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Trinidad Cement Ltd (Strike)

Volume 640: debated on Thursday 11 May 1961

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware that since 14th January, 1961, there has been a strike at Trinidad Cement Limited, in which the Colonial Development Corporation is a large shareholder, and that this strike is prejudicing the economy of the island; if he will state the causes of this strike; and if he will set up negotiating machinery to resolve the differences.

I have been kept informed about this strike. It began as a result of the Company's refusal to recognise the trade union which claimed to have the support of the majority of the employees. The Governor has recently informed me that negotiations under the chairmanship of the Minister of Labour have resulted in an agreement between the parties which was signed on 9th May providing for the ending of the strike and the establishment of trade union bargaining machinery. The interests of the Colonial Development Corporation are confined to non-voting preference shares which do not entitle the Corporation to intervene in the management of the company.

Is not it a fact that the strike is still continuing and that the grave economic situation in Trinidad calls for the setting up of an authoritative and independent inquiry, with an outside chairman, to investigate relations between capital and labour in the island?

As a result of that agreement, my understanding is that the strike ended the day before yesterday. But, in view of what the hon. and learned Gentleman says, I should like to check that. If this strike is over and if bargaining machinery has been established, it is a very satisfactory outcome on both counts of the investigation.

Is the Minister aware that there is great interest among trade unionists in this House on this subject and that we have done our best to help in ways that were open to us? If it turns out that the strike did not end, would the Minister consider what other action might be taken?

Yes, Sir. But I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will understand that Trinidad is virtually at the stage of full internal self-government and that this is something about which we could move only with the agreement of the Government.