HC Deb 22 February 1939 vol 344 cc374-6
63. Mr. Thorne

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can make a statement in connection with the recent serious labour troubles in Jamaica?

53. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement respecting the strike now taking place in Jamaica, the nature of the grievances and demands of the strikers; and what action is being taken to remove those grievances?

56. Mr. David Adams

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has a statement to make as to the position in Jamaica?

Mr. M. MacDonald

On 15th February the Governor of Jamaica reported that Mr. Bustamante, the labour leader, had issued without warning on the previous day island-wide orders for a general strike. The immediate cause appears to have been a dispute between members of his union and those of a rival union in Montego Bay. Mr. Bustamante requested the United Fruit Company to dismiss certain employés, and on their refusal to do so he took this further action. As a result, the wharves at Kingston were temporarily paralysed and labour on many estates obeyed the call. The Governor did not anticipate disorder but, as a precautionary measure and to reassure willing workers, considered it desirable to declare a state of emergency and to call up the local forces and special constables. In a later message the Governor stated that as a result of the action taken, which was fully supported by the Elected Members of the Legislative Council, the island was quiet and no disorders had occurred. While the strike was maintained in places, it was generally losing ground and public opinion was against it. In a telegram dated 20th February the Governor has informed me that the strike notices have been unconditionally withdrawn and that in consequence the emergency regulations ceased to operate as from midnight on the 20th.

Mr. Thorne

Can the Minister say whether the quarrel between two rival unions was on account of a line of demarcation in regard to labour?

Mr. MacDonald

I am not certain what was the exact cause of the quarrel. I understand it was about the employment of a member of one union when the other union thought that one of their members ought to have been employed.

Mr. Shinwell

Does not the Minister agree that it would be impossible for these disturbances to arise unless the working conditions in Jamaica were thoroughly unsatisfactory?

Mr. MacDonald

There have been recent improvements in the working conditions and this dispute was not on account of working conditions.

Sir Cooper Rawson

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the Moyne Commission is likely to issue a report?

Mr. MacDonald

I am afraid I cannot. They are still examining the problem in Trinidad.