§ Mr. Hamling
asked the Minister of State for Defence what representations have been made to him about the pay and conditions of mechanical examiners in the Royal Ordnance Factory, Woolwich; whether he is aware of their dissatisfaction over their recent pay award, and in particular the discrimination against some of them in specialist pay; and whether he will make a statement.
§ Mr. G. Johnson Smith
I assume that the hon. Member has in mind a claim by craftsmen in the Directorate of Quality Assurance (Weapons). This claim is that the introduction of a new system of craft allowances should not deprive any of them of the pay and status of mechanic examiner, a grade for which they were originally engaged and tested. The new allowance system applies to craftsmen generally in the industrial Civil Service and was agreed with the trade unions at national level in the Joint Co-ordinating Committee for Government Industrial Establishments. It provides for allowances of £2, £3, £4 or £6 to be paid in addition to the basic craft rate for work calling for the exercise of additional skills and other attributes.
Of a total of some 700 craftsmen in the Directorate, about 170 are not in fact employed as mechanic examiners, the duties of which grade attract the £4 allowance, or are so employed only intermittently. The effect of conceding the claim would be to create for each of these 170 craftsmen a personal entitlement to the mechanic examiner craft allowance for the whole of their remaining career in the Directorate. The management view is that here, as elsewhere, only the allowance appropriate to the work the 372W craftsman actually performs should be paid. Most of the 170 are on work which qualifies for the £3 allowance. A very small number of jobs qualify only for the £2 allowance and it was always the intention in their case that this should be made up to the allowance level of £2.50 which they enjoyed under the arrangements which applied before 1st July, 1970.
The issue has been the subject of several discussions between management at Departmental level and the national officers of the trade unions concerned. At a meeting on the 25th May management reiterated their opposition to the claim as tabled, but conceded that the way in which the new allowance system would affect them might not have been made sufficiently clear to the craftsmen concerned. They have been offered the £4 allowance until such time as the difference between this figure and that appropriate to the work they are doing is overtaken by increases in basic pay. I very much hope that this offer will be accepted.