HC Deb 10 December 1941 vol 376 cc1532-3
73. Mr. Dobbie

asked the Undersecretary of State for the Colonies the cause of the lock-out of the Nigerian railwaymen in September of this year; what were the grievances which led up to the dispute; what were the concessions made to the men; whether the men are now satisfied; and what action was taken with the official who locked the men out?

The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. George Hall)

As the answer is rather long, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

There was no lock-out in the technical sense, but owing to a misunderstanding of instructions by a subordinate official, the gates of the railway workshop were not opened on the morning of 29th September until about half an hour after the usual time. Earlier in the year the Railway Workers' Union made certain requests to the Railway Administration for improvements in their terms of service. The decision of the Nigerian Government on those requests was conveyed to the union on 6th May and was well received. There was, however, delay in the preparation by the Railway Administration of a detailed explanatory statement of the Government's scheme. Nevertheless that statement was, in fact, sent to the union a week before the scheme was due to become operative. The detailed decisions were rejected, primarily because they were not understood. At a mass meeting of all employees on 29th September, the improvements were carefully explained by the Governor, and work was resumed in full on 30th September. An explanatory statement by Government was issued to the men on 4th October.

The revised terms of service, which have been received with much satisfaction, include the refund of loss of pay occasioned by the conversion in 1931 from daily to hourly rates of pay, the abolition of the hourly rate of pay, pay for public holidays, the normal working week to be 45 hours—eight hours on each ordinary day and five hours on Saturday—overtime at time and a quarter rates in accordance with the approved practice for the railway, arrangements for the appointment to the fixed establishment of the railway of skilled workmen in trades to which an apprenticeship is normally served, and improved conditions for apprentices.

A special inquiry was held by the Attorney-General of Nigeria into the incident on 20th September. The Attorney-General reached the conclusion that no disciplinary action was called for in the case of any of the officials concerned. The Governor is in agreement with the Attorney-General's conclusion and my Noble Friend accepts the Governor's view.