HC Deb 18 April 1956 vol 551 cc1011-2
51. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the labour unrest in Aden.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

A Commission of Inquiry is at present sitting in Aden on the recent strikes, and I should, therefore, prefer to make no statement about their reasons or causes until the Commission has made its report. I am, however, circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a short summary of the general course of events which led to the appointment of the Commission.

Mrs. Castle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I am receiving a large number of cables from Aden which claim that the refinery companies are refusing to recognise trade unions, and that the recent strike by the union of the airways employees has been broken by the employment of outside labour, contrary to Western tradition and practice? In view of this, when the Commission has reported, will the right hon. Gentleman consider issuing a White Paper giving very fully what are the labour laws in this Colony and what is the position in regard to trade union rights?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I will certainly consider the last request which the hon. Lady made, but I ask her to await the report of the Commission and not to take it for granted that outside hostile influences are not also at work in the Colony and Protectorate of Aden.

Following is the summary: A series of strikes started in Aden on 3rd March, first affecting the waterfront labour and later cargo and coal coolies, the taxi and bus drivers and the labour of contractors employed on building projects. On 19th March the strikes spread to contractors' labour employed on projects connected with the Aden Petroleum Refinery Ltd. and then to the Refinery personnel themselves. Early in April, after a period of comparative freedom from industrial unrest, further strikes occurred and still continue among the dock labour at Maalla, among employees of the large trading and petrol distributing concern, A. Besse and Company, among contractors' labour on the site of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Pauling and Company, who are engaged on harbour development work. The demands made by the strikers have varied from increases in pay to reduced working hours during the fasting month of Ramadhan, which commenced on 11th April, and have included, in the case of the taxi and bus drivers, the redress of grievances connected with the administration of the Traffic Ordinance. Except in the case of strikes now in progress, agreement between employers and employees resulted from negotiations, and where demands for wage increases had been made an agreed settlement acceptable to both parties was reached. The general average of wage increases that have been agreed is in the neighbourhood of 20 per cent. for the workers in the lower wage groups. The Aden Government have granted a similar increase to Government employees, as has the Aden Port Trust and the Aden Municipality.