32. Mr. Creech Jones
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why troops on Wednesday last opened fire on Africans engaged in an industrial dispute on the Nkana copper mines in Northern Rhodesia and killed 14 natives and wounded 20 others; who was responsible for this; and what action he proposes to take?
§ 36. Dr. Haden Guest
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what casualties have occurred among strikers in the Northern Rhodesian copper mines as the result of police action; where and when they occurred; and what is the number of persons killed or wounded?
§ 39 and 40. Mr. Paling
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) the demands of the workers for improved conditions at the copper mines in Northern Rhodesia;
(2) whether he has any information about the trouble in Northern Rhodesia when troops fired on strikers at the copper mines in the Nkana Concession and 14 natives were killed and 20 wounded?
Mr. M. MacDonald
The House will have learnt with deep regret of the disturbances which occurred on the Copper-belt in Northern Rhodesia on the 3rd April, when it became necessary for troops to fire upon a large crowd of strikers who were employing violence, and a number of people were killed and injured. As it is impossible to deal, within the limits of an oral answer, with the circumstances attending this unhappy affair, I am circulating a full statement dealing with all the points raised by the hon. Members in the Official Report.
I am glad to be able to add that there have been no further disturbances since 3rd April, and that the strikers have returned to work. A commission of inquiry into the disturbances will be appointed at an early date, and I am now in communication with the Governor as to its composition and terms of reference.
Mr. Creech Jones
May I ask that there shall be the most searching inquiry into the whole of this incident? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me why unarmed strikers were fired on for no fewer than six minutes; why peaceful picketing was interfered with; why this dispute went on for 17 days with very little being done to reach an agreement so far as the men's genuine grievances were concerned?
With regard to the first part of the question, the answer is in the affirmative. With regard to the second part, the answer is given fully in the reply which I will circulate. With regard to the third part, it is not true that peaceful picketing was interfered with but only picketing with intimidation was interfered with. With regard to the fourth part, it is not true that this strike went on for 17 days without anything being done. I think the hon. Member is confusing this strike, which lasted only a very few days, with an earlier strike which had been settled the week before.
§ Mr. Paling
Did the men go back with any improvement of their conditions or were they forced back to the conditions against which they struck?
There was no question of forcing the men back. They are receiving some increase in pay which the companies announced before the strike actually began, but that increase does not meet anything like the full demands of the strikers.
§ Following is the statement:
§ On the 18thMarch a strike was called at the Mufulira mine by the European workers, who had presented the management with a number of demands, covering rates of pay and conditions of employment. On the 21st March the European employés at the Nkana mine also came out on strike. Following intervention by the local Government, conciliation proceedings were instituted and a settlement was reached on all the points at issue save that relating to increased rates of pay per shift, and it was agreed 558 by both parties that this should be submitted to arbitration. Work at the mines recommenced on the 27th March.
§ The African workers in the mines were not directly concerned in this strike, though as a consequence of it most of them were not able to go to work. But two days later the Governor of Northern Rhodesia reported that the African employésat the Mufulira and Nkana mines had declared a strike and were demanding increased rates of pay. Some 15,000 workers were affected. The managements of all the mines had announced an all-round increase in pay for African workers of 2s. 6d. per monthly ticket, but, while this announcement was well received at some of the mines, the African employés at the Nkana and Mufulira mines demanded the payment of wages at rates between 5s. and 10s. a day.
§ The Government sent the Secretary for Native Affairs to the seat of the trouble, and with others he did everything that he could to assist in bringing about a settlement. But the strike was accompanied by some violence and intimidation: and the Governor found it necessary not only to call out the European Defence Forces at Mufulira and Nkana, but also to approve the despatch of two companies of the Northern Rhodesia Regiment, one to each place.
§ It was made clear that this action was taken simply with the object of supplementing the local police forces in their work of maintaining law and order in a threatening situation. In spite of these precautions acts of violence continued, and on the 3rd April a crowd of about 3,000 strikers attacked the mine compound office at Nkana, where some 150 Africans who had remained at work were drawing pay. The police attempted to prevent the crowd from making this attack, and resorted to the use of tear gas in the hope that more drastic measures would not be necessary.
§ This, however, proved ineffective. After repeated warnings had been given and several injuries inflicted on the police and troops by rocks and other missiles thrown by the strikers, the crowd charged and the officer in command of the troops was compelled to order the troops to fire. I deeply regret that in this unhappy affair two British officers and 18 African 559 privates of the Northern Rhodesia Regiment, and four European and seven African members of the North Rhodesian police were injured and that 13 of the strikers were killed and 71 wounded, of whom four have since died. At the request of the Governor, 200 troops were sent subsequently from Southern Rhodesia. That night some further violence occurred in the compound, where the property of the compound native staff and some huts were burnt. Since the 3rd April, there have, however, been no further disturbances.
§ It was with deep regret that I received the Governor's telegram reporting that these disturbances had occurred. I am satisfied however on the information that I have received that both police and troops acted with considerable restraint and that it was only after grave provocation and when they were in imminent danger of being overpowered by the crowd that the order was given to the troops to open fire.
§ I have now received information from the Governor that the strikers have returned to work and that the companies are paying the 2s. 6d. per ticket extra referred to above. A commission of inquiry into the disturbances will be set up at an early date, and I am now in consultation with the Governor regarding its composition and terms of reference. I am also in consultation with him regarding other steps which may be taken to foster amicable relations between the employers and the employed, and to avoid such events in the future.
§ 38. Mr. Paling
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the wages of the workers at the copper mines in Northern Rhodesia; and the profits of the companies concerned?
Mr. M. MacDonald
As the answer is necessarily long and contains a large number of figures, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the Official Report.
I have said in answer to an earlier Supplementary Question that there have been certain increases, which had been announced by the companies before the strike actually began.
§ Following is the answer:
§ With regard to the first part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I am giving to-day to a Question by the hon. Member for Islington, North (Dr. Guest), and in which particulars are given of the rates of wages paid to the African mineworkers at the Nkana and Mufulira mines. I have the following additional information with regard to other mines:
§ At the Roan Antelope Mine the wages for underground native workers start at 22s. 6d. per monthly ticket plus a bonus of 11s. 3d. Increments of 2s. 6d. are paid approximately every six months, and the wages rise to 40s. plus a bonus of 11s. 3d. The wages for surface labourers start at 12s. 6d. plus a bonus of 2s. 6d. and rise by 1s. 3d. every three months up to 27s. 6d. plus a bonus of 2s. 6d. These rates have now been increased by the 2s. 6d. war bonus approved last week. Free housing and water are provided. The following free rations are provided each week: 4 lb. of meat, 14 oz. of cooked sausages, 14 lb. of meal, 28 oz. of beans, 3½ lb. of fish when available, 49 oz. of nuts, 35 oz. of vegetables, 28 oz. of fat, fruit as available, 3½oz. of salt, 42 oz. of bread, and, in addition, 70 oz. of cocoa or soup for underground workers. Their families also receive free mealies.
§ At the Ncanga Mine wages and conditions are as follow: Underground workers start at 22s. 6d. per monthly ticket, with increases of 2s. 6d. every six tickets up to 37s. 6d., then with increases of 2s. 6d. after every nine tickets up to 45s. and then with increases of 2s. 6d. after every 12 tickets. No maximum is fixed. The highest rate now paid is £5. These rates have now been increased by the addition of a war bonus of 2s. 6d. An additional bonus of 2s. 6d. per ticket is paid to holders of blasting certificates. In addition, there are four grades of bonus awards on merit—7s. 6d., 15s., 22s. 6d. and 30s. per ticket—and 60 per cent. of underground workers receive such bonuses. Some clothing and blankets are issued free on first appointment. Short leave is granted freely. When a worker leaves employment and returns after a specified time he is re-engaged at the same rate of pay. A leave bonus of 1s. per ticket is granted after 18 tickets. Surface workers start at 12s. 6d. per monthly ticket with in- 561 crements of 2s. 6d. after every six tickets up to 25s., then with increments of 2s. 6d. after every nine tickets up to 32s. 6d. and then with increments of 2s. 6d. for every 12 tickets. No maximum is fixed. The highest wage now paid is 125s. To the above rates should be added the recently granted war bonus of 2s. 6d. per ticket. In addition, there are four grades of bonus awards on merit—2s. 6d., 5s., 7s. 6d. and 10s. per ticket. Blankets are issued free on first appointment. Leave is the same as for underground workers. The following food rations are provided each week for both underground and surface workers:
§ 10½ lb. of meal, 4 oz. of fat, 2½s lb. of meat, 1¾ lb. of beans, 7 oz. of nuts, 3½oz. of salt. The families of the workers receive mealies and meat. In addition, the workers receive daily a 5 oz. loaf of bread, a cup of cocoa, and a cooked sausage. Free accommodation is provided.
§ As regards the European employés, I have the following information in respect of the Mufulira mine. The rate of wages per eight-hour shift for European daily workers varies in the Mining Department from 20s. for underground learners to 25s. for grizzlymen and skipmen, to 30s. for shaft sinkers, with other intermediate rates. Main hoist drivers receive 30s. and intermediate hoist drivers 26s. Surface metallurgical plant rates vary from 20s. for handymen to 24s. for crusher and smelter operators to30s. for crusher fitter chargehands. Rates for tradesmen and others are, for improvers 22s., for locomotive drivers 26s. and for carpenters and fitters 28s. These are basic wages and for underground men may be subject to increases calculated on footage rates. Overtime rates are on a 1¼ time basis. Pensions and a cash bonus fund have also been established. Housing is provided at a moderate rate of approximately £3 a month for married men. There is a compulsory subscription for membership of a first-class social and sports club of 21s. per annum which is deducted by monthly instalments. Daily paid workers are subject to a day's notice.
§ I have no detailed information regarding the wages earned by the European workers at the other mines, but I understand that they are generally similar to those obtaining at Mufulira. The above rates and conditions have to some extent 562 been modified as a result of the recent conciliation and arbitration proceedings.
§ As regards the second part of the Question, the following are the figures given in the published accounts of the mining companies concerned. These profits are of course subject to taxation, which has recently been increased. The accounts of the Mufulira Copper Mines, Limited, show a net profit for the year ended 30th June, 1939, of £1,041,431. The estimated profit for the six months ended 31st December, 1939, is £632,500. The published accounts of the Roan Antelope Copper Mines, Limited, show a net profit for the year ended 30th June, 1939, of £1,372,204. The estimated profit for the six months ended 31st December, 1939, is £813,000. The published accounts of the Rhokana Corporation, Limited, show a net profit for the year ended 30th June, 1939, but after providing for debenture interest, depreciation and development reserve of £2,116,398. The estimated net profit for the six months ended 31st December, 1939, but after providing for debenture interest, depreciation and development reserve is £1,229,000. The published accounts of the Nchanga Consolidated Copper Mines, Limited, issued for the year ended 31st March, 1939, show that the company is not yet making a profit.