HC Deb 02 March 1955 vol 537 c2063
48. Mr. J. B. Hynd

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement on the present position of the industrial dispute in the Northern Rhodesian mines.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

As my statement is necessarily long, I am circulating it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Hynd

Will the Minister clearly endorse the statement by the Governor to the effect that this strike had been conducted in a most responsible fashion? Will he also make it clear that there will be great resentment not only among Africans but among people in this country at any attempt by the South African Union to interfere in this strike and to prevent Africans getting jobs for which they are capable.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I deprecate interference by anyone but those directly concerned in negotiations of this kind.

Following is the statement: Towards the end of 1954 the African Mine Worker's Union, which is recognised by the Copper Companies, made a demand for a wage increase of 10s. 8d. per shift for all grades and for weekly instead of monthly payment of wages, these benefits if granted to apply only to members of the Union. A Government conciliator was appointed in November, but no agreement was reached. Subsequently the Companies indicated their willingness to go to arbitration on the wage claim but not on the other issues. On 3rd January, the African Union called out all African workers on strike, except those employed in essential services. On 24th January the Companies gave notice that any worker who did not report by 28th January would be discharged, with all benefits accrued in respect of past service up to the date of discharge; and that any subsequent reengagement would be as a new employee but at the bottom of the grade in which he was serving before discharge. On 28th February about 2,000 Africans had applied to be paid off in accordance with the Companies' Notice, of whom about 1,230 had been reengaged. The total number then at work was about 11,000 of whom about 7,000 were new recruits. The normal African labour force is about 42,000. Following on the visit of Mr. R. Williams, M.P., at the request of the Miners' International, to assist the African Union with legal advice, I understand that the Union has now made a proposal to the Companies which they are considering. I do not wish to say anything that might disturb the delicate negotiations which are now in progress, with the fullest possible assistance from the Northern Rhodesian Government.