HC Deb 31 May 1916 vol 82 cc2724-5

(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether he could make any statement as to the Whitsuntide holidays of munition workers?


His Majesty's Government, after taking into consideration the very urgent need for a continuous and increasing supply of munitions of war at the present time, have come to the conclusion that it is necessary in the national interest that all holidays—both the general Whitsun holiday and any special local holidays—shall be deferred in munitions areas until after the end of July.

In coming to this conclusion the Government have had in view the effect of the Easter holiday, which, generally speaking, was to reduce the output of the fortnight including Easter to that normally attained in a single week.

The Minister of Munitions, with the President of the Board of Education and the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty, has accordingly conferred with representatives of the employers and the workpeople most closely concerned. At a largely attended meeting of representatives of trade unions held this morning at the Ministry of Munitions, the following resolution was carried without a dissentient:—

This conference recommends that all holidays be postponed till after the end of July, and that immediate local conferences should be held to consult the workers as to the dates and adjustment of the postponed holidays. It is understood that all agreements providing for special rates of pay on any of the days, which would otherwise have been holidays, will be observed.

The Government desire that immediate arrangements should be made for local conferences with employers and workmen's representatives in the principal munition centres, with a view to securing the postponement of holidays to the dates most generally convenient in view of the varying local circumstances.

Communications are also being addressed to controlled establishments on the subject. In particular the establishments are being informed that any special rates of pay applicable under agreements to any of the days which would otherwise have been holidays, should be paid to persons working on those days.

The postponement will, of course, apply to holidays in the Royal dockyard and factories and other naval and munition establishments under Government management.

It is to be clearly understood that the postponement of holidays will not diminish the total number of days' holiday customarily given under local agreement.

While the need for the postponement of holidays arises out of the requirements of urgent munitions work, it has been strongly represented to the Government that, in order to give complete effect to the suspension of holidays in munition establishments and shipyards, it is desirable that the suspension should be as general as possible. On this aspect of the matter the Government invite the co-operation of the local authorities.

We propose by Proclamation to postpone the Whit-Monday Bank Holiday until Tuesday, 8th August, and I understand that the bankers are agreeable to this arrangement.

It is, of course, fully recognised that both in munition works and in other trades it will be necessary that individual employés who are feeling the effects of overstrain shall in suitable cases be granted leave of absence. But it is in the highest degree undesirable that during the period referred to any holidays shall be granted which involve suspension of work in the establishment.

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