HC Deb 16 November 1976 vol 919 cc1089-90
4. Mr. Watkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what encouragement he is giving to work-sharing programmes.

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Harold Walker)

I regard reductions in working hours and overtime as matters for negotiation between managements and employees

Mr. Watkinson

Does my hon. Friend agree that the problem of unemployment is now one of large-scale structural unemployment and not cyclical unemployment? To this extent, is it not wise that we should positively be pursuing work-sharing programmes, particularly cutting back on the hours of overtime worked and sharing work in that way?

Mr. Walker

I am not sure that I agree with my hon. Friend whether the main source of unemployment is structural unemployment or demand-related unemployment. There is a Question later on the Order Paper about overtime, but, as my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State said when we were last up for Questions, we are concerned about the level of overtime working. We note the TUC resolution on this subject at its Congress and hope that it will be taken into account by both unions and employers in the working out of work arrangements.

Mrs. Chalker

What assurance can the Minister give the House that all employees will be consulted on the subject of work-sharing in companies where there is not exclusive trade union membership? Surely they, too, have a voice that should be heard even if they are not members of trade unions.

Mr. Walker

The hon. Lady did not listen to my original reply, which I shall repeat for her benefit. I regard reductions in working hours and overtime as matters for negotiation between managements and employees.

Mr. Hayhoe

Does the Minister agree that the increase in overtime working flows to some extent at least from the Government's pay policy, because this is a way in which take-home pay can be increased?

Mr. Walker

Before the hon. Gentleman makes assumptions about the levels of overtime working, he might care to consult the figures. I think he will find that overtime working has remained extraordinarily stable over the past three years or so.