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Industrial Workers (Breaks)

Volume 437: debated on Wednesday 14 May 1947

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asked the Secretary of State for Air how the decision to cut the tea break for civilian employees at maintenance units from 15 to 10 minutes was arrived at; whether the workers were consulted; whether they were invited to put forward further suggestions for increasing the speed and efficiency of their work; and what improvements are to be carried out.

Before the war, there were no breaks for tea at R.A.F. maintenance units. During the war, when long hours were being worked, informal breaks were, in practice, allowed, although no official recognition was ever given. On 3rd April last, an Air Ministry order provided that there should be two ten-minute breaks, one in the morning, and the other in the afternoon. This applied in Air Ministry establishments an arrangement which had previously been made for Ministry of Supply establishments by the Ministry of Supply Joint Industrial Council. All Air Ministry industrial workers are invited to make suggestions for improving the efficiency of their work, through their local Whitley Works Committees or Production Committees, in which both the staff side and the trade unions play a part.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Members on this side of the House receive a large number of complaints about the waste of manpower in maintenance units? These complaints come from workers employed in those units who are supporters of the present Government. Would not this have provided an opportunity for fuller consultation with the workers to elicit further suggestions with regard to economy in manpower?

I am strongly in favour of consultation with the workers, but, as I say, either through the production committees or the Whitley Works Committees, the workers can at any time make any suggestion, and I hope that my hon. Friend's Question and my answer might have the effect of stimulating them to do so.

Is it not a tact that in many cases, in addition to the 10 minutes spent on the tea break, additional time is occupied by men going to and from the canteen for their tea?

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the redundancy there is in many of these maintenance units?

I think the R.A.F. has done pretty well on redundancy, and my hon. Friend may be aware of our manpower economy committee, which is at present making a most exhaustive study of the whole subject.