Oral Answers to Questions — Ex-Service Men. – in the House of Commons on 9th May 1923.
asked the Minister of Labour (1) whether he is aware of the attempt of the Elder Dempster Company to reduce the wages of their coloured shore workers in Liverpool from £6 to £5 10s. monthly, when the standard now for British workers is £9 10s. per month; and, in view of the menace to the standard of life of the British seamen and shore workers by the employment of such underpaid labour, will he take immediate steps to see that fair wages are paid to all classes of its employees by this firm of Government contractors;
(2) whether he is aware that the Elder Dempster Steamship Company pressed upon their Asiatic and African shore-workers a reduction in their monthly wages from £6 to £5 10s.; that on or about the 19th April last a few hundred of them were discharged; that the Labour Exchanges and the boards of guardians are refusing to grant relief to these men as if they were on strike; that the employés of this company have other grievances with regard to the treatment they receive; and will he inquire into the conditions under which non-European labour is utilised in this country by shipping firms?
I understand that, while a reduction has been made in the wages of coloured firemen in conformity with the reduction settled by the National Maritime Board in the case of white seamen, no reduction has been made in shore wages. The claims of these men for unemployment benefit were disallowed, on the ground that they were not unable to obtain suitable employment. They have the right of appeal against the decision to the Court of Referees. I understand that these men are engaged on shore work only when their ships are in port; and it is not proposed to make the inquiry suggested by the hon. Member. Any question as to the observance of fair wages should be addressed to the Contracting Department concerned.