Foreign Workers

Oral Answers to Questions — British Army – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th December 1949.

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Photo of Colonel Ralph Glyn Colonel Ralph Glyn , Abingdon 12:00 am, 13th December 1949

asked the Secretary of State for War why the employment of European voluntary workers in the establishments administered by his Department is conditional on such persons joining a British trade union; and whether this instruction was issued by his Department.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

My Department, in common with employers in outside industries, discussed with the trade unions concerned, the terms, conditions and safeguards under which foreign workers should be employed and an agreement was reached. One of the conditions agreed was that the foreign workers should be selected for employment by my Department only if they were prepared to join the appropriate British trade union. This condition was included in the instruction which was issued by my Department dealing with the employment of foreign workers.

Photo of Colonel Ralph Glyn Colonel Ralph Glyn , Abingdon

Does that condition obtain in the other Service Departments, and if people are doing their work satisfactorily is it right to issue to them a letter to say that they will be discharged unless they join a union by Friday next? Is that in accordance with the ordinary practice of the Ministry of Labour?

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

I cannot speak for other Service Departments but no doubt the hon. Member can put down a Question to them. The National Joint Advisory Council, a body comprising employers' and workers' representatives, approved the principle of the employment of foreign workers in this country, and advised that consultations should take place with a view to their membership of the appropriate trade union. The arrangement has worked very well, and so far as I know the European voluntary workers are giving satisfaction.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

Is it not just as intolerable that an employer should compel a man to join a union as that he should, as he did in earlier days, forbid him to join one? Is the Minister aware that we do not want this sort of thing in the public service? We have never had it. We can do all our own organising without any help from Ministers. This is intolerable.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

This arrangement is working very well and there is no reason why I should interfere with it.

Photo of Mr Stanley Awbery Mr Stanley Awbery , Bristol Central

Is it not a fact that if we are to get the maximum production and the greatest harmony in industry these men should be members of the organisation responsible for making agreements between the employers and the trade unions?

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

So far as I know, these workers have not protested against this arrangement, and if they are quite satisfied and everything is working well, why should not we leave it alone?

Photo of Colonel Ralph Glyn Colonel Ralph Glyn , Abingdon

May I say that the only knowledge I have of this matter was a protest signed by five of these men and their friends about being forced to join this union? The local union officials do not want it.