Dáil Éireann - Volume 567 - 22 May, 2003

Ceisteanna - Questions. Priority Questions. - Industrial Disputes.

  2. Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will implement measures to assist farmers who are being badly affected financially by the dispute at agricultural offices throughout the country at present; the reason he has not intervened in this dispute to assist in achieving a resolution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14074/03]

  Mr. Walsh: I regret that the industrial action taken by members of the CPSU is continuing and inconveniencing farmers in the five counties involved. However, I understand that the union has agreed to ease restrictions in relation to herds affected by brucellosis and tuberculosis and this is being pursued with the union. The Department has temporarily suspended the necessity to get advance clearance from the CMMS data for animals intended for local slaughter houses. Department officials met the CPSU last week and while no resolution to the dispute emerged, my officials are having ongoing talks with CPSU representatives in an effort to resolve this dispute.

  Dr. Upton: The strike is now in its ninth week. The Minister referred to inconvenience to farmers but I suggest it is more serious than that. Enormous hardship is being experienced by some [635]farmers who, on account of this strike, cannot process their animal sales for instance. I realise the issue of animal welfare has been accounted for, which I welcome, but this matter has significant financial implications for a very large number of farmers. Those on strike are suffering as well. Is there any possibility of intervention to help resolve this problem before it escalates?

  Mr. Walsh: To reiterate, I regret the inconvenience and difficulties being experienced by both the producers and the people on strike. This industrial action is contrary to partnership. There are mechanisms within the partnership arrangements to resolve issues as they arise and they should be used in this case. I am hopeful that a resolution to this dispute will emerge from the discussions with the CPSU which have taken place over the past week and which are taking place this afternoon.

  Mr. Timmins: On a point of order, Question No. 4 is the same as this one. Is the Minister taking them separately?

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: He is taking them separately.

  Mr. Walsh: I understand that Priority Questions must be taken separately.

  Dr. Upton: I thank the Minister for his reply on the discussions but there two other points I would like to raise. A request has been made that the steering committee which oversees the partnership talks might get involved and promote a resolution. It cannot be overlooked that one farmer has already received a court order directing the Department to lift the restriction on his farm and to release the cards that he needs to sell his animals. Has the Minister a comment to make on that and its potential implications in the event that the problem escalates?

  Mr. Walsh: I can confirm that the steering committee has become involved in this dispute to seek a resolution. The Department and I want to have this dispute resolved amicably because it is causing inconvenience and difficulty. Some people are precluded from disposing of their cattle, especially because of the bad weather. Therefore, we all want to see a resolution.

  On the Deputy's second point, Judge Harvey Kenny made a judgment yesterday in Galway Circuit Court directing that the ID cards of animals of a farmer in Mayo be returned to that farmer. That order is being observed and the implications of the decision are being studied by the legal people in the Department. The issue is due to be dealt with again in court next Tuesday so I am precluded from making any other comment because of the sub judice restrictions.