HC Deb 06 July 1916 vol 83 cc1648-52

asked the Minister of Munitions whether he is aware that a number of women hands employed at a certain Government-controlled factory in the Woolwich area recently left this factory and, without disclosing their previous service, were enrolled at Woolwich Arsenal in various capacities; and that, a complaint having been received by the Ministry of Munitions, these hands were traced and discharged from the Arsenal; whether he is aware that a number of these hands were subsequently enrolled under assumed names; whether he is aware that such desertion and subsequent re-entry was due to the rate of pay at the one place being much smaller than at the other for exactly similar work; and whether, in view of the hardship suffered by some of these dismissed hands and in view of many other similar instances, steps can be taken to standardise the rates of pay on both piece and day work as between the Arsenal and controlled firms in the Woolwich area?


The answer to the first and second parts of this question is in the affirmative. I have no information as to the third and fourth parts. I do not think the suggestion made in the last part of the question would be practicable, or, if practicable, would achieve the object which the hon. Member has in view, since differences of earnings in this case are due not so much to differences in rates of pay as to differences in the hours worked. There are also other differences of conditions.


asked the Minister of Munitions what is the basis for fixing the day-work rating of women hands at Wool-wich Arsenal on entry for those whose ages range from sixteen years to twenty-one years, respectively, at date of entry?


The day-work ratings of women and girls at entry are as follows:—

  • Over eighteen years of age, £l a week;
  • From seventeen to eighteen years of age, 15s. to 17s. 6d. a week;
  • From fifteen to seventeen years of age,10s. to 15s. a week.


Are those payments adhered to irrespective of ability?


Persons who are there being employed received the rate. If they are not worth being employed they are dismissed.


If they have conspicuous ability?


There is nothing to prevent a person getting more.


asked the Minister of Munitions whether his attention has been called to the fact that the day-work rating of a woman of twenty-five on entry is 20s. per forty-eight hours, and for a man of the same age 31s. or more; whether he is aware that, notwithstanding that both may be working on the same class of piece work at the same rate of remuneration and doing the same amount of work, the actual wage earned by the woman is substantially less than that of the man, owing to the overtime bonus in each case being calculated on the day-work rating; and whether he will cause an equitable adjustment to be made, so that the rates of pay for overtime on piece-work may be the same in both cases?


The basing of overtime allowances upon the day-work rates is in accordance with the Order made by the Minister of Munitions under Section 6 of the Munitions of War (Amendment) Act, 1916, relative to the employment and remuneration of women on work which, before the War was not recognised as women's work. I am sending my hon. Friend a copy of this Order, which embodies the recommendations of the Munitions Labour Supply Committee generally known as Circular L 2.


asked the Minister of Munitions whether he is aware that the rate of pay at Woolwich Arsenal is based largely, especially in day-work and occupation ratings, on the age of the worker, irrespective of his ability, so that two-men, one just under and one just over twenty-one years, doing similar work in the same factory and in all respects equal in resulting values, receive substantially different rates and amounts of pay; and whether this was the ground in the C.F. 5 factory for shop No. 16,421 receiving an increase and subsequent reduction in his rating, and for the recovery, by reduction of part of his subsequent weekly earnings, of the sum of £12 17s. 6d.?


In the case of male employés full adult rate of day-work pay is not usually given until the employé has reached the age of twenty-one, and, in the case of tradesmen, has also attained full proficiency in his trade. "Occupation rate," being in lieu of piece-work, does not depend upon age, but upon the class of work. In the case in C.F. 5 referred to, the facts are as stated in the question, the man having misrepresented his age for the purpose of obtaining an increased rating.


asked whether a large percentage of staff clerks, shop managers, assistant managers, and principal and assistant foremen now employed at Woolwich Arsenal are of military age; if so, whether there would be any difficulty in replacing them by men of non-military age; and how many of these men of military age have been engaged between 4th August and 31st December, 1915, and from 1st January, 1916, to the present time?


Two hundred and twenty members of the managing staff, as defined in the question, being 34 per cent, of the total members, are men of military age. Of these fifty-nine were engaged between 4th August and 31st December, 1915, and nine since 1st January, 1916. The question of replacing men of military age by women or men unfit for military service at Woolwich has been and is being fully considered. There would, however, be very considerable difficulty in doing so in the case of the officers in question.


asked the Minister of Munitions whether he is aware that the rates of pay to writers on entry in the wages and other departments of the Arsenal were until recently below that of ordinary labourers in the Arsenal; whether, under existing rates of remuneration, such writers, before receiving pay for normal overtime, must work six hours per week without any remuneration; if so, what justification there is for this arrangement; whether the war bonus granted to the labourers and other grades of workmen in the Arsenal has been refused to these writers; whether he is aware that six months ago or thereabouts the secretary of the National Union of Clerks requested that this matter might be referred to arbitration, and that although repeated efforts have been made to obtain a hearing in this matter they have so far met with no success; and whether he will arrange for the reference to take place without further delay?


The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. As regards the second and third parts, the rates of pay of the male writers in the Royal Ordnance factories are fixed to cover a weekly attendance up to forty-eight hours if required, after which overtime pay at the rate of time and a half is allowed. The lowest weekly rate at present paid to these writers is 31s. As regards the last part of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness on 29th June by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade.


asked the Minister of Munitions whether he is aware that the varying rates of pay in the different Departments of Woolwich Arsenal have, for a long time past, caused and are still causing a condition of unrest among the hands; and whether, with a view to a substantial increase in the output, he will take steps to remove the cause of the unrest?


I have no information to suggest that there are unreasonable variations in the rates of pay or unrest arising therefrom in Woolwich, and will be glad to consider any information on the subject which the hon. Member can supply.


Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the last part of the question: whether there has been a substantial increase in the output?


The hon. Member will know that that involves a careful analysis. There has been a very large increase of output, but I do not think I can give an absolute answer.