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Construction Company, Tanganyika (Staff)

Volume 486: debated on Wednesday 18 April 1951

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies on what dates the redundancy terms were fully discussed with representatives of the staff of the Earthmoving and Construction Company, Ltd., in Tanganyika; and on what date his Department was assured that the terms were generally acceptable.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what redundancy terms were offered to employees of the Earthmoving Construction Company, Ltd., in Tanganyika who are serving on a 12-month contract and to those serving on a three-year contract, respectively; and to what extent these terms differed from those offered to the Overseas Food Corporation.

The question of redundancy terms does not arise in the case of the staff of Earthmoving and Construction, Ltd. All except 17 of that staff are, or were, on short-term contracts, and their employment has been, or will be, dealt with in accordance with the provisions of those contracts. The 17 who are on three-year contracts have been offered the alternative of completing their contracts or of terminating them and receiving the cash equivalent of one third of the unexpired portion. This option remains open.

I regret that my statement on 5th March on the terms of compensation for European staff in East Africa was inaccurate. For the reasons given, redundancy terms have not been discussed with staff representatives of Earthmoving and Construction, Ltd.

Will the Minister make certain that when he makes a future statement on a subject of importance of this sort to employees of a corporation the statement will be accurate?

I cannot do more than say to the House that the statement was inaccurate. I hope that that information is sufficient.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that this is a matter of the very greatest importance? In the debate on 5th March he said that a satisfactory agreement had been reached with the employees, but in fact no talks started until 16th March, when the chairman of the corporation went to East Africa. All the three-year-contract men have repudiated the agreement—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] This is a matter of great importance to a number of people. Did not the right hon. Gentleman get out of a difficult Parliamentary situation by saying something which was wholly untrue?

The hon. Gentleman is making rather heavy weather about this. I have admitted perfectly openly that the statement was inaccurate and I cannot do more than that. The number of people referred to is 17. They are on a three-year contract, as I have stated. They were offered alternatives, to accept either the one or the other. There was consultation, because they were offered either one alternative or the other.

The right hon. Gentleman has not yet realised what the Question is about. It is not a question of consultation only with the three-year men. There was no consultation with anybody. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] Is it not a fact—

Is it not a fact that there was no consultation with anybody, three-year men or otherwise? The chairman of the corporation did not get to East Africa until 11 days after the right hon. Gentleman said that consultation had taken place.

May I make this point? I have said, and I repeat, that all except 17 of that staff are or were on short-term contracts, that their employment will be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of those contracts and that that is the method employed by private enterprise. It is, in fact, the method which has been employed by this particular company, whose servants are not Government servants.