§ 39. Mr. HODGE
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in connection with the strike of the Darlington Labour Exchange clerks, it is intended to penalise the clerks for their action by stopping their annual increment of pay; and, if so, whether, in view of the fact that these men struck because, in their opinion, one of their number was to be punished by being transferred to Perth for an alleged offence for which he had been acquitted, he will reconsider the matter, and not penalise these men for standing by their colleague from a sense of justice?
As I explained in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for White-haven, on 24th July, ample means exist for the representation of any grievances felt by the staff of the Labour Exchanges, and absence from duty without leave for the purpose of securing the remedy of grievances, however well founded, is a mode of procedure incompatible with the interests of the public service. The clerks at the Darlington Exchange left their work without notice, and without representing their case in the proper manner, and they were leniently treated in being allowed to resume duty with no other penalty than that which normally attaches to suspension without 523 pay. I am not prepared, after careful consideration of the whole matter, to vary the decision in regard to the loss of the annual increments, which was clearly explained to the clerks before they returned to duty.
They had ample means of making any representations they desired in regard to the matter. They left the service without notice, at very great public inconvenience, and I do not think this is at all a severe penalty.
That has nothing whatever to do with the question. Whether the manager was right or wrong these men had the ordinary opportunity of presenting their case. They went out without notice, leaving at great public inconvenience.