§ Mr. W. THORNE
asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that the employés of the Central Sugar Beet Company, Woodstone, Peterborough, are working 12 hours per day from 7 a.m. to. 7 p.m.; that when the change from day-work to night-work takes place at the week-end the employés work 18 hours; that no time is allowed for meals; that 685W any employé absenting himself from work for one day for any cause is discharged; that some of the employés are compelled to work in lime and water during the whole period of their duty; that the unloading of beet is only paid for at the rate of 3½d. per ton, which prevents the men from earning more than 30s. per week; and if he will take any action in the matter?
I understand that men working inside the Peterborough beet sugar factory are employed on a 12-hour shift during the manufacturing campaign which lasts about three months. The average weekly earnings of these men during this period are about £5. Factory employés for the other nine months of the year and men on work outside the factory for the full 12 months work 44 to 49 hours a week. When the change from day work to night work takes place, which is about twice during the campaign, the employés work 18 hours. Owing to the nature of the employment, there is in most cases no difficulty in the way of the workers taking meals and, where necessary, reliefs are provided for this purpose. I am informed that employés who have any reasonable excuse are not discharged for one day's absence; also that no employés are required to work in a mixture of lime and water, as there is no work in the factory which necessitates work under such conditions. Piece work rates for unloading beets vary from 3½d. to 5d. a ton, the lower rate being paid for beets discharged from trucks on high level lines. A bonus of 1d. a ton is paid for all tonnage in excess of 100 tons a week. The average earnings of experienced men on unloading are from 9s. to 10s. for a working day of eight to nine hours and men frequently earn from 10s. to 14s. a day.
The only power I have in the matter of conditions and wages in beet sugar factories is that conferred by Section 3 of the Beet Sugar (Subsidy) Act, which provides that if any dispute arises as to what wages ought to be paid in accordance with that Section, the Minister of Agriculture shall refer it to the Industrial Court for settlement. The factories, of course, come under the Factories and Workshops Act.