§ Commander BELLAIRS
asked the Minister of Labour whether he can state the form in which the ballot was taken for the vote of the building trade operatives on the suggestion that they should work one hour extra in the summer; what were the votes cast and what proportion the majority formed of the total number in the federation; and what will be the actual number of hours per week that the men propose to work during the summer?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The vote is being taken on the proposal that, subject to a three months' periodical review, building trade operatives shall work one hour in excess of the eight hours on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the normal rate, provided that a man shall not be penalised if he desires to work only 44 hours a week. The proposal applies to the accelerating of housing schemes only, and systematic overtime of all other work is to be strictly prohibited. The actual number of hours per week that it is proposed that the men should work during the summer is 49. The operatives have been asked to state explicitly whether they are in favour or against the above proposals. No information is available with regard to the result of the ballot, as the returns are not yet complete. The text of the ballot paper and of the covering circular is shown below:
"NATIONAL FEDERATION OF BUILDING TRADES OPERATIVES.
17, Union Street,
Hours and Housing.
As you are all aware the forty-four hour week has been won, and will come into operation on May 1st, 1920, in consequence of which criticism has been levelled against the Building Trade Operatives that he has chosen the moment when his services are most needed on Housing schemes as the occasion for further reduction in his working hours. With such criticism we have no concern. The Building Trade Operative has to do the work and the Building Trade Operative shall decide how long he shall work despite the campaign of calumny initiated and supported for political reasons 1596W by bankrupt politicians. Forty-four and no more shall be emblazoned on every Building Trade Banner on May 1st.
This fixed determination to establish the forty-four hour week must not however blind us to the necessity of Houses for our own class. Millions of our fellow workers are houseless, and whilst we will not accept responsibility for the appalling state of things, we feel we should not permit our resentment against those who before the war cared nothing about the unemployed Building Trade Operatives, to prevent us making concessions in order that our fellow workers may have houses.
Consequently your representatives, after several conferences of our own Federation and subsequent negotiations with the National Federation of Building Trade Employers place before you the following modification of the forty-four hour week in so far as they relate to our members employed on work for the expediting of housing schemes. On your behalf and subject to your endorsement they have been agreed to by our own and the Employers' National Federation and we most earnestly recommend them for your acceptance. We would go farther and confidently ask that you record the same bumping majority in their favour as you did for the forty-four hours and thus prove that the Building Trade Operative, by responding to the call of Public necessity, can rise superior to the profiteers and politicians who cackle that "Labour is unfit to Govern."