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Sierra Leone (Essential Work Order)

Volume 380: debated on Wednesday 3 June 1942

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that workers in Sierra Leone under the Defence (Essential Work General Provisions) Order, may be dismissed without right of appeal to a tribunal, and also that penal sanctions are being imposed under which the liberties of workers are being jeopardised; and will he call for the withdrawal of this sanction?

The recent amendment to the Sierra Leone Essential Work Order has abolished the right of both employers and employed to appeal to a local Appeal Board if they are dissatisfied with the decisions of the War Services Officer. The amendment also abolished the right of an employer to dismiss an employee for serious misconduct without the permission of the War Services Officer. The Order as now amended provides that on conviction by a court for any of a number of specified offences, the offender, if sentenced to a fine or to imprisonment, can be dismissed by the employer. My Noble Friend regrets the circumstances which have necessitated the introduction of these regulations, but he is satisfied that this step is necessary to ensure that work essential to the successful prosecution of the war is carried out.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in Sierra Leone the workers, as a consequence of the failure under the Essential Work Order to mitigate their conditions, are in the position of virtual slaves and are being compelled to remain at work or are being dismissed without any remedy?

No, Sir. The situation is not at all dissimilar to the Essential Work Order operating in this country.

Does this imply forced labour in private employment for private profit?

The situation is very similar to that obtaining under the Essential Work Order in this country.

Is there anything in the Regulations that allows for the prosecution or imprisonment of the employers?