HC Deb 08 February 1937 vol 320 cc7-8
7 and 8. Mr. Jagger

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India (1) whether he will instruct the authorities in India to accede to the request of the organisation of the railwaymen involved in the Bengal-Nagpur Railway dispute to the company and to the Government for referring the dispute to an arbitration board of for appointing a board of inquiry as provided by the Indian Trades Dispute Act;

(2) whether he will make a statement in respect of the strike situation on the Bengal-Nagpur Railway?

17. Mr. Ridley

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he can give the House any information regarding the strike of railway workers on the Bengal-Nagpur Railway; how many men are involved in the strike; whether he is aware that the demand of the strikers for a court of inquiry into their grievances, or for a board of conciliation under the Trades Dispute Act, has been rejected by the railway administration and by the Government of India; and whether, as there is a likelihood of the strike spreading to other railways if the present situation is allowed to continue, he will advise the Government of India to institute a court of inquiry into the grievances of railway workers or, alternatively, to appoint a board of conciliation?

Mr. Butler

A strike on the Bengal-Nagpur Railway began on 13th December arising out of the reduction of 27 men who were offered temporary employment in a lower grade pending their re-absorption in their original grade. This offer was refused, and the men were consequently discharged. About 30,000 men became involved in the strike. Mail and passenger services have been fully maintained while goods services have varied from 50 to 80 per cent. of normal. The Government of India received a proposal on 28th December from Mr. V. V. Giri, the president of the union, that a board of conciliation should be appointed, but after careful consideration they came to the conclusion that no useful purpose would be served by taking this action or by appointing a court of inquiry.

Mr. Jagger

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is an extraordinary thing when a Government decides that no useful purpose may be served by substituting conciliation and arbitration for a strike?

Mr. Butler

According to the latest information I have, negotiations for a settlement of the strike were proceeding actively at the end of last month.