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Service Personnel (Reinstatement In Industry)

Volume 393: debated on Thursday 4 November 1943

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asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that Messrs. Alexander Duckham and Company have informed a sergeant, now serving in the Forces in India, that owing to their reorganisation and staffing requirements no, guarantee of re-engagement to any pre-war member on their staff is possible, apart from any legal obligation; and, in view of the fact that this soldier served the firm for eight years prior to joining His Majesty's Forces and that such action is liable to destroy the morale of the men in His Majesty's Forces, will he take the appropriate steps with this firm?

Yes, Sir. I have seen this letter and have been in communication with the firm about it. They inform me that, in their opinion, the letter cannot be interpreted as indicating that past employees now in His Majesty's Forces are not likely to be re-employed by them postwar but that they consider it would be no kindness to a soldier to let him feel that his re-employment post-war is a certainty. The firm have not committed any legal offence, and I am willing to believe that they meant no harm, but I must express my astonishment at their stupidity in not realising the effect which such a letter must have on its recipient and my condemnation of their apparent disregard of any considerations other than those directly affecting their own interests.

Does this case not reveal a very anomalous position, inasmuch as some employers are compelled by an Order to reinstate their employees whereas others have no such obligation, and will the Minister attend to that point?

It has already been announced in this House that proposed legislation will be forthcoming dealing with this and other matters. Whether this particular case can be brought within the law I cannot say, but I hope that the answer I have given to-day will have the effect on the mind of employers that they should not send such letters to men who are actually in the fighting line.

Will Messrs. Duckham be invited to withdraw the circular and substitute it with another one?

I have already communicated with them, and they have shown no desire to change. I hope that this answer may lead to their conversion.

Is it a fact that this firm is on Government contracts and therefore under an obligation to reinstate?