HC Deb 30 November 1949 vol 470 cc1131-5
28. Mr. Gallacher

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what are the rates of pay for the miners in the coalmining area of Enugu, Nigeria, and, in particular, the rates of pay of the miners employed at the Obwetti mines and the Iva Valley mine.

Mr. Creech Jones

As the answer is long, and contains detailed figures, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

The rates of pay in the Enugu colliery, which includes the Obwetti and the Iva Valley mines, are as follows:

  1. 1. Hewers are graded as Special Labour, Grade I, with a basic wage of 3s. to 4s. a day. They also draw additional pay amounting to 1s. 1½ d. per tub, together with seniority pay of 3d. per shift after five years service, and underground allowance of 4d. per shift. Average earnings are estimated as between 7s. and 7s. 6d. a day.
  2. 2. Tubmen are graded as Special Labour, Grade I, with a basic wage of 3s. to 4s. a day. In addition they draw seniority pay of 1d. per shift after five years service and underground allowance of 4d. per shift. Average earnings are about 4s. a day.
  3. 3. Haulage men draw 2s. 3d. a day plus underground allowance of 4d. a shift and seniority pay of 1d. a shift.
  4. 4. Other grades fall principally under the category of craftsmen earning £96 to £160 a year, artisans earning £72 to £160 a year and various subordinate grades earning within the range of £52 to £120.

Mr. Gallacher

Will not the figures show what the right hon. Gentleman, in his Socialist days, used to call the imperialist exploitation of the native peoples? Will they not justify the miners striking for a decent living wage?

Mr. Creech Jones

This was not a strike of miners for a decent living wage. Considering the cost of living and the background of Africa, I think the wages are fair for the work done.

Mr. John Paton

Do the figures include the average hours per shift work and, if not, will my right hon. Friend see that they are included?

Mr. Creech Jones

If they are not included I will see that they are.

Mr. Nigel Birch

Is it not a fact that the mines in question are Government owned?

Mr. Creech Jones

Yes, Sir. They are under the ownership of the Nigerian Government.

Mr. Harrison

Can my right hon. Friend say how the wages paid to these miners compare with those paid to similar workers in that part of the Continent?

Mr. Creech Jones

The wages compare very favourably indeed.

Mr. Awbery

Has a labour office been set up in Nigeria, have trade union advisers been sent out and is the miners' union recognised as the official union in this matter?

Mr. Creech Jones

The answer to all those points is in the affirmative, and the labour department of the Nigerian Government has given considerable help to the miners in their trade union activities.

Major Guy Lloyd

Is it not a fact that the absenteeism figures in those mines are less than half the figures in this country?

Mr. S. Silverman

As the Government have already decided that the wages paid are fair for the work done, and that the other matters which my hon. Friend has asked about are also satisfactory, can my right hon. Friend tell us what there is left for the Commission of Inquiry to inquire into?

Mr. Creech Jones

I thought it was within the knowledge of my hon. Friend that there had been a very grave and tragic event at Enugu, and that certain labour difficulties had emerged. The inquiry is for the purpose of studying the whole position and reporting to the Government on the events which have taken place and the steps which need to be taken to improve the present state of affairs.

Mr. Silverman

I think my right hon. Friend misunderstood my question. I was not referring to the Commission which he is sending out but the Commission of Inquiry into labour disputes, whose work was already proceeding.

35. Mr. H. D. Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies for how long the trade unions concerned have been officially recognised at the Enugu colliery; how many workers have been dismissed in connection with industrial disputes in 1949; and how long the present claim for a wage increase has been under consideration.

Mr. Creech Jones

The Colliery Workers' Union at Enugu was registered in 1941, and has been recognised for negotiation purposes except during a period when it was found not to be representative of the workers. The union is represented on the Colliery Whitley Council which was formed in 1948. When the "go-slow" strike began early in November the newly formed Colliery Board, on which Nigerians serve, made every effort to get the men to resume full work; it was only after these efforts had failed that 150 hewers were dismissed. As I have already said, my information is that no wage claim was under negotiation at the time.

Mr. Hughes

Would my right hon. Friend confirm the report that the Nigerian trade union movement are cooperating with the Government to avoid the spreading of disorder arising out of this unfortunate incident, in particular in connection with the recent proposed demonstration in Lagos, which was banned?

Mr. Creech Jones

Yes, Sir. It is true that there is co-operation between the authorities and the trade union movement in Nigeria.

Mr. Gallacher

Are we to take it that the shooting of over 20 miners is an "unfortunate incident"? That is not the language which the Labour Party used at Tonypandy.

40. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what was the specific nature of the industrial dispute at Enugu; at what date the deadlock between the Nigeria Africa Mineworkers Union and the Employers Association was first notified; what action the labour commissioner took when the association refused to go to arbitration; and, apart from the inquiry into the disturbance, whether the industrial dispute will now go to arbitration.

Mr. Creech Jones

According to my information, no trade dispute was declared, nor was there any refusal on the part of the colliery management to go to arbitration; but it is for the Commission of Inquiry to investigate these matters and establish the facts.

Mr. Sorensen

Am I to take it that the reports in some parts of the Press that there was a refusal to arbitrate on the part of the so-called employers' association is quite incorrect?

Mr. Creech Jones

My information is that it is incorrect.

Mr. Awbery

Could my right hon. Friend say if the trade unions refused to go to arbitration, and could he tell us at the same time what extent of the trouble is due to wage problems, and how much to nationalist aspirations?

Mr. Creech Jones

I must leave this matter to the Inquiry.

Mr. H. D. Hughes

Would my right hon. Friend give the House the composition of the colliery board and, what is the representation of Africans and trade unionists on it?

Mr. Creech Jones

I would desire notice of that. I can inform the House, however, that a number of Nigerians are serving on the board.

Mr. Baldwin

Is the Minister aware that the asking of these questions gives the African natives the impression that they are badly paid, which is a great disservice to the Africans themselves? Is he also aware that, compared with the job the African does, it is the dearest labour in the world, and that it is impossible for the African to advance his standard of living unless he is prepared to do more work for the money he is receiving?

59. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to what extent the recent refusal of the demand for higher wages by the coalminers of Enugu, Nigeria, was determined by considerations of the effect that such an increase would have on the price of coal.

Mr. Creech Jones

I have already given in reply to the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) the information available. According to my present information the disorders at Enugu were not preceded by any negotiation upon, or refusal of, a demand by the union for higher wages. I suggest that it would be very much better to leave it to the Commission of Inquiry to establish the facts of the matter.

Mr. Oliver Stanley

Would it not be better to leave these matters for the inquiry? If the right hon. Gentleman proceeds to give many more facts there will not be anything left for the commission to determine.

Mr. Awbery

Will not my right hon. Friend hold an inquiry into the conditions of the workers in Nigeria so that we could render some assistance? Is he aware that if he wishes to win the confidence of the workers in Nigeria he should consult the T.U.C. and ask them to send out a commission of inquiry themselves?