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Locomotive Drivers And Firemen (Strike)

Volume 527: debated on Wednesday 19 May 1954

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asked the Minister of Labour and National Service whether he has any statement to make about the strike of footplate men on the railways.

Yes, Sir. The strike of locomotive drivers and fire- men is in protest against the introduction of additional lodging turns. It is Wholly unofficial and is confined, so far, to Paddington, Bristol and Newton Abbot in the Western Region of British Railways. According to my latest information at these places, 906 men have failed to report for duty today out of a total of 1,008. This has of course resulted in substantial interference with passenger and freight traffic.

The lodging turns now in dispute had already been agreed between the British Transport Commission and the trade unions concerned through the established machinery. The unions have urged their members to honour their obligations.

I much regret the inconvenience which has been caused to the public, and I earnestly hope that the men taking part in this unofficial stoppage will, on reflection realise the importance of loyally carrying out agreements entered into by their union.

Whilst recognising the difficulty of the Minister in intervening in this type of dispute, may I assure him that all of us who have had experience of trade union negotiation will support his plea that the men shall return to proper trade union rules?

In supplementation of what has been said by the two right hon. Gentlemen, may I join in expressing the hope that the men will respond to the appeal of their organisation by a return to work? I want to direct attention to what I regard as a complete distortion of fact by certain organs of the Press in a very delicate situation, and I plead that they may cease. Having regard to the policy pursued by the trade unions in respect of the matter, may I say that only a minimum of sacrifice is called for by any man as a result of the arrangements which have been arrived at between the respective trade unions and the Transport Commission?

I wish to say how grateful I am to the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) and the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Monslow) for what they have said. The latter hon. Member has had long experience in carrying out the sort of duties which are here in dispute and has had a long and honourable experience in the trade union principally concerned. ft is a great comfort to me to know that I have the support of the right hon. Member and the hon. Member in urging these men to go back and follow the advice of their trade union.

Could my right hon. and learned Friend publish the details of the matter in dispute? What are the lodging turns?

I think it is sufficient for me to say that lodging turns have been a problem with us over the years, well understood by the union, by the men, and the British Transport Commission.