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Tuesday, 14 June 1904

Mr GLYNN (Angas) - I have given notice of an amendment upon this clause. The words which I desire to have inserted will come after the word " certifies." But before moving that it will be necessary to strike out the words " without the approval of the President." The object of my amendment is to make sure that no dispute is sent before the Court unless a majority of the employes in the industry have consented to refer it. The words which I propose to insert after " certifies," are -

That a resolution in favour of such submission has been passed with the concurrence of the majority of the employes in the industry ; not merely a majority of the organization of employes.

Mr McCay - That would prevent an employer bringing the employes before the Court against the will of the employes.

Mr GLYNN - As a matter of fact, under clause 28, an employer cannot bring the employes before the Court. A single employer, under this Bill, cannot refer a dispute to the Court.

Mr Watson - Yes, he can.

Mr GLYNN - It must be done by an organization. I see the point of the Prime Minister. That can be got over by putting in the word "employers," as well as "employes." But I want to test the principle. To pave the way for my principal amendment, I move - .

That the words " without the approval of the President," lines 1 and 2, be left out.

If the clause is not carried in the form that I suggest, the President might step in and exceed the conditions we lay down in paragraphs a, b, and c to this clause; he may agree to the submission of a dispute, notwithstanding non-compliance with the conditions. That power should not be given, because it really neutralizes the precautions contained in paragraphs a, b, and c. Those paragraphs provide that the consent of the organization is to be given. It may be that the organisation includes only a minority of the employes of the industry. We shall thus have given power to the majority of an organization, which may be a minority of the employes of the industry, to decide what disputes are to be brought before the Court. I know that the principle of the Bill is to encourage organization, and to deal, if possible, only with organizations. But as a matter of fact very few workmen, comparatively speaking, join organizations. In New Zealand, where a similar provision has been enacted, figures were quoted by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, when, as Attorney-General, he was introducing this Bill, in which he showed that there had been absolutely a decline in the num ber of members of organizations under the Act. In 1900 there were about 26,000 out of 40,000 employes belonging to unions. In 1903 there were 57,000 employes, of whom only 23,000 belonged to organizations under the Act. It is puzzling to me why more men do not join the organizations; but it may, be that they desire to remain free. All I say is that the facts show that there is really' an increasing number of pei sons who are employes but not members of unions within the meaning of the Act. If we desire, 'therefore, to bring on a dispute, ' we ought to see that the right of decision shall rest with the employes, and not merely with a minority of the total number of employes in an industry, or it may be with a majority of the minority which is a very small one in relation to the total number of employes.

Mr McCay - I think that if the honorable and learned member knew the difficulties associated with the word " majority," as evidenced in Victoria in connexion with establishing half-holidays, and so on, he would not move this amendment.

Mr GLYNN - We have defined " industry " as well as " employment." We must know by these definitions what is meant. Surely we know what the phrase " in a place of employment " means. Is there any difficulty in prescribing that the majority of employes in a place of employment shall consent to a dispute arising ' there being referred to the Federal Court?

Mr Watson - The honorable and learned member is asking for the whole industry to be referred.

Mr GLYNN - The Government do not wish the principle to be put in.

Mr Watson - We desire the Act to be operative, no; inoperative.

Mr GLYNN - I am quite agreeable to the insertion of the limitation that the concurrence of the majority, which really means an absolute majority, of the employes in any place of employment must be given before a dispute can be sent to the Federal Court. Take the case of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which employs about 3,000 hands. A dispute was precipitated! by, I think, the members of an organization that did not number more than 100. Of that number, only about twenty were financial, while several were comparative youths ; and others were not sugar-workers, having left their employment. In that case 100 persons, of whom some were open to challenge as really not being directly interested in the industry, precipitated a dispute which affected the affairs of 3,000 employes - that is possible under this Bill.

Mr Watson - Perhaps the dispute was in relation to a particular branch of the works conducted by the company.

Mr GLYNN - It had relation to two things. At its inception it was a dispute for an increase of wages to all the employes, and subsequently, I believe, a demand was made that the eight hours principle should be introduced. It was found out, in relation to the latter demand, that several men who had been in the employment of the company for thirty-six and thirty years were willing to work for nine hours, or even longer, because, being old men, they were slow workers. They wished to continue under the old conditions; they felt that if thev were bound down to eight hours they might lose their employment, and therefore they solicited the intervention of the Court in respect of themselves. It was a most extraordinary position that 3,000 employes should, be forced to have their wages and hours interfered with at the beck and call of 100 men, simply because they belonged to an organization.

Mr Watson - Under this Bill a Court could refuse to hear a dispute in those circumstances.

Mr GLYNN - No doubt it could; but I do not wish the principle to be introduced an any form. Under the Bill, of course, the Court need not entertain a dispute which it considers not worthy of its dignity ; but then the machinery has been set in motion. There lias been the dispute, all the acrimony which It occasions, perhaps interference with' employment, and all the preliminaries to a contest have been prepared. There has been some waste of material and temper up to a point at which the Court, in its discretion, says - " We shall not exercise jurisdiction here." What I contend is that this matter ought to be stopped altogether in a case in which a very large majority of the employes do not wish that a dispute should be brought under the cognisance of the Court. It is with that object that I intend to move an amendment, but it will be to a large extent neutralized if we retain the words which give the President the power to say that, notwithstanding the provisions in the paragraphs, he may send on any dispute to the tribunal over which he presides. Besides, it is really a bad principle to have the President determining beforehand minor matters connected with a dis- pute It looks as if he would require to familiarize himself with all the proceedings, and perhaps under those circumstances he might eventually take an ex parte view.

Mr Fisher - Is that unknown to the law ?

Mr GLYNN - It is not customary for the Judges to look up the proceedings before they come into Court. Some Judges do, and it is very unfortunate that they do ; for they often criticise counsel from the very start by reason of the knowledge which they have picked up in examining affidavits, some of which may present an ex part, point of view. It is not, by some, considered a good quality in a Judge. It is a mistake to introduce the President of this Court as an arbiter at that stage of the proceedings. The clause says that, notwithstanding the provisions that are contained in paragraphs a, b, and c as precautions against the precipitation of industrial disputes, the President can look into the whole case and say that a dispute is to come on.

Mr Watson - If we can trust the President to decide disputes affecting millions of pounds' worth of property surely we can trust him to say whether a dispute shall be entered on?

Mr GLYNN - Would the honorable gentleman have' trusted the President of the Court to interfere in the case of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company?

Mr Watson - Yes.

Mr GLYNN - Would the honorable gentleman put the President at the very beginning in the difficulty of- considering the whole organization, and ascertaining the number of men employed, and so on?

Mr Watson - It would not take him five minutes to digest that information once it was placed before him.

Mr GLYNN - Practically it would forestall his riper judgment.

Mr Watson - Necessarily we have to place large powers in the hands of the President.

Mr GLYNN - He is asked to create a dispute to some extent by forcing the association to come within the Act.

Mr Watson - In the early part of the Bill he is charged with the duty of conciliating, even if he is not asked to intervene.

Mr GLYNN - Yes ; and even on that point two opinions are held. One of the best experts, perhaps, is Mr. Commissioner Russell, of South Australia. He has been President of a Voluntary Board for ten years, and he is directly against the principle of interference before the case is actually ripe for judgment. He wrote a report, which was presented to the Government of the State, against any attempt to allow him to interfere at the conciliation point. He said that the judgment of the man who finally decided ought to be absolutely unaffected by previous knowledge.

Mr Watson - We have decided that point.

Mr GLYNN - Whether the clause is or is not amended, it ought not to be left to the mere ipse dixit of the President to neutralize the precautions that we put in the three paragraphs of this clause.

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