HC Deb 09 June 1921 vol 142 cc2094-5W
Major GLYN

asked the Prime Minister (1) whether, prior to the passing of the Canadian Disputes (Investigation) Act, there were, on an average, between 300 to 400 strikes or lock-outs annually in Canada; whether, as a result of the working of that Act, the average number of strikes and lock-outs has been reduced to an average of 70 to 80 annually;

(2) whether he is aware of the provisions of the Canadian Industrial Disputes (Investigation) Act passed by the Government of the Dominion of Canada; that the effect of this Act has been considered satisfactory in its application to industrial disputes in all classes of industry in the Dominion; and whether he will consider the introduction of legislation based upon similar principles, with a view to the solution of industrial disputes in this country?


I have been asked to reply. The statistics published by the Canadian Department of Labour do not confirm those put forward by my hon. and gallant Friend. According to the Canadian "Labour Gazette" for February of this year, the average annual number of disputes existing in Canada in the years 1901 to 1906 was 117; while the average annual number from 1907 (when the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act was passed) to 1920 was 130, showing a small increase over the average figures for the period prior to the passing of the Act. The highest numbers were reached in 1919, when there were 298 disputes; and in 1920, when there were 285 disputes.

With regard to the statement that the effect of the Act has been considered satis- factory in its application to industrial disputes in all classes of industry in the Dominion, it may be observed that the Act applies compulsorily only to certain industries, i.e., coal mining, transport, and public utilities, although its scope was temporarily extended in 1916 so as to apply to all disputes affecting any aspect of war work. It would appear that during the period of operation of the Act there has been a considerable number of illegal strikes in the industries to which the Act applies, and that the penal Clauses of the Act have been utilised in very few cases. Moreover, very little use appears to have been made by industry generally of the Section of the Act which allows voluntary application for boards.

The Act, which undoubtedly contains some valuable features, was considered by the recent Committee on Relations between Employers and Employed presided over by Mr. Speaker, and the Committee reported against the application to this country of the compulsory power of delaying strikes and lock-outs, which is one of the distinguishing features of the Canadian Act. The Committee, as my hon. and gallant Friend will be aware, made recommendations inter alia with regard to the holding of an independent inquiry in appropriate cases when the parties to a dispute are unable to adjust the difference, and these recommendations have been given legislative effect in the Industrial Courts Act, 1919.