HC Deb 13 October 1943 vol 392 cc900-2W
Captain Gammans

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is in a position to make any statement regarding the recent strikes among dock-workers in Malta?

Mr. John Duǵdale

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any statement to make on the strike of dockyard workers at Malta?

Mr. Emrys Evans

There was a strike of Maltese dockyard workmen from the 24th to 28th August and another from 28th September to 7th October. Some employees of the Malta Government, the War Office and the Air Ministry participated in the earlier strike and of the War Office and Air Ministry in the later strike. The strikes arose from the growing dissatisfaction felt by the men with their wages which were proving insufficient to meet the considerably increased cost of living. The unions representing the men had submitted proposals for increased wages early in July. These proposals which were far reaching in their scope had been under examination by the Government of Malta in conjunction with the Service Departments.

A conference took place on 26th August between representatives of the Government of Malta and the Service Departments and representatives of the men. The men were persuaded to resume work on an undertaking given by the Lieutenant-Governor that the Governor would use his best endeavours in consultation with the Home Government to place definite proposals before them. As a result of these consultations substantial concessions were offered in the form of an increase in war bonus varying from 10s. to 2s. a week according to the rate of wages, together with a reduction (which would be effected by subsidies) in the prices of rationed commodities calculated to represent a saving of 11s. 8d. a week for a family of five persons. These proposals were considered inadequate by the Union representatives. The position was then again reviewed and some minor improvements to meet points raised by the representatives of the men were included in the proposed terms of settlement. The increased subsidy, which benefited the whole population, was introduced on 21st September, but the Unions' representatives rejected the revised offer on 27th September.

As it was considered that this offer provided a fair and reasonable settlement it was decided to put it into force and the terms were published in Malta on 28th September. At the same time it was announced that an expert with wide experience of wages and cost of living problems was being sent to Malta to inquire into and to advise the Government upon the situation in all its aspects. The expert had reached the Colony by 30th September. He will also advise the Government on the question of establishing standing machinery for consultation between the Malta Government and the Service Departments and their employees on matters of common interest.

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