HC Deb 19 February 1947 vol 433 cc1159-65
39. Dr. Jeger

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies having regard to the recent disturbances in the West Indian

pose, with my hon. Friend's permission. to circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the statement:

The increases in the cost of living in the West Indian Colonies are shown in the following table:

Colonies, to what extent the conditions of the labouring population have improved since the date of the Report of the Royal Commission.

Mr. Creech Jones

As the reply must be a long one, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission. circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The information given in the reply, which has been compiled at very short notice, is, to some extent, supplementary to that contained in the statement of the action taken on the recommendations of the Royal Commission which was presented to Parliament in June, 1945.

Following is the reply


There has been material improvement in conditions and wages. The working day has, in most cases, been reduced to eight hours, and thereafter, in commerce, overtime rates prevail Except where work is casual, most employers now give ten days or two weeks' holiday with ray annually Wages have risen steadily, and the following are estimated percentage increases on the plantations since 1939: Cultivation, 190. Reaping, 2oo. The percentage increase in manufacture is 127.

A Trades Union Act was passed in 1939, and there are now four workers' organisations. The Barbados Workers Union, and its counterpart for commerce, the Shipping and Mercantile Association, have already negotiated 13 agreements this year. Legislation has been enacted governing the employment of women, young persons and children in industry, arbitration in industrial disputes, hours and conditions of employment of shop assistants and workmen's compensation (including agricultural workers and domestic servants). Two social welfare officers have been appointed, and Barbados Welfare Limited, a non-profit making welfare department, has been formed to assist the workers in the development of home life and co-operative development of home industries and handicrafts, and to encourage the growth of a better community spirit. A Director of Education was appointed in 1943, and there has been a complete overhaul of the education system. Housing for working-class people has been in the forefront of social questions. A survey of slum areas has been made, and a housing site of just under 250 acres purchased for a proposed housing scheme

British Guiana

Legislation has been introduced covering workmen's compensation, conditions of employment of women, young persons and children, dangerous trades, recruitment of workers, trade unions, employment exchanges, hours of work in shops, licensed premises, bakeries and markets. Legislation is under consideration for a comprehensive factories Bill, improvements to the workmen's compensation ordinance and for the registration of contracts. A fair wages clause was recently introduced into all Government contracts.

The Trade Union Ordinance has been amended to prevent actions in tort against unions, to define a trade dispute, to make lawful acts of picketing within certain conditions, and, generally, to bring the ordinance into line with United Kingdom legislation. Membership of trade unions has increased considerably, and there has been a steady growth of reliance by both workers and employers upon the assistance of the Labour Department in settling disputes.

The activities of the Social Welfare Department have been directed towards the organisation of co-operative societies, the encouragement of cottage industries in rural areas, and the promotion of community life generally A non-contributory old age pension scheme has been established. Outdoor relief under poor law has been increased.

Taking 1939 as 100, the index of average daily earnings for resident male piece workers in the sugar industry has risen to, approximately, 220. Basic rates for unskilled men in sugar factories have been established, carrying a war bonus of 30 per cent., together with a reduction in hours. Bauxite wages have increased by about 23 per cent. Wages of subordinate Government employees have increased by 25 per cent., and wages generally in all industries have been increased to a similar extent.

British Honduras.

Three trade unions have been registered since 1941, and in 1945 a Labour Advisory Board was appointed. The establishment of a Whitley Council for civil servants is under consideration. A Factories Ordinance was passed in 1942, and workmen's compensation was introduced in 1943.


Legislation has been enacted covering the registration and inspection of factories, slum clearance and housing, the protection of dock workers against accidents, and the restriction of hours of employment of women; and making provision for the health and safety of women employed in industrial undertakings. Membership of trade unions has increased from 8,500 in 1939 to 57,700 in 1946.

As regards social services, the following figures, showing increases in annual Government expenditure on public health and public education, give some indication of the progress effected: Health, 1938–39 £104,887; 1946–47 £663,903 Education, 1938–39 £266,000; 1946–47 £705, 557

The considerable rise in labour wages rates is indicated by the following figures, showing increases for different categories of labour over the 1938 rates. General labour: men 6o per cent. to TOO per cent.; general labour women 60 per cent. to 220 per cent.; port workers, 167 per cent to 187 per cent.; sugar cultivation, 88 per cent. Other agricultural work 20 per cent. to 100 per cent.

Leeward Islands.

Since 1939, legislation has been enacted covering trade unions, trades disputes, recruitment of workers, employment of children, minimum wages and workmen's compensation.

The Antigua Trade and Labour Union claims 12,000 members in a total population of 42,00o. Its representatives hold all the elected seats on the Legislative Council Union members in St. Kitts and Montserrat also hold elected seats on the Legislative Councils. In Antigua, a 45-hour week is now generally recognised, and the principle of holidays with pay has been agreed to.

In St. Kitts, holidays with pay are granted by the Government and by the sugar factory; extension to estate labour is under consideration, and the principle of an eight-hour day is generally accepted.

Since 1939, piece work wages on sugar estates in Antigua have been increased more than threefold, and the daily rate of pay for unskilled labour has risen from 1s 3d. to 4s. 2½d. In St. Kitts, piece rates on sugar estates have been more than doubled.

As regards social services, there is a large programme in education, public health, peasant settlement, etc.


The Trade Disputes (Protection of Property) Ordinance, 1943, provides, inter alia, for the legal recognition of peaceful picketing, and confers immunity to trade unions from actions in tort. The Workmen's Compensation (Amendment) Ordinance, 1945, brought with in the scope of the principal ordinance, among other groups of workpeople, those employed in agricultural holdings of not less than 30 acres, domestic servants other than those employed in private houses, and persons employed exclusively as clerical workers and/or shop assistants. It also provided for a reduction of the waiting period from ten to three days, and for increased compensation in cases of death or permanent total disablement.

The Factories Ordinance, 1946, based on the U.K. Factories Act, 1937, provided for the industrial safety of workers, and the establishment of an inspectorate. The Ordinance will be proclaimed as soon as the necessary regulations have been drafted. Regulations made under the Labour Bureau Ordinance provide for the extension of Labour Bureau facilities to eleven additional centres in the Colony.

The following comparative table shows increases in the level of wage rates in the principal industries since 1939:

(a) Oil


Skilled 11–28 cents per hour;

Semi-skilled 11–22 cents per hour;

Unskilled 11–26 cents per hour.


Skilled 33–47 cents per hour;

Semi-skilled 28–33 cents per hour;

Unskilled 26–29 cents pet hour.

(Including a temporary war allowance).

(b) Government Employees

Skilled and semi-skilled 88 cents to 2 dollars per day 1.44–2.56 dollars plus 46–53 cents (TWA) = 1.90–3.09 dollars per day;

Unskilled 60–72 cents per day 1.00 dollars plus 42 cents (TWA) = 1.48 dollars per day.

(c) Dock Labour

Stevedores 2 00 dollars per day 2.40 dollars plus 88 cents (TWA) = 3.28 dollars per day;

Shore labour 1.44 dollars per day 2.20 dollars plus 51 cents (TWA) = 2.71 dollars per day.

(d) Agriculture

Sugar (task work). Average daily earnings, 1939 and 1947;

Cutlassing, 40–50 cents and 55–180 cents;

Reaping 50–75 cents and 75–220 cents;

Draining, 60—go cents and 85–252 cents.

(Note.—Earnings depend largely on the amount of time which the worker is willing to put in.)

Cocoa and coconuts. Average daily earnings 1939 and 1947:

Cutlassing, 40–60 cents and 80–120 cents;

Pruning (cocoa) 50–75 cents and 12o-250 cents.

Hours of work.—The working week of oil shift workers has been reduced from 56 to 48 hours. The working day for port labour has been reduced from 9 to 8 hours. The hours of sugar time workers, with the exception of stock attendants, essential services employees and watchmen, have been reduced to 8 per day.

Leave. Oil. Leave privileges have been made cumulative for two years. Government; seven days' leave has been extended to ten days in cases of two and three years' service. and 14 days after four years' service. Sick leave at seven days per year has been introduced. Sugar; seven days' vacation leave, annually has been introduced. An industrial relations joint consultative committee has been established in the sugar industry, and a joint conciliation board in the oil industry. In certain Government Departments, works committees have been set up.

Social Services.

Co-operative groups, ranging from thrift and study clubs to registered credit unions and agricultural co-operative societies, have been promoted in nearly every part of the Colony, and have taken firm root. A cottage industries programme (straw and allied materials) is just beginning to take shape as an economic factor.

The Planning and Housing Commission have completed the construction of 1.199 houses on housing settlements in the Colony, and work on the preparation of additional building sites is in progress. One hundred and twelve buildings have been erected in the towns of Port of Spain and San Fernando in connection with slum clearance housing schemes; 62 more are under construction. Two rural housing schemes are in course of construction in the sugar areas of the Colony. Oilfields housing estates have been developed Improvements have been made in the provision of hostel accommodation for young workers in Port of Spain. Government expenditure on housing and slum clearance for the period of 1942–46 was 5 130,000 dollars compared with 300.000 dollars in the previous five years.

Inexpensive medical facilities have become more widely available to the labouring population, especially infant welfare and maternity and hospital care. Health Centres have been established in main rural areas and more are in course of construction. Venereal Diseases centre with clinics, both urban and rural, provide free treatment for all. Special measures have been taken against hookworm infestation by means of a health education campaign and by clinical treatment Anti-malarial measures have been continued. A feature of work in 1946 is the use of D.D.T. as a house insecticide on a large scale.

Windward Islands.

In Grenada, an agreement between planter employers and trade unions established as from 21st October. 1946, minimum wage rates of three shillings for men and two shillings and sixpence for women, for an eight-hour day.

In St. Lucia, legislation as from 1st November, 1946, raised minimum wages to two shillings and sixpence for men and two shillings for women for an eight-hour day. All minimum wage rates for shop assistants and clerks were raised approximately 29 per cent. from that date.

In Dominica and St. Vincent, negotiations are proceeding with view to the upward revision of existing minimum wage rates in those Colonies.

Social services have received special attention since 1942 through the appointment of a Social Welfare Adviser.