HC Deb 08 February 1951 vol 483 cc1912-3
12. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware of the effect on output of the National Arbitration Tribunal's award on the claim made on 30th November, 1949, by the Confederation of Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades; and what action does he intend taking.

15. Mr. Leslie Hale

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction which exists in regard to the recent award in the engineering industry and to the fact that under its terms a large majority of engineers are excluded from its benefit; and what steps he proposes to take to remedy this matter.

Mr. Bevan

I would first point out that the National Arbitration Tribunal refrained from making an award and that the resultant settlement was embodied in a National Wages Agreement to which both sides of the industry were parties. In general, the Agreement has been well received but in a few areas, particularly the Manchester area, some dissatisfaction has been expressed that pieceworkers already earning above the new minimum will not benefit. This dissatisfaction has shown itself by a reversion to day work and an embargo on overtime by piece-workers in a number of engineering establishments.

On Monday last, however, the national organisations concerned considered the position at a joint conference and it was agreed that there should be a resumption of piece-work and overtime working so that any question of low piece-work earnings might be reviewed under the procedure agreement in the industry. I must stress the importance and urgency of securing return to normal working and dealing with any question arising in a constitutional manner. It would not be proper for my Department to intervene.

Mr. Hale

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that this award is contained in a document of the greatest possible complexity, something after the style of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, which has never been clearly understood? There is practically nothing given to the pieceworkers at all and a great number of day workers are excluded. Would he accept our appreciation of the steps which have been taken, and of the fact that longer negotiations in specialised circumstances and specialised engineering industries are apparently to take place and our hope that they will put an end to the grievances?

Mr. Bevan

We all hope it will, but I would again remind the House that it is not an award, it is an agreement; and it is complex because the engineering industry is very complex.