HC Deb 06 December 1944 vol 406 cc553-4W
Mr. Pritt

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) whether he is aware that the Government of Northern Rhodesia has given official sanction and circulation to a declaration that European employees of copper mining companies in the event of a partial strike preventing operations shall in effect be stood off without pay and if they do not accept this treatment will be dismissed: why the Government are thus officially co-operating in the companies' harshness towards their employees; and what steps he will take in the matter;

(2) whether he is aware that the Government of Northern Rhodesia has given official sanction and circulation to a declaration that any European employees of copper mining companies who go on strike will not be released under the Emergency Powers Regulations or granted exit permits from the Colony; why the Government is thus officially co-operating with the companies in fighting the demands of their employees; and what steps he is taking in the matter.

Colonel Stanley

A statement is appended. I may add that before the statement was finally agreed upon the Governor discussed it personally with the President of the union, who, apart from suggesting one amendment which was accepted, raised no objection to it. It was sent officially to the union on the 24th October, since when no communication commenting on it has been received from them.

Following is the statement:— The object of the statement was to define the position of the European daily paid employees not on strike in the event of the companies being compelled to suspend operations owing to a strike of part of those employees such as occurred last July. The companies' view is that they cannot continue paying a section of the union who are not themselves on strike, but are prevented from working through a strike by another section of the same union; but their legal advice is that if they kept the non-striking men on the pay roll, they would be liable to pay them unless on leave. In order therefore to avoid discharging them, if possible, they agreed that in these circumstances they would offer them the choice of paid leave, in so far as they were entitled to it, or leave without pay. Only if they refused these alternatives were they to be discharged, but even so they were to retain their pension rights if it were possible to re-engage them within thirty days and their housing for the same period in any case. I cannot regard this arrangement as in any way harsh. The Government's concern in this matter was both to secure as satisfactory as possible an arrangement in the circumstances described above for the men not on strike and to make it clear what action it would itself take under the Emergency Powers Regulations in the case of such of these men as had been discharged and wished to leave the territory to obtain work elsewhere. It was explained that permission would not be withheld in such cases, but the purpose of the Emergency Powers Regulations would be completely stultified if men engaged on a partial and illegal strike were to be entitled equally to be granted exit permits, and this also had to be made clear in the statement. The Government's object in drawing up the statement was to ensure that, should there again be a partial strike, there should be no misunderstanding of the position, such as arose at first in the July strike.

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