Seanad Éireann - Volume 48 - 29 January, 1958
Dundalk Railway Works—Motion.
Mr. Donegan Mr. Donegan
 Mr. Donegan: I move:
That in the opinion of Seanad Éireann workers in Dundalk Railway Works should enjoy the same compensatory arrangements, in the event of their becoming redundant before or after their absorption by the Dundalk Engineering Company, Ltd., as those guaranteed to C.I.E. workers by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in Dáil Éireann on 27th November, 1957; and further that an arrangement should be made by that Minister with C.I.E. and the Dundalk Engineering Company, Ltd. to ensure that the work of repair and maintenance on that part of the present G.N.R. Board organisation situated in the Republic shall continue to be carried out in Dundalk after the G.N.R. Board ceases to function.
I propose to take the first half of this motion now and then to deal with the second part. It refers to a statement in Dáil Éireann by the Tánaiste to the effect that certain C.I.E. workers would be covered by compensatory provisions. These compensatory provisions are contained in the Fourth Schedule, Sections 39 and 40, of the Transport Act, 1950. There is no point in going through a lot of legal jargon.
I would refer the House to a statement by the Tánaiste in the Dáil on Wednesday, 27th November, 1957, as reported in the Official Report, column 1059. In it, we get, with great clarity, a statement of his intention. He is reported as follows:—
“I want now to deal with the position of railway workers. The House is aware that under existing legislation relating to C.I.E. there is a right to compensation given to every worker who loses his employment or whose conditions of employment are worsened by reason of the closing down of railway lines, the withdrawal of services, or because of the dieselisation programme.”
Then followed some remarks with regard to whether or not this could be expected to take place: it is not necessary to bore the Seanad with the whole  quotation. Further down the same column the Tánaiste continued:—
“The Government have decided that the proposals for legislation which will be produced will provide for compensation based upon these existing statutory scales but subject to abatement where a displaced worker finds full-time employment either with a Government Department, with a local authority, or with a State-sponsored body. It will provide also that the compensation will continue, where it takes the form of a pension, until the worker reaches 65 years and makes the necessary arrangements to ensure that a worker receiving a compensation pension will remain in credit under the pension scheme and qualify at 65 to receive the full retirement pension.”
For the benefit of Seanad Éireann, I will give a short example of what it would mean in the case of a man in C.I.E. employment who becomes redundant. I will take the case of a man earning £8 a week. If that man had been in the employment of C.I.E. then, under the provisions of Sections 39 and 40 of the Fourth Schedule of the Transport Act, 1950, he would become a recipient of a compensatory pension of £147 10s. per year until he reaches 65 years of age and then he would qualify for the normal retirement pension. If he were an employee with 20 years' service he would qualify for £201 per year compensatory pension until he reaches 65 years and then he would qualify for the normal retirement pension. That was a rather fair approach by the Government.
It is common knowledge that, for many years, the railways have been a subsidised branch of our Government undertakings. They have been a Government undertaking. I submit that the G.N.R. is no different from C.I.E. I submit that there is a very direct parallel with this situation where, as a result of a decision taken simultaneously in Belfast and Dublin, there is to be redundancy in the Dundalk Railway Works which, since January 10th last, has become the Dundalk Engineering Company,  Limited. I submit that the position of a railway employee in C.I.E. who has become redundant because of the closing down of railway lines, the withdrawal of services or the dieselisation programme has been provided for and that the worker in the Dundalk Engineering Company Limited has a great moral right to the same compensatory arrangements. I submit that the Government should take another look at the situation for those compensatory arrangements for the workers in Dundalk who become redundant. If they do not do so, I think 400 or 500 families in Dundalk will be placed in a position of penury while, if they had been working for the same sort of Government undertaking under a different name, they would at least have been given something which would allow them to rehabilitate themselves in the world after their position in life had been taken from them.
To give an idea of what sort of prospect the Government holds for these gentlemen, it is right and proper that I should give some quotations from what the Tánaiste said. I give these quotations now in no destructively critical spirit. I give them in no spirit of disappreciation of the Tánaiste's work or character or ability. I provide them merely to give an idea of the situation because I believe the members of Seanad Éireann, not living in the area and having many other things to consider as well as railway troubles, would benefit from a few quotations from what the Tánaiste said in relation to these matters. As reported at column 741 of the Official Report of Dáil Éireann for Wednesday, 20th November, 1957, the Tánaiste said:—
“When the new company was set up and, while these other discussions and negotiations were going on, it was directed, on the assumption that the arrangements for the leasing of the shops to the company would be satisfactorily concluded, to consider and investigate all possibilities for the development of commercial engineering activities there on a scale which would hold out a fair prospect of maintaining employment in the shops.”
Note the words “a fair prospect”. A  worker in Dundalk now has a fair prospect of employment, but he has no guarantee of employment, nor has he the same opportunity or the same hope of constant employment as the man working in Inchicore or on the C.I.E. system.
In column 742 of the same speech he went a little further and said:—
“I want to be most careful in not creating any impression that the arrangements made to date put beyond doubt the future of the Dundalk shops. The board of the new company have been given an immense and very difficult task indeed. Neither they nor I can guarantee success.”
It is in the face of these things that we locally, as public representatives, feel we must draw, in a respectful, responsible and disciplined manner, the attention of every public board and body of which we are members to the position that exists in the Dundalk workshops to-day.
Lest the clarity of the approach of the Tánaiste to this problem should suffer, I should also like to quote what he said about compensation. He said in column 751 of the same speech, in reply to Deputy Norton, just after Deputy Norton had finished speaking:—
“Oh, no; on the legal aspect of that I could not have been more definite.”
The legal aspect of the matter under discussion was whether or not the G.N.R. railway employees were entitled to compensation.
My whole case hinges on the point that a railway worker is a railway worker, whether he is working on the permanent way, or for C.I.E. or in the workshops in Inchicore or the workshops in Dundalk. I hold that in a situation where our railways have had to be subsidised, there is a moral responsibility on the Government—when the hard work has to be given, when misfortune falls and when there is declining trade—to treat all employees equally, to give each and every one the same opportunity to continue in their employment, the same opportunity for advancement and promotion, the same  risk of being disemployed and, if disemployed, the same compensatory provisions or the same retirement pension provisions as are enjoyed by his fellows.
To follow on, on the difference between a worker in the Dundalk workshops and a worker in C.I.E. I should like to give you one or two other quotations. On 20th November, the Tánaiste had stated that there was considerable redundancy in C.I.E. Now, on 27th November, he wanted to make it quite clear that he had reconsidered his statement and that there was not a question of considerable redundancy. He made the statement that there was 30 per cent. redundancy which was denied absolutely later and the quotation I have here is from column 1061, to give us the figure of 30 per cent. redundancy in C.I.E.:—
“I have mentioned already that the C.I.E. Board estimate that 30 per cent. of the workers employed on the operation of the railways in its system are surplus to actual requirements.”
I am sure the House will believe me when I say that that statement was denied explicitly by the Tánaiste the following week. He said there was no such thing as 30 per cent. redundancy and that he had been in error when he said so on 27th November.
A colleague of mine in public life who has contributed very largely to it in Louth—namely, the present Minister for External Affairs—spoke on October 28th in Dundalk and said:
“With goodwill and co-operation between employers and workers I hope that anyone viewing this situation ten or 20 years hence may view it not as the disaster it now appears to a great number of men anxious for their own future and the future of the town but that out of it a great industry will grow and prosper.”
I share that hope and I might say I share that view; but what is to happen these men and these families in the area who will be thrown out of employment in their hundreds in the next two or three months, without any  compensatory provisions? I put it to the House that there is a very great difference between one man or ten men of a certain type being unemployed in a district and 100 or 200 men of a very specialised type being unemployed in a particular district. Is it not true that those men have literally no opportunity in that district of securing alternative employment? If it is true, is it not necessary that the Government should approach this matter in the very same way as they approached C.I.E.?
Just because it is a fact that, in the Transport Act of 1950, there are enshrined compensatory provisions for one section of railway employees, should not the other section get similar treatment, even though in the Great Northern Railway Act, 1953 no such provision is enshrined? Should the Government not face up to their moral obligation in this regard? My motion here is not put down with a view to taunting them or annoying them, but merely with a view to asking Seanad Éireann to convey to the Government by their speeches and statements that it is the view of Seanad Éireann that these men should get the same provisions.
That deals with the first half of my motion. The second half refers to the work which remains to be done on maintenance and repair on that portion of the G.N.R. Board line in the Republic after September, 1958. Since I put down the motion, there has been some change and some clarification in the state of affairs. In order to give Seanad Éireann the exact nature of this change, I will quote part of a letter which is now public property. It was inserted in all the local papers and some of the daily papers and therefore it can be quoted. It was sent by Mr. Percy Reynolds to the Town Clerk of Dundalk on November 18th, 1957. I quote the centre portion of the letter—and in its own context:
“I am afraid, however, that when the G.N.R. Board is dissolved there will be no work for Dundalk on the maintenance and repair of locomotives, rolling stock, and bridges, as this work will be done, in the Republic, by C.I.E. and, in the  North, by the U.T.A. These organisations will also maintain their own road vehicles.”
That was a very serious matter for the workers in the workshops in Dundalk. We all hope this new company will blossom forth into something that will employ more men than there are there at present; but we know, as was clearly outlined by the Tánaiste, that a very difficult task has been given to the directors. It will be a very extraordinary thing if these gentlemen can produce, in 12 months or two years, in the competitive field we have to-day, a business which can employ the greater portion of 1,000 men.
It has been estimated that if all the maintenance and repair work on the permanent way and the rolling stock and the locomotives and the bridges that remain to the present G.N.R. Board—it will, of course, be amalgamated with C.I.E. in September—were done in Dundalk, then there would be work there for 300 men. That would give this new company quite a start. It would mean that the load would not be quite so severe. We local representatives in that part of the country were keen and anxious that this would be done.
After many representations, Mr. Reynolds issued a statement on 10th January last, some of which I now quote from the Irish Independent of that date:—
“Agreement has been made with the Board of C.I.E. that the rail and road rolling stock of the G.N.R. which were acquired by C.I.E. in December would be continued to be maintained to the greatest possible extent at the Dundalk Works.”
That does not cover locomotives or the permanent way and it does not cover the bridges. I do not know what proportion of the work now being done in Dundalk is represented by the work done on locomotives, bridges and the permanent way, but I know some workers in the locomotive shop consider that it is quite a big proportion. Why do we not consider that the railway workers employed in the workshops  are individual employees of the Government over a number of years, that they are entitled to the same hope of continued employment as are workers in other railway workshops, and surely when half or 60 per cent. of the railway line, rolling stock, locomotives, bridges and road vehicles have been removed from them by the action of the Northern Government, they should be given all the work that remains on the portion of the line which was theirs and which is located in the Republic after September, 1958?
The statement by Mr. Reynolds is merely that the specific works he mentioned will, whenever possible, be done in Dundalk. I would suggest that the Minister for Industry and Commerce meet Mr. Reynolds, the chairman of the new company, and the unions concerned in order to make an arrangement whereby Dundalk will get its fair share of the work in respect of the proportion of line that remains in the G.N.R. system. Morally, these men are entitled to more than that as railway workers. They are entitled to the same opportunity of work and employment as railway workers elsewhere. However, this motion does not ask for that. Neither was that asked for at any protest meeting held in Dundalk. All these men are asking for is that they get a fair share of the work and that work will not be given elsewhere, to the detriment of Dundalk. If the Government can see their way to providing this fair share of employment, the people of Dundalk will reciprocate and the new company will find willing workers and co-operative effort. I am asking the Government to remove despair and depression. I am asking them to give the people of Dundalk an even break.
Mr. O'Quigley Mr. O'Quigley
Mr. O'Quigley: I wish to second the motion. I will not take up the time of the House in dealing at length with it. This might seem to be a motion related to local circumstances only, but I think that, quite apart from the fact that it deals with only a limited section of the population, all members of the House will have the greatest sympathy for people who find themselves faced with redundancy or the  prospect of unemployment, due to no fault of their own.
The transport system in this country over a great number of years has given cause for serious concern, and despite the best efforts of all Governments at different times to establish economic and efficient transport in this country, the inevitable results that this motion discloses come about and people find themselves in a very awkward position. Senator Donegan realises, as everybody must, that it is not easy for the Government to compensate these people, but equally so it must be realised that people who find themselves in employment to-day and unemployed to-morrow will find it extremely difficult to find the wherewithal to carry on.
Therefore, it is not asking too much to demand that some compensatory arrangements be made to deal with the position of people who find themselves faced with this problem. I think it has always been accepted as a principle in a great deal of legislation that where people are affected in their employment by the action of a Government or Governments, every effort is made to safeguard their rights. We were dealing earlier to-night with the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, but the Treaty of 1922 provided, in Article 10, that civil servants of the British Government who were in this country would be entitled to remain on under the new Government established in the Irish Free State, or, if their conditions of employment were materially worsened under the Irish Free State Government, would be entitled to compensation.
There is a whole series of legislation dealing with the position of transferred civil servants under the Treaty. Provision for compensation is made in legislation dealing with the E.S.B., with the amalgamation of gas companies and in our own C.I.E. Act of 1950, to which Senator Donegan has referred. This compensatory arrangement is provided for in the event of redundancy in the C.I.E. system.
It would seem altogether inequitable  that, in the event of redundancy in C.I.E., the public at large, including the employees of the Dundalk Railway Works, should have to pay for the compensation of employees of C.I.E., and that people employed by the G.N.R. who became redundant should get no compensation. Equity and fair play demand that they be treated equally. Admittedly, there is no legislation in existence at the moment, but there is no reason why that legislation could not be introduced in connection with the rearrangements being made on the basis of the statement made by the Tánaiste towards the end of last year.
There has been a great deal of sympathy expressed by public representatives, by the local Press, and so on, with these workers. I think we all have that sympathy, and, in spite of the admitted difficulties which face the Government, some hope of compensation to enable these people to adjust themselves to the new circumstances should be held out.
With regard to the second part of the motion, it seems that that is only an arrangement that could and ought to be made between the Board of C.I.E. and this new company. While the Minister for Industry and Commerce may have no statutory functions in the matter—I imagine he has not; I would have to have an opportunity of looking up the matter—I am certain that if he took appropriate action, he would achieve the position advocated so strongly by Senator Donegan, that modicum of work which would be necessary to create stable employment in the new company. For these reasons, I would commend this motion to the House.
Mr. Murphy Mr. Murphy
Mr. Murphy: Such a lot has been said here and elsewhere about compensation for C.I.E. and G.N.R. employees that the impression has been created that there is some El Dorado and that all these people will get compensation. There is a difference between what Senator Donegan is asking for in this motion and what he really means. Senator O'Quigley started bringing us down to earth, but we have not quite landed there yet.
What is the position in regard to  compensation for railway workers generally? There is a whole tradition of legislation since 1924 and all the Acts dealing with public transport since then, amalgamating existing undertakings and setting up new undertakings, have provided for compensation for the employees who might be made redundant or suffer a diminution of their emoluments arising out of the relevant event. That is exactly what is being overlooked now in all this talk. The last C.I.E. Transport Act of 1950 provides in Section 38 (4), which is the relevant section:—
“Where the board is unable to offer to a person (being a person to whom this section applies and whose retention in its service is unnecessary on the ground of redundancy) suitable alternative employment in its service, then, notwithstanding anything contained in this section, his services may be dispensed with by the board and, in that case, he shall be paid by the board, compensation calculated in the manner set out in the Fourth Schedule to this Act.”
In other words, if he cannot be offered alternative employment in the new undertaking, he is entitled to compensation. There is also provision for compensation where a railway service is discontinued or a branch line closed and the employees made redundant as a result.
What is happening in regard to the G.N.R.? The board was set up under the Act of 1953. It is a joint board presided over by the Minister here and the Minister in the North. The lands in the Republic are vested in the Minister and the Dundalk workshops are vested in the G.N.R. Board, which is, I underline, a joint board. Legislation, presumably, will have to disestablish the board created by the 1953 legislation, and it seems that the lands or the other assets, apart from the Dundalk engineering works, will be vested in C.I.E., whilst the Dundalk workshops will be vested in the new undertaking which has been set up, the Dundalk Engineering Works, Ltd.
In such a situation, it is usual in vesting the property under legislation,  to transfer the relevant staff. Therefore, we would expect that in the forthcoming legislation—and I think the Minister has indicated that in his speech—the staff of the G.N.R. in the Republic will be transferred to C.I.E., and if the new C.I.E., 1958, cannot offer them alternative employment, they will then be entitled to compensation.
There is one thing being forgotten which is clouding the issue completely with regard to Dundalk. Compensation provisions do not cover redundancy arising out of loss of traffic, arising out of commercial changes. They cover only redundancy arising out of the relevant event, namely, the transfer. Therefore, people who are transferred to C.I.E. and to whom C.I.E. will say: “We cannot give you employment”, will be entitled to compensation; but there is no provision— nor do I think it was the Minister's intention to make such provision—for compensation in the event of people losing their employment next year or the year after because of a drop in traffic or because of other developments.
The Minister cannot justifiably avoid making similar provision for the staff of the workshops in Dundalk. I agree with Senator Donegan that they should be treated equally with the other employees of the G.N.R. and other employees of C.I.E. As I said at the outset, I do not think that is exactly what he means nor what the people in Dundalk are expecting and hoping, because even though the bulk of the staff in those workshops have already become employees of the Dundalk Engineering Works, which has leased the workshops from the G.N.R. Board, there will still have to be some mention of that undertaking in the legislation, particularly in regard to the pension rights of those people.
I think the Minister should provide for compensation for them in exactly the same circumstances, namely, that if the Dundalk Engineering Works, Ltd., cannot offer them alternative employment, they might be entitled to compensation in the same way as people on the rest of the undertaking, who would not be offered alternative employment  by C.I.E., would be entitled to compensation. The danger in Dundalk—what is feared there—is redundancy arising from that transfer, a redundancy from the failure of the new undertaking to establish itself in the export market and a failure to get sufficient work. Redundancy arising out of such a situation is not provided for in any sort of transport legislation.
I share with Senator Donegan the hope that the Dundalk Engineering Works will be successful and will find it possible to provide full time employment for all who have up to now been employed by the G.N.R. in Dundalk. I hope that the Minister, if he reads the report of this debate, will bear in mind that there is an atmosphere in Dundalk at the present time which is complicated by doubts as to what the future holds, and complicated as well by an idea that they should get compensation for any further recession in trade. The people there told me they are anxious to get on with the work, to see some stability and some certainty—perhaps no definite guarantees about their employment but at least to have some understanding of what is to happen in the hope that they will be able to get on with the work. I am told at the moment that the situation is that nobody is managing and nobody is working, and that is not in the interests of either the staff or the new undertaking. I know it is difficult with a change-over like this to get established but the quicker they get established and the quicker they get working, the better it will be for all concerned.
I would urge on the Minister that, in equity, the people concerned in the workshops in Dundalk are entitled to the same treatment as other employees of the G.N.R., or employees of C.I.E. I would certainly hope that it could be got across to all concerned exactly what would be involved, what is provided for in former legislation and exactly what could be expected in the forthcoming legislation. I am sorry that the Minister, or his Parliamentary Secretary, is not here for this discussion because he might have been able to clarify the position or might have  found it possible to give some undertaking or assurance in regard to the question of compensation at Dundalk.
In regard to the second part of the motion, again I think too much might be hoped for or expected here. The Dundalk workshops of the G.N.R. were the workshops for all of the G.N.R., both north and south. They did all the work required for the whole railway and also for the road vehicles, the buses and lorries in the Republic. The G.N.R. has been reduced in size by the closure of the secondary lines and it will be further reduced by cutting off the Northern Ireland section. It is quite easy to see, therefore, that there is already a loss of work for the G.N.R. as such, a contraction of work. There is now no need to repair the same number of wagons or to have the same building programme as formerly. The suggestion is that the work for that small portion, and it is only a small portion, should continue to be done at Dundalk. From my knowledge of the situation, that cannot provide a great deal of employment in Dundalk; nevertheless it should be retained, if at all possible, in order to provide some employment.
Again, I think too much is expected in that direction because quite obviously when a merger of two undertakings is completed there can be, for example, a utilisation of diesel engines over the whole system and less need to turn out more rolling stock. By a contraction of branch lines, for instance, you have more carriages to spare and less need for work like that. I do hope that an arrangement can be made to keep that work at Dundalk in order to provide employment for the people there.
Again, I am sorry that the Minister or his deputy is not here. I hope he will have regard to what has been said and that he will find it possible to make some announcement to clarify the position in regard to compensation in the Dundalk workshops. I am saying that the problem is not insuperable; it is not as difficult as might be expected, but there is not, at the same time, the over-all guarantee that some people think should be provided.
Mr. Donegan Mr. Donegan
 Mr. Donegan: Would it be possible for the Minister to be here to-morrow, if we adjourned the debate now?
An Leas-Chathaoirleach An Leas-Chathaoirleach
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: We have to adjourn now—it is 10 o'clock.
Mr. Donegan Mr. Donegan
Mr. Donegan: Will the Minister be available to-morrow?
Tomás Ó Maoláin Tomás Ó Maoláin
Tomás Ó Maoláin: I do not think so.
Mr. Donegan Mr. Donegan
 Mr. Donegan: I think it should be conveyed to him that it is very important.
The Seanad adjourned at 10 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Thursday, 30th January, 1958.
Seanad Éireann 48 Dundalk Railway Works—Motion.