HC Deb 25 May 1916 vol 82 cc2284-5

asked the Minister of Munitions whether he is aware of the conditions under which girls are employed at Sumner Street Filling Factory, Southwark; whether he is aware that the manager, named Johnson, from time to time lectures the girls on German atrocities and informs the girls that if they do not do their uttermost the deaths of the soldiers who are killed will be put at their door; whether he is aware that many of the girls have become hysterical as the result of such statements; that owing to the dismissal of a forewoman named Miss Cole the girls refused to work until the reason for her dismissal was given; that the manager gave instructions to the police at 11 p.m. to eject the girls from the factory, and that as a result a number of them had to walk the streets all night through not having enough money to get home; that several disputes have already occurred at these works and that the union concerned has used all its influence in the direction of peace; that, despite the fact that the representative of the Ministry of Munitions gave an undertaking that no dismissals should take place as the result of the stoppage of work, already the manager, since the resumption of work, has dismissed one of the girls, and that the manager has made the statement to the girls at a shop meeting that all who are members of the union would be got rid of one by one; and whether he will make a really searching inquiry into this matter?


My attention had not previously been drawn to the statements referred to in the first part of this question as having been made by the manager of the factory. I am informed that, owing to the dismissal of Miss Cole, some of the girls who were employed on urgent munition work refused either to work or to leave the factory, thus committing a serious breach of the Munitions Act. The assistance of the police was obtained to secure their departure, but I do not understand how this could have deprived them of their means of getting home. No under-taking was given by the Ministry of Munitions in regard to dismissals, but the union officials were asked to use their influence to secure a resumption of work, and were informed that on receipt of a written complaint the matter would be inquired into. I am informed that the manager, so far from seeking to get rid of members of the union, has given special instructions that applicants for employment should not in any case be asked whether they belong to a union or not.