Factory, Wolverhampton (Closure)

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th December 1964.

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Photo of Mr Julius Silverman Mr Julius Silverman , Birmingham Aston 12:00 am, 7th December 1964

asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement on the labour problems caused by the proposed closure of the General Electric Company's factory at Four Ashes, near Wolverhampton; what period of notice the workers affected are under; and what steps he is taking with regard to the matter.

Photo of Mrs Renée Short Mrs Renée Short , Wolverhampton North East

asked the Minister of Labour how many workers have become redundant at the General Electric Company's factory at Four Ashes, near Wolverhampton; what period of notice they are under; and what plans he has for assisting them.

Photo of Mr Robert Edwards Mr Robert Edwards , Bilston

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the decision to close the General Electric Company's factory at Four Ashes, near Wolverhampton, affecting the employment of approximately 400 work-people; and what action he is taking to prevent the dispersal of the trained labour force.

Photo of Mr Brian Walden Mr Brian Walden , Birmingham All Saints

asked the Minister of Labour what provision he is making for workers rendered redundant by the closure of the General Electric Company's factory at Four Ashes, near Wolverhampton.

Photo of Mr Raymond Gunter Mr Raymond Gunter , Southwark

I am aware of this proposed closure. I understand from the company that of the 758 workers employed on 19th November when the closure was announced some 258 had left by 4th December and that a further 90 had been offered employment at other G.E.C. establishments in the area. A phased redunancy, with the statutory period of notice to each worker, is to take place between 11th December and 26th March. My local officers took advance registrations of 284 workers at the factory last week and have offered a similar service to the remainder. Employment prospects in the area within reasonable travelling distance are very good and my Department will do all it can to assist those who need to seek help in finding other work.

Photo of Mr Julius Silverman Mr Julius Silverman , Birmingham Aston

Will my right hon. Friend give the House information on the following points? First, has there been to his knowledge any consultation between the managements and the unions or the workers' representatives in regard to this redundancy? Secondly, is it correct that only two weeks' advance information has been given to some of the men of their redundancy, and that there was an advertisement issued by the factory for fresh labour only eight weeks ago, in consequence of which men gave up other employment and their homes in order to take these new jobs and now find themselves with the prospect of being out of work and without a home? Thirdly, is it true that the largest amount of compensation offered to men who have worked for the firm for 21 years is five weeks' pay, and does this not indicate the need for the Government to press on with all speed with their legislation dealing With redundancy and severance pay?

Photo of Mr Raymond Gunter Mr Raymond Gunter , Southwark

On the first two points, I understand that there has been bitter complaint from the unions about the sudden announcement on 19th November, and that bitterness has been expressed about the lack of consultation that took place beforehand. I also understand that there is great feeling about the terms of compensation, which, as my hon. Friend has said, amounts to five weeks' pay for over 21 years' service. The point is that the firm is complying with the statutory requirements of the Contracts of Employment Act. There is little that I can do about it other than to accept the hon. Member's suggestion to press forward with our legislation on redundancy and severance pay. I would add that I have received no representations from the unions on the matter.

Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Lichfield and Tamworth

Are we not here dealing with one of the very great companies of this country? How comes it that a company with all these ramifications and the experience that it should have of relations with employees carries out a policy like this with all its anti-social implications?

Photo of Mr Raymond Gunter Mr Raymond Gunter , Southwark

I can only say that it is a pity that such things should arise and that we would hope to alter much of them in the term of this Government.

Photo of Mr Robert Edwards Mr Robert Edwards , Bilston

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that it cannot possibly be in the national interest to close a factory of this nature and disperse its highly skilled labour? Could he refer the matter to his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to see whether the Government might be able to take over the factory and use it for constructive production?

Photo of Mr Raymond Gunter Mr Raymond Gunter , Southwark

I will take note of what my hon. Friend says in the last part of his supplementary question. In reply to the first part, my information is that the whole of the labour force is not highly skilled and that a large measure of it is semi-skilled.