oppose. As I have done in the past I should like to congratulate the officials of the Department and of the various agencies for their work throughout the year. I also thank the Department for issuing an annual report, which every Department and agency should do. This week, the Department of Justice sent out two reports, one for 1981 and a second for 1983. They are irrelevant and only add to the congestion in the Library. The Department of Labour this week sent out their 1985 report and they are to be commended for that.

A number of very important issues are involved here. I wish to raise again the [730] matter of the dispute which concerns me in a number of ways because of my involvement with Dublin Corporation and the major industrial relations problems affecting this city. I ask the Minister if he will instruct or request the Chairman of the Labour Court to intervene directly in the dispute. There is much merit in trying to bring both sides back over the weekend to the Labour Court — the trade unions involved and the management of Dublin Corporation. Anybody who has been around our city recently or in our parks, or who has experienced reduced services to the public libraries, other agencies and organisations involved with the municipal authority or Dublin Corporation will know the chaos which has been created.

On the other side, the vast majority of the over 4,000 workers in Dublin Corporation come within the lowly paid bracket in our society. They can ill afford to do without a week's wage. It will bite very hard into their resources. It is easy to ask why people do not think about these things before they strike and why negotiators let these things happen, but I have not the answer to that. I am sadly amazed by it.

Having regard to the constructive attitude of the Minister towards industrial relations, both with regard to Labour and the Public Service — unlike his predecessor, Deputy Boland, who was a disaster in those areas — he could perhaps use his good offices today to instruct Mr. Horan to bring both sides back into the Labour Court and achieve what I think will not be too difficult a settlement. Certain arrangements can be made, as the Minister will be aware, which will not break the State or seem to give victory to either side.

The Minister raised a number of issues which, unfortunately, I cannot cover in detail. He mentioned the White Paper and some of the major issues which affect his Department. I have always said I do not believe the Department of Labour to be one of the economic Ministries. It can change the national employment position. I always stand over that opinion. Every time I ask a supplementary question during Question Time the officials [731] always advise of the first time I said this and it is read out to me; there is no chance of my changing my mind. Agriculture, Industry, and Energy in certain areas, are the Departments which can change the employment position and create the environment to control and reverse unemployment.

Unfortunately, our economic Ministers have failed abysmally and I do not think we are likely to have any change because the Minister, Deputy Bruton, did not do anything when he was responsible for the Department of Industry and Commerce to stimulate interest by investors. I expect that in the Department of Finance he will continue with his conservative attitude. The line adopted by the Minister, Deputy Dukes, was: “Where is the money?” I accept that a certain amount of money has to be paid out in social welfare benefits, but thousands of people would be glad to work for a little more than they receive in unemployment benefit. It must be soul destroying for those who are on the dole. I have pity for the long term unemployed in this city who cannot get an opportunity to get any type of work.

It is a pity those responsible for the economic Ministries cannot see the benefits to be gained by giving investors opportunities to make profits. If those people are given the opportunity they will create many jobs and I do not think, at the end of the day, that will cost the State any more money than it is costing to pay unemployment benefits. The combined resources of Bruton, Deasy and Dukes fail to see that, and that is a pity. I accept that the economic recession is world-wide but, in the past 18 months or so, it has lifted in most other countries. There has not been a lift in the recession here because the Government have failed to give investors an opportunity to get a better return than they would get on Government gilts. There is no incentive for those who are prepared to invest their money or take risks. That is why Irish people have invested their money in Geneva and the Isle of Man and are not prepared to invest at home.

[732] I do not believe it is the function of the Department of Labour to do those things — they are matters for other Ministries. It is because of the unemployment position created as a result of the policies pursued by other Departments that many agencies of the Department of Labour are carrying a workload they were never meant to have. I am referring to AnCO, CERT and the Youth Employment Agency. I refer to those agencies so often that officials in them have got the impression that I have something against them, but that is not true. I do not have anything against those agencies and I do not think any Member has gone to the same amount of trouble as I have in examining the policies of those agencies. I should like to thank those agencies for agreeing to meet Fianna Fáil Deputies and being so open and frank with us when debating the policies they are pursuing. We had many long debates with those officials in the Fianna Fáil Party rooms. Those officials explained in great detail all their policies and I commend them for that. It is useful if the Opposition are fully aware of the policies of such agencies.

However, none of the officials has convinced me, or my colleagues. We badly need a manpower authority. I have put forward a plan to consolidate the training agencies under the aegis of one semi-State board to be called the manpower authority. That plan was given the support of the House in as much as a debate on the matter did not result in a division. The need for such an authority is so obvious that great support for that proposal came not only from those involved in providing the services but from many Government spokesmen. They put on record that they agree with the need to streamline the agencies in the way I suggested.

I am aware it is a source of embarrassment to the Minister that the White Paper that was to be produced last year has not seen the light of day. I do not intend to make a political point about that, but I am aware that the Minister's colleagues in Cabinet do not have any interest in establishing a manpower authority and that is the reason why the White Paper [733] has been left lying for four or five months. There is little point in attacking the Minister for Labour about this issue. However, it is interesting to note that the Taoiseach, and others, have more interest in coffee in the city than they have in a manpower service. While I do not have anything against Victor Bewley, and others, the priorities of the Taoiseach and others are amazing. It would be amusing if it were not so tragic.

School leavers today face a bewildering choice if working in the training or work experience field. It is no wonder most young people have little or no idea of the differences in the overlapping agencies. AnCO, the Youth Employment Agency, the work experience programme, CERT, Manpower and the other schemes operated by those agencies all form a related but not tightly knit co-ordinated approach to training for employment. Those agencies should be co-ordinated under the control of a semi-State board to be called the manpower authority. Under that authority the agencies could maintain their independence — they all fall off their chairs any time one mentions something like that — and work in a more streamlined and efficient fashion providing one-stop services for all those seeking training or employment.

A manpower authority should be geared to be completely aware of market opportunities, consumer trends and successful ventures. Young people should be trained for real as opposed to notional jobs and, obviously, that is what the European Social Fund is trying to do. Those people should be passed on to the small industry section of the IDA for advice and encouragement about capital to set up their own small concerns.

The manpower authority I envisage should be the focus in providing the jobs and training the market place wants, should encourage inventiveness and adaptability. It should be a clearing house for new ideas and provide an efficient network of streamlined services countrywide. It should give quality training opportunities to all those seeking training or retraining without discrimination because of age. In other words, it should [734] begin the long slow process of providing real employment opportunities for the youth and the unemployed of the country, begin the process of restoring a sense of purpose to our training agencies and lay the foundation stone for a new drive for employment in the wasteland and economic no man's land created by the Government.

For the purpose of the debate I should like to refer to a county like Leitrim rather than the north of Dublin, the area I usually refer to. The officials involved in that county on behalf of the State — those working for ACOT, the IDA, AnCO, Manpower and the Department of Social Welfare — rarely meet except socially, at the official opening of a factory or when a crisis arises. While I do not agree with centralising everything, I believe those who are paid by the taxpayers and are involved in trying to solve the unemployment problem should be appointed to one committee, a manpower committee, in that county to consider unemployment there.

I am aware that the Youth Employment Agency have attempted such a process, but the problem is that those involved all report back to different organisations. I could give several examples of that or, in the course of a debate in the House, attack the organisation involved, but that is not my style. However, there is an obvious conflict in that those officials report back to different boards who have their own views on how the problem should be tackled. The State cannot afford that. There is no reason why one semi-State authority, or committee, should not represent those involved and decide on the policy to be followed by all organisations that are costing taxpayers a considerable amount of money. I am not saying that money is wasted, but there should be better coordination.

As I have said to these people, face to face, it is nothing personal and it is not to try to do away with jobs. There is no doubt, in my mind, that if there was a single authority properly organised using modern technology it would be cheaper and far more efficient. As a result, the [735] unemployed would be less disillusioned or baffled in regard to these various services. There is much stress and strain in the matter of getting money from Europe or from the Exchequer for the various schemes but this problem could be lessened by the more efficient operation of the services. There is a point in trying to defend what they are doing by saying they are doing a good job, that everyone understands what they are doing and that the message has got through to the unemployed because we all know from dealing with the unemployed that that is not the case. We have to stop the proliferation of colour magazines and data which is bashed out to schools and often dumped in rubbish bins. The position we want to get into is that of trained people explaining to the unemployed the full range of services which are available on behalf of the State. We do not want to see an unemployed person going to eight offices in the city in order to find out what the taxpayer is paying for. Why we cannot achieve this, I do not know.

The Government try to convince us that the services are becoming more tightly knit and co-ordinated. That is not the case. Dublin Corporation will not agree to open a one stop shop in Sackville Street where information on all the services could be available. They say: “we have it this way, that way or the other way”. They are not serving in the most efficient way the interests of the people whom the taxpayers are giving them the money to serve. If the White Paper ever sees the light of day it will probably be so watered down as to be meaningless. It will join the hundreds of other White Papers which have come out in the past three and a half years or the past 33½ years for that matter and in respect of which nothing has been done. This is regrettable.

I would like to refer to industrial relations. The main statute governing trade disputes is, as the Minister said this morning, 80 years on the Statute Book, that is, the Trade Disputes Act, 1906. At the time of its enactment the balance of power weighed heavily in favour of the [736] employer. The Act provided the legal framework under which unions grew and developed. The Act has served trade unions and has contributed to the development of collective bargaining between trade unions and employers. The operation of the Act, however, has given rise to concern as to where exactly the protection of the Act applies. The Minister for Labour has recently published his proposals, and I thank him for providing me with the various details, for the reform of the law relating to trade disputes and industrial relations.

In setting out his proposals the Minister has only had limited regard to the proposals in the Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Industrial Relations published in July 1981. Any changes in the law in this area must be directed towards greater industrial peace and must be seen in the context of overall policy towards encouraging increased investment in industry without which it will not be possible to overcome the severe economic depression and the massive problem of unemployment now being experienced in Ireland.

The situation in Ireland continues to be one in which there is an excessive number of trade unions. This factor has often made collective bargaining a most difficult task and as a result the achievement of industrial peace has often been extremely difficult to attain. I congratulate the Minister for acknowledging the point that the main reason things are quiet at present is the economic recession. If there was a boom tomorrow and high growth rates we would be back to where we were. I am glad that has been acknowledged because it is quite clear from talking to trade unions that the pressure which is on them is the reason for the quietness. There is a reality in the workplace. People are glad to have jobs. Because there are so many unemployed those who have jobs cannot afford to lose them. That is why strikes such as the one in Dublin Corporation are sad.

In view of the fact that regulation in the formation of trade unions only began, in effect, in 1941, the task facing those involved in the field of industrial relations [737] in Ireland has been more difficult than in competing economies. Recent legislation both in the formation and amalgamation of trade unions has enabled the slow process of reducing the overall number of trade unions to begin thereby enabling some improvement in industrial relations and enabling a better service and approach on the part of trade unions.

Reform in the law must be directed towards enhancing the process of negotiation, conciliation and arbitration and must also encourage active involvement in trade unions which meet the needs of a modern industrial society free from protectionism and open to competition from industry throughout the European Community as well as increased competitiveness from developed economies outside the Community.

The Report of the Commission of Inquiry shows that in 1979, 38 trade unions in the craft and white collar areas represented a mere 96,800 workers while approximately 246,000 workers were in membership of the five largest trade unions. A more striking example of fragmentation is revealed by the fact that at the same time the 43 smallest unions, representing over 50 per cent of the total number of unions represented a mere 23,400 members, that is about 3.5 per cent of trade union membership. It is clear that by pooling resources unions can give a more professional service to their members and ensure a more effective realisation of the aims of their members. This is achieved by a more professional approach to negotiation rather than by a sterile process of confrontation represented by picketing and other forms of industrial action. Future change in the area of trade union organisation and industrial relations must be geared towards a reduction in strikes and other forms of industrial action. This can be achieved by way of an improvement in the machinery available for negotiation, conciliation and arbitration.

An examination of the Minister for Labour's recent proposals may lead one to conclude that in some areas they are directed towards encouraging strike action and thereby allowing might and [738] not right to dominate. In general, the Minister proposes to give an enhanced status to strike action by increasing immunity from civil or criminal action. This is done by means of what the Minister describes as the “complete defence”. Unfortunately, what the Minister has failed to do is to show why such an overall degree of protection from criminal or civil liability is necessary in the development of a sound industrial relations climate in Ireland.

The law has operated generally to afford legal protection to strike action. If it were otherwise, and a reading of the Minister's proposals might lead to that impression, Ireland would not have had the distinction so often in the past of appearing towards the top of international strike tables. Fortunately, in the past few years and in the climate of economic recession, the value of having a job and an appreciation of the need for consultation and negotiation rather than outright confrontation has led to a reduction in the number of strikes in Ireland and an appreciation that better results can be achieved, without having to go to the lengths of strike action, by a more professional approach by trade unions and their officials.

When one reads the Minister's proposals one can see that they are confused and that the proposals, while giving an illusion of meaningful reform, when examined closely are of little or no value.

For example, the requirement to hold secret ballots might be considered to be a positive step, but when seen in the context of the statement that failure to hold a secret ballot will not give either an employer or any other party grounds for legal action against a union or workers or lead to a loss of the so called “complete defence”, the requirement is seen as virtually meaningless. The conferring of a right to workers to have secret ballots must be watched by a commensurate duty to hold such secret ballots. In the absence of any section, such a duty is illusory.

The Minister states that: “...many of the problems and much of the dissatisfaction with the existing legal position has [739] centred around the question of enforcement”. The Minister in fact rejects enforcement and regulation. It may well be argued that the problems which have often manifested themselves in the past have resulted from a lack of enforcement at trade union level rather than through an excess of legal enforcement.

Again, the Minister proposes to debar applications for ex parte injunctions. He states that, “at present, employers can freely obtain injunctions on an ex parte basis in cases involving trade disputes.” In reality, applications today to the courts for such relief is quite rare and this has resulted from an appreciation that, except in exceptional circumstances, recourse to such action, rather than resolving disputes, makes the resolution of trade disputes more difficult. This fact is reflected in the Report of the Commission of Inquiry which also comes out against such applications been made to the courts as part of the normal process of resolving disputes.

In the field of the proposed reform of the institutions such as the Labour Court the Minister's proposals defy logic. The suggestion that the Labour Court will be involved in “interpretation” but not in the enforcement of trade disputes law is a clear case in point. It is nonsense to propose that a court applying law and enforcing it will have to rely on the interpretation of that same law by a body free from the responsibility of its application and enforcement.

Most alarming of the proposals contained in the Minister's document is the suggestion that secondary picketing should be permitted in future. Events across the Irish Sea in the past couple of years have illustrated the damage that can be caused by such action. How can the Minister suggest that his proposals enhance democracy for workers when, rather than being given freedom to decide matters for themselves, workers will be subject to bullying? The Minister will give further legal protection to those who induce and incite others to strike or take other industrial action. He is proposing to come up with proposals which will [740] encourage secondary action which can only result in damage to Irish industrial relations, further loss of employment, and above all give rise to fears in the minds of foreign investors who might otherwise be happy to invest in Ireland in the future and thereby create increased prosperity for the future and reverse the continuing trend of increased unemployment.

There are other points in the Government's Discussion Document on Industrial Relations which I should like to deal with. I do not share the view that legislation has no place in industrial relations. In certain instances, limited extension of the law are both necessary and feasible. The main objective of the law, and therefore of the legislators who enact it, is to support and, where necessary, to restrain the power of management and the power of unionised labour in the public interest.

The main statute governing trade disputes is now 80 years on the Statute Books, i.e., the Trades Dispute Act, 1906. At the time of its enactment, the balance of power weighed heavily in favour of the employer. The Act provided a legal framework under which unions grew and developed. The Act has served trade unions well and has contributed to the development of collective bargaining between trade unions and employers. The operation of the Act has, however, given rise to concern. It would seem there is confusion on where exactly the protections of the Act apply or do not apply.

While I consider that the law has only a secondary role in industrial relations, it could be usefully employed in a number of areas including that of secret ballots. While most trade union rule books require a secret ballot before a strike or other industrial action and most trade unions in fact conduct such secret ballots, I believe that all trade unions should be required in law to have a secret ballot provision in their rule books and all trade unions should hold secret ballots in all cases before any strike or other industrial action is undertaken.

I support this approach because, in [741] democratic terms, it is important to remove the moral pressure that can be put on a trade union member in voting by a show of hands. Secret ballots should result in a genuinely representative view of worker attitudes to disputes. Consideration might be given by the State to covering the proposal costs of secret ballots.

Depending on the seriousness of the issue, and in normal circumstances after a secret ballot discretion would rest with the executive committees of trade unions to call, or not to call, a strike or other industrial action. The executive committee of a union is obviously a key decision making body. I consider that the election of members to union executive committees should also be by secret ballot. This approach should lead to a genuinely representative expression by the union membership on whom they wish to elect the executive committees. The secret ballot requirement in this instance should also be provided for in union rule books.

As I said earlier, the job of the Legislature is to maintain the balance of power between the collective strength of employers and unionised labour. Abuses of power, therefore, are a legitimate concern to the Legislature. The small groups of unofficial pickets, or for that matter a one-man picket, which other workers will not pass, are examples of the abuse of power. There is some evidence that workers are showing a more discriminating attitude towards picket lines but there is a type of blind unthinking observance of pickets which has been peculiar to this country for many decades.

I feel that the protection of the law should not apply to one-man pickets except when all procedures for the resolution of conflict in the employment concerned have been exhausted. These procedures would normally include direct discussions within the individual employer as well as reference to a third party, for example, the Labour Court or rights commissioners.

The fragmented trade union structure gives rise to many problems for trade unions themselves and the conduct of [742] industrial relations generally. The rationalisation of the trade union structure is a task primarily for the trade unions themselves. One way in which the Legislature can help to control the multiplicity of unions relates to the granting of a negotiation licence to a trade union. The Trade Union Act, 1971, sets a minimum membership of 500 and a financial deposit of £5,000 as the normal requirements for the grant of a negotiation licence in the case of new trade unions. Fifteen years have now passed since these requirements were enacted. I believe that, in the case of a new trade union, the minimum membership level should be increased substantially from the figure of 500, and the financial deposit should be increased from the figure of £5,000.

Another way the State can assist the trade union movement in rationalising is by updating and improving the costs of amalgamation and, in particular, amending the regulation that no costs are paid until the successful completion of the amalgamation. The joining of two or more trade unions is by its nature a long, costly process and costs in everyone's interest should be paid on a phased basis, assisting in a positive way towards a successful outcome.

I now wish to turn to the Labour Court, a major national industrial relations institution. While the hopes placed in the court at the time of its establishment in 1946 have not been fully realised, it has, nonetheless, an impressive record in dispute settlement. As in the case of the law governing industrial relations, the Labour Court, too, is in need of review. The increased recourse in recent years to third party intervention in industrial disputes is a source of concern. The intention of the Oireachtas in 1946 was that the Labour Court would be used as a court of last resort. However, we now find, particularly in the recent past — and I will quote the Chairman of the Labour Court, Mr. John Horgan, who said: “Matters of quite a trivial character are constantly referred to the court for a full hearing despite the best efforts of the industrial relations officers of the court”.

Any change in the institutional [743] arrangements which would help to reduce the number of trivial cases coming before the court and allow it to investigate the more serious cases only must be given serious consideration. The proposed Labour Relations Commission may well be a step in the right direction. The additional functions envisaged for the commission, for example the development of codes of practice and a more active approach to dispute prevention and resolution, are deserving of careful examination by all concerned.

On the whole, the pace of reform following the publication of the Report of the Commission on Industrial Relations, 1981, has been disappointing. I share the view that the role of the law in industrial relations is a limited one. However, there is a compelling case for legal change in some respects, especially in the area of secret ballot before strike or any industrial action is taken and also secret ballots for the election of members to union executive committees.

Because of the public perception, we could be forgiven for thinking that industrial relations are about disputes, late night conciliation conferences, Labour Court hearings, etc. But we know that this is only a small proportion of industrial relations, and particularly it is that part where trust and relationships have broken down and issues have spilled over into destructive conflict. The far greater part of industrial relations is the everyday working out of the thousands of issues which crop up in the many different organisations. Real industrial relations involve the patient work of managers, supervisers and union representatives, never reported by the media, and yet vital to the everyday working of every company or business.

Industrial relations are about relationships as in a marriage. It is not an institutional gladiators' contest between the ICTU and the FUE, in which managers are mere helpless spectators. The current debate about the legal framework for industrial relations diverts attention away from the real issue, the performance of [744] management in the day-to-day conduct of industrial relations.

The 1985 Report of the European Management Forum on International Industrial Competitiveness ranks Ireland 22nd out of 28 OECD countries in industrial relations and 23rd in labour absenteeism. Whether we accept the figures, I think we would all agree that there is considerable scope for improving management performance in many areas of industrial relations. There is a regrettable tendency for managers to shift the blame onto the trade union movement in general, and to call for legal sanctions to “control” them. Even if a legal approach in a voluntary system of industrial relations would work, and I very much doubt it would, managers have to set their own house in order before pointing the finger at someone else.

I would give no support to those who seek that type of policy because what they are trying to do is attain a position where people would be forced to have two or three part time jobs rather than one permanent job, and to destabilise further the future of our young people. The way they are arguing is doing their case much damage. It would be better if the FUE were to turn their attention to the Minister's proposals and to try to make them work. What they are doing is trying to force the Minister, and me in the Opposition, to believe their case. That is sad. To put it bluntly, they should cop on.

I referred last week to emigration. I do not wish to go back on the points I made then, but while we are on this Estimate I will suggest that more money should be put towards assisting our people who wish to go abroad or those who have gone abroad. There is a major problem because of the number of young people who have gone away without proper advice and assistance. Many of them think that to be on the dole is the worst option but that is not always the case. I was in London on two occasions recently and I met people who have emigrated in the past 18 months and they have a very different attitude now. When I speak [745] about emigration I am not talking about well educated people but rather I am talking of those who come from areas suffering a high level of deprivation. These people need assistance when they are abroad. However, the Irish agencies in London — in Kilburn, Camden Town and other places — have not the resources to cope with what is a major problem. I was glad to hear the Minister's commitment that the Department will concern themselves about this matter.

Mention has been made of the Barrington report. The up-dating of health and safety regulations and the amendment of legislation dealing with factories and offices as well as legislation dealing with off-shore safety is to be welcomed. The sooner we carry out that task the better. Many accidents occur in factories and offices and people encounter major problems when they have to work in unsuitable conditions. It should not be necessary for trade unions to fight for proper conditions: they should be written into legislation. Whether it be in offices, hospitals or factories, it is wrong that people should have to work in adverse conditions, particularly with regard to hygiene.

Recently I asked a question in the House regarding implementation of various EC directives. There are regulations dealing with dangerous inflammable liquids, with transport, with safety regulations in mines and also with regard to ionizing radiation and so on. I understand why EC regulations are not always implemented, namely, where there could be additional costs involved that could put industries under stress and strain, but there are other regulations that could be implemented. It would be helpful if that were done in the case of the latter and in the case of those regulating that will not be implemented we should be told the reason. This is preferable to waiting for pressure to be applied from the EC.

Last year the Minister told us that cuts in the European Social Fund could create major difficulties here. We have a young population and we have a very high level of unemployment. I accept it is better for the 45,000 young people on training [746] courses to be involved in such work instead of doing nothing, but we must remember that the courses are of short-term duration and in the vast majority of cases they will not lead to a great future for the young people. However, I accept that in the event of an economic recovery some young people could benefit from them.

If the European Social Fund is cut as the Minister has predicted, it is obvious that 1987 and 1988 could be a disastrous period for some of the agencies. The Government should tell us if money will come from the Exchequer to compensate for that lost from the Social Fund. Obviously, the EC will not continue the fund at the same level as in previous years and that could cause major problems. The selective cuts advocated by Brussels may not suit us and it is a matter I shall take up with Fianna Fáil MEPs. From what the Minister has said this morning, it appears the EC will decide the criteria and the priorities to be set and that is not acceptable. We shout loudly in Brussels about farming and other issues and perhaps we should do the same about this matter.

Reference has been made to unofficial strikes and the difficulties experienced as a result in the past few years. The Minister will be aware of their effect on the morale of investors. He will have to clamp down on unofficial strikes and will have to enact the necessary legislation. Members of Fianna Fáil recently met a number of large investors and representatives of major firms and they quoted examples of incidents that cannot be ignored. All the time we hear large companies say they will pull out of this country because of trade union law — I am thankful they have not done this so far but they have pointed out their concern in the matter. The trade union movement in the United States has many Irish people in the forefront and the leaders have a close affiliation with trade unions here. They will tell one exactly what they think of unofficial strikes. People like Teddy Gleeson, who has a strong Irish background, and the other mighty unions in the United States will expel a union [747] member or a branch for involvement in unofficial strikes, although I accept that is a matter for the trade unions themselves. However, the Minister in dealing with reform of industrial relations and trade union law will have to take strong action. I accept that in some areas there has to be a certain amount of give and take but there is no argument to make in respect of wildcat strikes or one-man picketing. This country has continued to build fairly good legislation to enable disputes to be settled by negotiation and peacefully. If all those processes fail the unions have the right to go on strike, but unofficial strikes and one-man picketing are making more difficult the revival of the economy.

I raise this matter now because I have been asked by many of my colleagues to point out the facts. The concern that has been expressed in this matter has been voiced by people who have served the country well, who do not make statements rashly and who are not involved in right-wing capitalist managements, for whom I have no time. The people I am talking about have endeavoured to have good industrial relations with their own workforce and their views must be considered. Our attitude has to change if we want to revive the economy in the way we wish. It requires the urgent attention of the Minister. It cannot be something that must wait until we have economic recovery.

We are supporting this Estimate. I appreciate the work the Minister has done personally and that of his senior officials. The difficulties encountered by the Department of Labour in recent years have been caused by the mismanagement of other Ministers and their lack of ability to cope. It is nice to be spokesman to a Department who are attempting to do something useful and if the other Departments could use the tactics used by the Department of Labour we would not have so many major problems.

I may not be here when the Minister replies, and this is not meant to be a sign of disrespect; I have to go to the west because it is an important day there. Perhaps the Minister would mention the [748] Dublin strike and tell us if anything might happen over the weekend.

Mrs. Barnes: The Minister's speech was very wide-ranging and showed the links and the inter-independency not just in the area of work but in the social area as well. The Minister laid down a list of priorities but even this list showed that we cannot separate work from the human condition. His fourth priority was the investigation of links between economic growth and social progress and showed that without social progress and social justice economic growth cannot be the answer to our problems. I also welcome the prompt delivery of the annual report for 1985, as well as the other reports, because these are markers to which we can respond.

The Minister drew attention to the greatest challenge facing us today, that is, redefining labour and employment because of the technology and social changes, the large numbers coming into the workforce for the first time, particularly women, and our young, educated, skilled population. Our greatest challenge is to redefine the work ethic, unemployment, employment as we knew it, and the effects, physically and psychologically, they are having on our people. The Department of Labour have the staff competent to carry out this work. They should take the initiative to help solve the problem of people who are made redundant, and who are sometimes within the community made to feel redundant, as human beeings. We need to have a breakdown of the boundaries between what was known as formal work, gainful employment, and informal work, the valued work done in the home and voluntarily in the community. This will become much more important and will give a great deal of satisfaction in the years ahead.

In a book on the future of work the author gives the percentage of work done in the community. In Britain — and I am sure the figure is at least as high here — 40 per cent of work done in the community is termed informal work. At present this work is done without financial reward, [749] yet it gives tremendous job satisfaction. This is some of the most valuable work being done. Until we put different values on this type of informal work, and on work in the service area — which is the only area that is expanding — we will not reach the fundamental cause of people's dissatisfaction, unhappiness and sometimes total disintegration because they are excluded from what is known as formal employment.

I welcome the fact that the eligibility criteria for benefit under the social welfare scheme has been amended to include married women. We must aim at encouraging more people to work in the community either through training schemes or carrying out projects. I wish to refer to the work carried out by AnCO apprentices on St. Anthony's Franciscan Monastery at Louvain. We saw a very inspiring programme on RTE which showed the generosity of the Franciscan Brothers at Louvain. As Deputy Ahern said, emigration at a certain level can be seen as one of the best learning opportunities we can give our children. Louvain is a shining example of that. That programme highlighted what we need to do to help our young people cross existing boundaries — language and territorial. By working in Europe our young people can make a most significant contribution.

Deputy Ahern also referred to the less exciting area of emigration, the forced emigration of our young people who leave Ireland without adequate information, skills or qualifications, and find themselves lonely, isolated and poverty stricken, particularly in cities around Britain. The facts of life should be spelled out for these young people before they embark on such a trip. They should be told that unlike the fifties, the quick trip to Britain in the eighties is just not on, and they should make more preparation before they emigrate. We must all share the responsibility for not allowing our young people to find themselves.

The Minister and Deputy Ahern referred to the European Social Fund. The Minister is right to voice his fears about the restriction and the greater distribution now because of the accession [750] of Spain and Portugal whose rightful demand on the funds must be met. I support the Minister's insistence that the whole concept and ideal of the Treaty of Rome upon which the EC is based — and the Irish people voted in large numbers with tremendous enthusiasm to enter the EC because they saw the Treaty as not alone inspiring but potentially practical — are that the weaker, less industrialised countries were promised that the objective would be to remove the inequalities and to restrain the stronger industrialised countries from taking advantage of the weaker countries and to build up the smaller countries. The EC member states like Ireland must remind those stronger, more powerful countries that the whole concept of Community in Europe is being put at risk if they do not recognise that fact in bad times as well as in good times. I hope that the increase from 1.4 per cent to closer to 2 per cent will be achieved, and we should all support the Minister on that through lobbying or by any other means that we can.

Deputy Ahern spent much of his allotted time on industrial relations and the role of the trade unions and particularly — here I support him — on the role of management. Very often the whole responsibility for industrial relations, particularly when they fall down, is put on the heads of the workers while too often it is the responsibility of industrial management, and industrial relations are not taken into consideration. I welcome the Minister's establishment of a new labour relations commission for the promotion of good industrial relations as well as for the provision of conciliation, advisory and other services. Many times strikes and breakdowns occur not for what are seen as surface reasons but for more subtle reasons, as the Minister pointed out. Very often the devaluing of the workers and the work, lack of communication or even refusal to take seriously what the work force are saying lead to the breakdown. For instance, the Minister says, rightly, that frequently improvements in morale and recognition of the dignity and value of the worker are being sought rather than clear pay rises [751] but because workers feel that that negotiating power is the only recognition given to them, that leads to the breakdown.

I welcome the Minister's allotment of funds for training. One area on which I would ask management, the trade unions and other training agencies to concentrate is the skill and training that are operating successfully in other areas, of conflict resolution, of giving skills to people to resolve the conflict before breakdown occurs. There are several models of conflict resolution by trained and skilled conciliators which should give us hope that we can continue productively and skilfully in human relations.

I note with a certain sadness the Minister's emphasis that a mistaken notion had taken root that because we have certain legislation with regard to equal pay and equal opportunity in employment, a social policy objective is no longer an issue. Some people even believe that discrimination against women at work has been removed. All evidence, written and informal, is to the contrary. As the annual report of the Department of Labour for 1984 pointed out, the differential between male and female continues, and I understand that women get only 59 per cent of what men get in the same areas, particularly in the industrial area. That is ten years after the introduction of the Equal Pay Act and nine years after the introduction of the Employment Equality Act.

I press the Minister to take positive steps to redress the situation and, more important, to dispel the myth abroad that it is not necessary to do so. A certain feeling obtains that we would much prefer all this area of equality and employment opportunity to go away, particularly in bad times when we have enough problems without having to ensure through employment opportunity that we include women and so increase our problems. As the Minister said in his introduction, we have a duty to ensure that we have social justice, and social justice is for women as well as for men, and in order to achieve that we need positive, affirmative action. I welcome [752] the moves being made in that direction in the Department of Labour and I am looking forward to seeing the effects.

For instance, I ask the Minister what progress has been made with an initiative to creat a pilot scheme for a creche for the Department of Labour supported by AnCO. The Minister says that AnCO have already established expertise in operating career development programmes as part of the programme for the training of women within organisations. I ask the Minister how many special courses AnCO are running for women towards that end, taking into consideration the cut-backs and so on this year. I know that certain initiatives have been taken by semi-State bodies such as the IDA and Aer Rianta with regard to creche facilities. I hope that with the thrust and energy of the Minister for Labour we can exact from the State Departments and the semi-State bodies a much more positive programme. Some of the organisations who have made that kind of progress will see no encouragement to continue it and feel that they are in isolation. Therefore we need to encourage existing models and increase the number.

Lastly, I welcome the Minister's emphasis on information. Deputy Ahern talked about the co-ordination of information. In this regard I ask the Minister to concentrate on a special campaign in respect of part time workers. The whole area of potential of part time working is welcomed as long as we have the regulations and controls and that proper value is given to part time work. I would like the Minister to initiate a special campaign of information within his Department with a concise programme to ensure that part time workers are made aware of the rights they have and the rights they have not got. About 70 per cent of part time workers in Ireland are women. Perhaps that is why that whole area has not been as protected and secure as it should have been. I should like to think that during the coming year we will make progress in the areas to which he referred today and that the priorities in his speech will be [753] achieved. I commend all the people involved in the Department of Labour for their efforts and urge them to build on their efforts so that we may progress even faster in these areas.

Mr. Lyons: Ag cuidiú leis an Meastachán seo is dócha go bhfuil an ceart agam a rá gur Roinn an-tábhachtach an Roinn seo. The importance of the Department of Labour in the present economic circumstances cannot be over-emphasised. In the short time available, I hope to indicate some of those emphases.

Last year, in contributing to this debate, I indicated that the Department of Labour should be to the forefront in eliminating the most serious problem facing us, unemployment. In the 12 months since then I have not been convinced that the Department or the Minister have made the impact which should have been made in this area. Indeed, the Department of Labour seem to be out in the cold. Their capacity to influence policy seems to have been eroded.

The NESC report on manpower policy pointed out that the Department of Labour had not evolved into a central force with the authority and drive to co-ordinate, develop and review manpower policies. The remarks of NESC are merely an extension of the mind, mood and attitude in my contribution to this Estimate 12 months ago. The NESC said that a Cabinet sub-committee should be set up with statutory powers to deal with manpower and training which would help to ensure that the skills needed in industry and the economy would be fostered. They noted with concern the reduction in the number of apprentices over the past number of years and called for a national examination of conscience in this whole area. They warned that the quality of apprenticeship training must continue to be of the highest order if we are to compete internationally because efficiency is one of the key words in competing in this area.

At present, 18 per cent of the workforce are without jobs. One in five of the workforce is registered as unemployed but we all know that registered figures do [754] not convey the true picture of the dearth of employment at present.

For example, 45,000 people are taking part in the various courses under the aegis of the Department of Labour. These are worthwhile in retraining people to cope with changes in technology, but many of them have no sustainable jobs when they complete these courses. However, these courses give a false figure in regard to the total number unemployed. The number of second level pupils who stay on at school is not taken into consideration either. There are no statistics in this regard but we all know that many pupils stay on after they do their intermediate certificate. Some years ago these people would have got jobs but, because there is no prospect of employment, they stay on to do their leaving certificate. At one time the leaving certificate would have ensured that they would have got a job but that is not the case now, and they stay on to do commercial and other courses. This adds to the numbers seeking employment.

Our economic forecasters warn that, despite the economic upturn, unemployment will not decrease which adds to the sense of defeatism in regard to jobs. We must also remember that economic forecasting is a very inexact science. Last summer, for example, the Department of Finance, the Central Bank, the OECD and even the ESRI expected a growth of more than 2 per cent in gross domestic product for 1985. This was expounded by Government Ministers and TDs all over the country but it eventually emerged that the growth, if any, was less than 1 per cent. The lesson is that experts are not always right. We must leave aside defeatist establishment thinking if we are to deal with the challenges posed to society by our growing labour market. Our population and labour market are increasing at a faster rate than anywhere else in the industrialised world. By 1991 it is estimated that we will have three times as many people entering the labour market as retiring.

In 1979, approximately one in every 14 members of the labour force was without a job. By the end of 1985, the proportion [755] had risen to about one in five. In 1979, about 225,000 people worked in the manufacturing industry but, by 1985, that workforce had shrunk to 187,000. Average unemployment rose by about 50 per cent between 1982 and 1985. Pointing to the enormous unemployment levels North and South, Dr. Finola Kennedy said there are few enough signs of a creative impulse in overcoming unemployment, rather that there are indications both North and South that the whole debate is being hijacked by public sector versus private sector extremists. Unemployment poses the greatest challenge to our society and Government. We need to gear our resources towards productive, job-creating economic activity on a scale hitherto unseen in this country. This will involve an imaginative flight beyond conventional thinking, an expansion outside our familiar approach to the economy.

The experience of other small nations must provide us with food for thought. The research of Professor Wrigley in Cork University and other economists indicates that in devising a productive employment strategy in the last decade of the 20th century we should look to successful examples provided by other small nations such as Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Switzerland. All these countries have highly productive economies with unemployment rates averaging between 3 per cent and 4 per cent while ours is at 18 per cent.

If we are to achieve the growth rates and employment levels of these countries we must prepare the ground work by appropriate measures to encourage enterprise. In the context of devising strategy for job creating economic activity, productive investment in education, strengthening our intellectual resources and capacity for new ideas will be vital components. Manpower training and educational policy will play a central role in such a strategy within the overall industrial and economic framework.

I wish only to be positive and constructive in this debate. I must point out, however, that in the absence of a productive, job-creating economic strategy, [756] the Cabinet task force is doomed to failure. Youth training and employment schemes cannot of themselves be expected to create a dynamic labour market.

The Cabinet task force on employment has signally failed since its inception over three years ago to bring a co-ordinated and integrated approach to the problem of joblessness.

Mr. Quinn: Examples?

Mr. Lyons: The establishment of a new ministerial task-force to spearhead job creation at the beginning of March is a futile measure, unless it is accompanied by measures to generate investment and enterprise.

We were told that the task force on employment — comprised of the Ministers for Finance, Industry and Commerce, Labour and Social Welfare — would co-ordinate departmental ideas on how the country can best take advantage of the turn around in the economy. It was indicated that the Government would avail of the international economic upswing to devise new and imaginative schemes to boost job numbers. I have not seen any evidence of that.

Paragraph 2.1. of Building on Reality states that the central economic and social priority in the period of the plan is to tackle the unemployment crisis. It is, therefore, deeply disappointing that this Government have done so extraordinarily little to tackle unemployment since they took office despite the existence during that period of a Cabinet sub-committee whose brief was to create jobs.

It is particularly disturbing that so little has been done to fulfil the Coalition pledge that the environment created by their tax and incentive policies would be conductive to the creation of employment. I urge the Government to take action to boost investment and job creation. Appropriate policy measures taken in small business could help to reduce our appallingly high unemployment figures. Small industry is a critical force in job creation and central to the Government's [757] avowed strategy to boost indigenous Irish industries.

I am not suggesting we devote all our activities to small industries. I agree with the suggestion by the Government that small industries are a critical force in job creation. According to the CII's small firms association it will be possible to create between 60,000 and 70,000 additional jobs in the small business sector by 1990 if the right climate is created. It is the responsibility of the Government to create that employment. For every one job created in manufacturing industry it is well known that six or seven additional jobs are created elsewhere. Therefore 12,000 manufacturing jobs would generate additional employment rendering achievable the 60,000 to 70,000 jobs target.

I do not wish to set myself up as being better than the economists, advisers or task forces that this Government are adept at setting up. They have set up many task forces since they came to power and I will deal with one in relation to my city later.

Mr. Quinn: I knew we could not get out of here without going to Cork.

Mr. Lyons: Bloody sure you will not.

Mr. McGahon: We will have to go to the North.

Mr. Quinn: Are we going via Knock?

Mr. Lyons: A number of measures would help to realise the jobs target. One is by using the tax system selectively to promote development in particular sectors. We could encourage the public to invest in industry rather than invest in Government stock and equity.

Mr. Quinn: We did that.

Mr. Lyons: Yes but a lot of barbed wire was still left around designated trust funds. It is too restrictive to be of any help. If some of the barbed wire was removed there might be some success with designated trust funds. It should be [758] ensured that capital taxes do not lead to the break up of businesses.

An Ceann Comhairle: Capital taxes are a matter for the Minister for Finance.

Mr. Lyons: I understand that, but I only made these passing references to encourage the Government to do something about unemployment. If the Government did this they may contribute to a downward trend in unemployment.

Almost £300 million has now been collected under the Youth Employment Levy. According to the Department of Labour it has been used to fund AnCO, CERT, ACOT, the Youth Employment Agency and both the enterprise allowance scheme and the employment incentive scheme where the beneficiaries are below 25 years. The sum collected may seem large but is quite small in relation to the overall cost of unemployment, now put at up to £700 million a year. Unemployment assistance alone will cost £370 million in 1986 while unemployment benefit is currently being paid out at a rate of up to £25 million a month.

A Government document called “Comprehensive Public Expenditure Programmes” puts the cost of industrial training and job creation at around £465 million gross in 1984. Despite huge spending the level of unemployment has risen from 90,000 in 1979 to 232,000 at present. These figures relate to the numbers on the live register only and do not take account of special schemes which mask the real extent of the problem.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy has two minutes left.

Mr. Quinn: We will never get to Cork.

Mr. Lyons: I was glad to learn of the Taoiseach's sudden interest in and conversion to the securing of jobs. It is very welcome even if it is only for sentimental reasons. What about all the other closures we have had over recent years and which have continued unabated up to the present day? At the first sign of any difficulty they call in the liquidator and [759] close down the enterprise. Let me list a few examples. Cork Dockyard was closed and boats are being built in other dockyards around the world. The State owned 49 per cent of this dockyard but the Government closed it down. Where was the sentimentality when Irish Shipping was scuttled and our flag hauled down?

In Cork we have the dubious distinction of being the initial black spot, followed by the Border regions, County Wexford, Castlebar and the west. If some people in this House had their way SFADCo. would be in the same position as Cork. There was further bad news for Cork yesterday when a major computer plant, CPT, announced that it would close next month with the loss of 30 jobs. The future of 102 more jobs in the research and development wing hinges on a further IDA grant. A recent survey by Cork Corporation indicates that the city's unemployment figures are now running ahead of the national average. At the peak of the job crisis in Cork two years ago a national task force was established and, according to all the publicity, this was going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread with promises of it being the answer to unemployment. The recommendations of this task force were never published. I would like to know why. There is no evidence, a year after, that the task force has achieved anything in Cork on the jobs front. The time has come for the findings of that task force to be made public and for the Government to act. In conclusion, I acknowledge the increase in the Estimates of £36,137,000 over the 1985 figure to £171,490,000. But what value will we get for that in terms of permanent job creation?

Mr. McGahon: I recently had the pleasure of travelling to Germany with Herr Lyons.

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Lyons.

Mr. McGahon: Apart from the friendship that I have with the man, I share little else. He has treated us to a fantasy [760] here today. He has not referred to the 1977 manifesto which is undoubtedly the root cause of Ireland's problems. It is because of that that we have no money. It was an appalling bribe to the Irish nation who accepted it. Another Fianna Fáil friend recently told me that while it was a sin to conceive the 1977 manifesto, the real sin was in implementing it. The other Fianna Fáil Deputy in exile, Deputy Neil Blaney, described it last night on television as an election auction conducted by Fianna Fáil in 1977. That is the root cause of the problems.

Mr. Lyons: The Deputy is grasping at straws.

Mr. McGahon: It will continue to be the underlying problem well into the next century. It is a wonder that Fianna Fáil, although split, have survived at all, nine years down the road. That manifesto will be an albatross around their necks and that of the country for many years to come.

Having got that off my chest, I would like to congratulate the Minister, Deputy Quinn, who has, over the last four years, earned his corn. He has been one of the outstanding successes in the Government. I would like to congratulate him on the wide range and variety of schemes that he has initiated. I have certain reservations about some of them which are merely twentieth century relief schemes. Nevertheless they are very much needed at this time and I urge him to continue with them, particularly the very worthwhile social employment scheme which has given hope to many people in the no hope region and has enabled them to go to work with a certain amount of dignity. It has been tremendously successful, particularly in my own sadly deprived and neglected area of Dundalk which has suffered over the last 20 years because of the emphasis placed on the Cork region which, due to political expediency, was stuffed full of industry until a year or two ago. The Border region has been sadly neglected, particularly by Fianna Fáil who at one time had three Deputies in County Louth and failed to stem the [761] growing loss of manufacturing jobs which was the highest in Ireland. Over the last nine years we have lost 7,000 jobs in the Border region and that, outside Dublin, is the highest loss in the country.

The social employment scheme has been a great help to the Border region. I congratulate the Minister for his recent help in giving a fairly substantial sum of money to the Dundalk Combined Residents' Association thereby enabling 21 young people to become employed. These young people have set about their work with tremendous resolution and dedication. I hope the Minister will continue that scheme. I would also like to pay tribute to the efforts of the National Manpower Service who are very fair in allocating jobs in my region and are performing a very useful service. I would also congratulate the AnCO group. They are performing a tremendous job in Dundalk. They recently gave great help to a group of 12 people who lost their jobs when Clarks collapsed and who made a submission to the IDA as a result of which they were retrained by AnCO. There are 16 people now employed with the prospect of another six being taken on in the coming week. It is refreshing to note that during the six months training not one hour was lost through alcoholism or absenteeism or “sickness” because these people have a vested interest in turning up for work every day. This underlines the desirability of young people having a direct stake in a business. Efforts such as theirs should be promoted and encouraged by the Minister.

The Minister referred to the trade unions. This is where I would part company with the Minister. Having been abroad on several trips recently I feel that one of our great problems is the lack of responsibility on the part of trade unions. It is a burden that is not helpful to the nation or to the economy. Certainly it does not help in attracting industrialists from abroad.

We have a trade union problem which was exemplified recently by the prolonged and irrational teachers' dispute. Is it any wonder that the Dublin binmen are looking for their pound of flesh — and [762] who will be after them? Is it not fair to accept that everybody who is working, particularly for low wages, will be demanding a slice of a cake which is rapidly diminishing? The role of trade unions needs to be revised — and that is putting it mildly — if we are to attract industrialists to invest money here.

I point to the recent closure of VEHA in Wicklow as an appalling indictment of very bad labour relations. Another problem can be appended here, which is absenteeism. It is way above the European level and abseentism on Mondays has reached chronic proportions. Any chronic offender who has a persistently bad record of absenteeism on Mondays and Fridays should not be allowed to remain in that job. There are too many others queuing up for work. Whether one or ten doctors' certificates are produced, a known offender should be shown the door and that job given to somebody who would appreciate it.

I come back to the hoary chestnut which nevertheless must be adverted to again. There is a section of the population who will not thank me for saying it, but the whole concept of job sharing must be considered in an automated world, because automation and technology will continue to make frightening inroads into employment. Glib comments by politicians about job creation are only waffle. No matter what Government are in power, I see a worsening scenario on job creation because of the advances and development of modern technology and automation. The concept of job sharing will have to be considered in the next decade, as will the removal of overtime, by trade unions and Government alike, if we are sincere in our belief in the creation of jobs for the tens of thousands of young people leaving school every year.

As I have said previously in budget debates, the Government should introduce attractive tax-free incentives for people to leave their jobs at as early an age as 55 years, to allow young people to get jobs in the public service. There is a large proportion of women working who do not need to work.

[763] Mrs. Barnes: How does the Deputy define “need”?

Mr. McGahon: Let me define it.

Mrs. Barnes: Let the Deputy think of all the men and women who will reject that concept.

Mr. McGahon: Perhaps so. I stress that I am speaking about people who do not need to work, elderly married women whose families are reared and, in particular those married to men in affluent employment. They should not be kept in employment.

Mrs. Barnes: That should apply equally to men.

Mr. McGahon: I am thinking of elderly people, particularly in the nursing and teaching professions. That is likely to bring howls of indignation, not only from Deputy Barnes but from the real world outside, because I have had that reaction before. I still believe it and repeat it.

Mrs. Barnes: I wish the Deputy would learn.

Mr. McGahon: If we are to create a caring society we must make use of job sharing, because no Government can create jobs in the present economic circumstances. The problem in this country is greed.

Mrs. Barnes: Is the Deputy suggesting that women are greedy?

Mr. McGahon: The Deputy is a sexist. I am not suggesting anything against women. I am just suggesting that we must create employment and that elderly married women whose families are reared should be sent to the sidelines and young people given an opportunity — perhaps some of their own daughters and sons. Otherwise, the unemployment figures will continue to rise. I ask the Minister to bear that in mind, coupled with my comments on trade unions, about which he knows a thing or two. I congratulate [764] him on the great work he has done and hope he will continue a social employment scheme for the unfortunate people at the bottom end of the scale who are unable to obtain jobs, or to marry ladies who are in lucrative employment.

An Ceann Comhairle: I shall be calling the Minister at 1.15 p.m.

Mr. Keating: I should like to make a few observations on the Minister's speech this morning. I want, first, to say that I commend a great deal the initiative and effort which this Minister has applied to his task and to previous tasks which he has set himself. We all know that he is, by any standard, a very serious, diligent and committed politician. However, when any Member stands up in the House and says things like that there is always a “but”. I was disappointed with one of his earlier remarks, which either deliberately or otherwise — and I suspect that it was otherwise — misrepresented the position of a number of people who have asked that certain new approaches be considered to aspects of the unemployment situation. I refer specifically to his remarks that “It comes as no surprise to me that those who reject a major role for the State in taking direct action to tackle unemployment also reject the idea of socially useful work”. He went on to talk about “that group” — which is a fairly thinly disguised attack on a new political party which I happen to represent at present — advocating “a narrow commercialism” and so on. I put it to him candidly that he is either misinformed, or being deliberately mischievous. Because I do not believe it is the latter, I presume that he is misinformed. On the contrary, the facts are that the so-called advocates of the new idea, which I note he has consistently attacked, inside and outside this House since it has come to be voiced, have simply been telling people the truth about basic problems affecting unemployment.

He talks about being convinced “that this kind of Gladstonian moralism has to be challenged if the potentially dynamic role of community-based projects for the [765] disadvantaged is to be developed.” The most effective way in which to challenge it would be simply to do what the Government said they would do when they came to office. Nobody is questioning the potentially dynamic role of community-based projects for the disadvantaged, but that is not the issue. The issue is not these schemes which have a net contribution to make to the economic wellbeing of the individuals participating and the social fabric of our society, but the more fundamental question of how to get almost a quarter of a million people back to work, or as many of them as is possible.

Later the Minister spoke about the general employment situation in a paragraph which was symbolically very brief. He spoke about the figure of over 230,000 being unacceptably high. He said: “It is attributable to the major upheaval being experienced in international markets, redundancies arising from increased automation and the increase in the Irish labour force.” With respect, that is a lot of nonsense. The figure is unacceptably high and is attributable in part to those factors, but is not fundamentally attributable to the major upheaval being experienced in international markets, or automation, or the increase in the Irish labour force. It is essentially attributable to the mismanagement of the economy over the past ten years.

The Irish economy represents approximately 0.6 of the EC market. There could be an international hurricane blowing economically but it need not affect this country if it was properly managed. Automation has not made the kind of contribution implied here if the Minister's three-pronged rationale for the unacceptably high level of unemployment is to be accepted. The reasons are much more fundamental and much more obvious.

The way to challenge what is being said by the new political party is to deal with that issue, to deal with the question of an unacceptably high degree of State expenditure, an unacceptably high level of tax which is depressing enterprise and to do something about them. That is not to say [766] that there is not room for State involvement, State equity, joint venture or partnership between the State and private sector. Only a fool would suggest that it should be one or the other. The question is one of balance, not of ideology. The State does not have the right to assume that it, and it alone, has a monopoly in this area, either a monopoly of wisdom, experience or ability. Many Members who work on committees of the House have seen that under a number of those heads the State falls far short in terms of what Deputy McGahon has called the real world.

It is incredible to find this attack coming from a Minister who represents a Government who in the last three and a half years have brought about a situation where there are almost 250,000 people unemployed. I admit that it is not the Government's fault totally, but the very least that should happen in those circumstances is that there should be a certain degree of charitable silence, or cautious questioning, about new approaches rather than a heated, angry and, on occasions, hysterical attack. I should like the Minister to comment on what he implies is a Gladstonian moralism in this new approach. The facts are that in his tenure of office the tax take on a worker with taxable income of £8,000 rose by 30 per cent while the tax take on a worker with taxable income of £30,000 rose by 4 per cent. That is hardly epitomising a care for the disadvantaged or the deprived in our community.

Will the Minister explain how there has been an increase in the jobless total of more than 50,000 since the Government took office and how there has been a rise in income tax of twice the level of inflation during that period? Will the Minister say how that helps anybody, whether they are in a job or unemployed? Will the Minister explain, not just because of its symbolism in terms of this Left/Right axis that apparently obsesses Members in some parts of the House but also because of its economic hardship, the Government's attitude to the arbitrary cuts in the health services and not the need to curb overall expenditure?

[767] An Ceann Comhairle: The Minister for Labour is not responsible for the health services.

Mr. Keating: I am referring to the manner in which public expenditure cuts have been assigned arbitrarily. They are creating hardship for those that none of us want hardship to fall on while others have not taken any cut-back or had any diminution in their incomes. Will the Minister explain the mean gesture last Christmas of taking away the traditional double week for old age pensions?

An Ceann Comhairle: The Minister is not responsible for social welfare.

Mr. Keating: Will he explain the fundamental deceit of the Government of abolishing food subsidies and pretending that the family income supplement would make up the difference——

An Ceann Comhairle: I must draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that he cannot indulge in a general economic debate.

Mr. Keating: The essential fact underlying the general employment situation which the Minister did not advert to is the unacceptable reality of the present economic arrangement which is that a £10,000 million public spending programme is not acceptable in an economy of £15,000 million.

An Ceann Comhairle: These are matters for another Minister.

Mr. Keating: It was the Minister for Labour who raised the reasons for unemployment. I am contradicting what he said as being either deliberately omitting to refer to fundamental aspects or else being uninformed. Wherever else this Minister is, he is not uninformed.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is in the middle of a general economic debate.

Mr. Keating: I suggest that there are [768] many ways in which the full potential of the public service can be brought to its maximum, where people can have dignity and respect and where they can be given employment in the part time schemes which help the long term unemployed. I should like to ask the Minister, with great respect for him, to address the fundamental issues. Otherwise this will become the classic situation of people moving around the furniture on the Titanic. The schemes will not solve the fundamental problems, and that is what we should be concerned about, not raising ideological hares on the basis of misinformation or for the sake of political mischief.

Minister for Labour (Mr. Quinn): I should like to thank Members for their time, their contributions and the compliments they paid to the Department of Labour. It is not often Members get an opportunity to thank officials of that Department for their work and dedication. I should like to express my appreciation of the enormous output of the Department, notwithstanding the embargo and having due regard to the number of increased tasks I have asked them to undertake in my term of office.

In his wide-ranging contribution Deputy Ahern raised the question of industrial relations and the Dublin Corporation dispute. I understand why, in his capacity as deputy Lord Mayor, he has to leave the House. I should like to express my concern at the dispute. I welcome the intervention of Deputy McGahon in regard to it and I hope there will be moves soon by the various parties that will result in a resumption of negotiations. There is a need for a new realism in our economy with regard to the level of settlements that are available, particularly having regard to the level of taxation, which is unacceptably high. The realism that is required should come sooner rather than later and I hope negotiations resume soon.

The role of the Department of Labour, as Deputy Ahern pointed out, essentially is concerned with the labour market and the labour force in our economy. We have an obligation to ensure that the [769] people who come into the labour market are well equipped, well trained and well educated. I was amazed at the apparent complaint by Deputy Lyons that some people are staying on in school because they cannot get a job. Many of the jobs that young people of group and intermediate certificate level used to get do not exist any longer and where they do they do not represent a reasonable future for the people involved. I do not think an investment in education or in training is a substitute for employment. It is a guarantee in regard to the kind of work a person is capable of doing.

The role of the Department relates to ensuring that people are adequately and properly trained, that the whole area of industrial relations is properly monitored and that in the area of occupational safety and health there is an improvement in standards. It is not readily understood that we have an unacceptably high level of accidents in our workplaces and we do not have an adequate range of protective legislation to ensure the workers and management take responsibility to reduce to the lowest possible level the number of accidents, fatal and otherwise.

Deputy Ahern ranged over a wide area. He referred to his proposal regarding an integrated single manpower authority. I regret that the White Paper on manpower policy has been delayed but I hope to bring it forward fairly soon. When it is published it will not be a watered down document but one which will adequately represent the consensus that is emerging in relation to this area. It will be a very useful and effective instrument in getting an integration of the wide range of services that exist to help people.

Deputy Ahern referred to trade union reform and I should like to thank him for his support in that regard. He was critical about some aspects of the legislation but, because I do not have time, I will not deal with them today. I do not think he was correct in what he said in relation to the impact the proposals will have with regard to trade dispute law. I share his view that we have far too many trade unions, that the trade union movement [770] is badly served as a result and, as a consequence, the workforce do not get the kind of service they either deserve or require. In some cases, as Deputy McGahon said earlier, there is internal conflict within the trade union movement which manifests itself in such a manner that the genuine interests of working people instead of being advanced are being retarded.

I am glad that Deputy Ahern, speaking on behalf of the main Opposition party, recognised that the claim by certain management groups, including the FUE which he named specifically, that the deregulation of protective legislation was a necessary prerequisite to providing employment in this country, was something he would not support and the legitimacy of which he did not recognise. I share his analysis and I welcome the position he is adopting on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party. There is a need for all of us to stop blaming factors other than the ones we control ourselves particularly in relation to industrial management and the management of human resources. Rather than blaming legislation for failures in certain areas and suggesting that if that legislation was removed the problems would be resolved, we should be looking at how we run our own affairs.

To that extent, Deputy Barnes put her finger very much on a new area of growth in terms of the management of the Irish economy, including the labour market and the human resource it represents. I share the Deputy's concern. There is an extraordinary need for human development training in the area of how to actually manage in a modern developed society which recognises fundamental democratic rights and the integrity of the individual, and the rights of individuals to assert themselves in a manner which underlines and underpins their position as human beings.

We are taking into the end of this century and perhaps into the beginning of the next century, Victorian attitudes about authority and responsibility which will not travel on the ground any more, particularly with young people. We have not yet transferred that to our economic [771] system in a manner which reduces conflicts and difficulties. As Deputy Barnes rightly said, the only way one can assert one's position or attempt to define one's value as a human being in a particular enterprise is to ask for more money when frequently what one might be really asking for is more recognition, responsibility and a place in the decision making process. The trade unions are increasingly getting involved in areas other than specifically money matters. They recognise that this is an important factor. There is a need for training in that area and I would hope we would develop into it.

Deputy Ahern raised specifically some questions about safety directives and regulations. Lest it be left hanging on the record of the House that we were somehow or other deliberately, either covertly or overtly, failing to implement directives we have undertaken at Council level, the regulations which are being prepared in relation to some of the safety directives he referred to are being prepared slowly because they involve legal and complex problems which require resolution. There is no suggestion that they are not being implemented for some reason related to a reluctance on our parts to comply with our obligations. We are particularly communauttaire in observing and complying with the obligations we undertake within the EC. It is for that reason we are slow to undertake and support EC directives until we are satisfied we are in a position to implement them. I have to say that, tragically, that is not the position some other member states find themselves in.

Deputy Barnes referred to the questions of migration and emigration and referred to the point Deputy Ahern made in relation to the levels of emigration. I think she is right. We have got to recognise that, if we want to live on this island at the standard of living our current budget decifit suggests we aspire to, we will have to earn that living off this island. In order to do that, we have got to learn how to sell what we can produce on this island abroad. It is a lesson which every [772] other north European country has already learned. The Belgians, the Dutch and the Danes do not regard the large numbers of people they have working and living in different parts of the world either for short or protracted periods of time as people who are failed citizens. Simply, the contrary is the case. They regard them as people out in the market place earning a living and in the process earning a living for their families back home.

This country is trapped by the history of emigration in the last century and still thinks of it as some kind of American wake symbolised by the cardboard box, the piece of string and the John B. Keane play “Many Young Men of Twenty” and that whole wretched sad scene. That is no longer the reality in many cases. People leave to go to a better job abroad and in many cases return with enhanced skills to work on this island. The Louvain project, which was shown recently on television, the idea of trying to train people in how to break into a continental market which has 320 million people and to which we have an automatic right of access — it is the biggest single integrated purchasing market, and I use that phrase advisedly, in the world — is a Heaven sent opportunity for this country. The measures which have been taken by my Department, to take the economic point made by Deputy Lyons, are specifically designed to ensure that the labour force we possess at every level does not lack the skills necessary to exploit that market, be they skills of marketing, language or communication. Therefore, I make no apology for having obtained and diverted large resources of taxpayers' money into that area. Quite frankly, that is the area where the future of this country now lies.

I am glad Deputy Barnes referred to the question of equality and the general position of positive action. I can understand the sentiments which motivated Deputy McGahon to make the points he did, and I do not genuinely think that he himself is necessarily conservative or [773] sexist. I know him personally to have a great regard for women.

Mr. McGahon: I have.

Mr. P. Barry: The Deputy is conservative and not sexist.

Mr. Quinn: His regard for women knows no boundaries.

Mr. P. Barry: Would the Minister like to rephrase that?

Mr. Quinn: He mentioned job sharing and proposed that we should look at the available amount of work and see do people need to hold down an economic job. There is no necessary conflict between that position and the position which Deputy Barnes put forward, which I would support, that someone who has a contribution to make should be allowed to make it irrespective of his or her economic circumstances. We have educated people to a level where they have a contribution to make and where their own need requires them to make that contribution. We have to strike a balance between the level of remuneration for everyone in society and the capability of people to make that contribution.

I will return to the points made by the Deputy Leader of the Progressive Democrats, Deputy Keating. I am critical of some of the points which have been reported in the newspapers as having come from the Leader of that Party with particular reference to his perception — if I have it correctly and I am open to be corrected — of the economic role of AnCO and his public statement as recently as last week that many of the AnCO programmes were useless, or not of any real economic value. I dispute that.

Mr. Keating: I do not remember him saying that.

Mr. Quinn: I can get the references. He has expressed a strong scepticism about the potential value of many of these programmes. Having seen AnCO in [774] operation — and it is not an organisation without fault — my experience is that of the 45,000 people in all of the various programmes — some Deputies suggest they are a substitute for unemployment — the reality is in so far as we can be accurate about these figures, and I would like to be more accurate, more than 50 per cent of them will get placed in employment. They may not necessarily get the job they would like or prefer, and they may not get it at a level of remuneration they either need or aspire to, but they get that employment and that level of placement.

Quite frankly, our record in this area in comparison with other countries with a similar level of economic development is second to none. It is no great personal credit to myself because I happen to have the honour of being in the position I hold at present, rather than being directly responsible for putting together a large infrastructural organisation such as CERT and AnCO etc. It is recognised within the EC as being the best integrated industrial training organisation. That has not come about by accident. It has come about by the dedication of many people who make up their composition, not just in AnCO but in CERT and others.

It is as a consequence of that kind of professionalism and activity we have managed to secure unprecedented high levels of ESF funding which, on balance, as we learn from the mistakes which have been made in the past and continually review the programmes, is put to very good use. I thank the House for its support and I am sorry I have not covered all of the points which were raised. I thank the House for its support for the Estimate and for giving me the responsibility of disbursing an enormous amount of taxpayers' money, over £171 million. I give the assurance that it will be done carefully and with concern for the priorities which were set out in my speech.

Vote put and agreed to.