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Engineers (Pay)

Volume 774: debated on Monday 25 November 1968

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity whether she will now make a further statement on the threatened national engineering strike.

Executive representatives of unions affiliated to the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions are meeting this afternoon to give further consideration to their attitude in the light of the offer made by the employers on 18th October.

Is it not a fact that the right hon. Lady has given her blessing to this proposed settlement? If so, will she explain to the House whether she regards it as a model settlement and, if so, why she will not grant, on less favourable terms, the application of the banks' employees and operatives? Why is she straining at a gnat and swallowing an elephant?

The hon. Member should know that until the Confederation executive has decided its attitude this afternoon there is no final proposal in front of me. But it is a fact that I personally hope that the Confederation will accept this offer, as the A.E.F. National Committee did last Friday. I hope that it will accept it, because it is within the ceiling and is accompanied by productivity concessions which make it acceptable.

Is it not true that my right hon. Friend's efforts have met with a large measure of success for which she deserves our thanks? Does she realise that the trouble with hon. Members opposite is that they are very disappointed by that fact?

I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend that hon. Members opposite are undoubtedly bitterly disappointed that once again we have avoided a strike.

Will the right hon. Lady answer the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question: is this settlement in line with the incomes policy and, if so, can it be taken as a model by other industries?

As the right hon. Member knows, this is a settlement covering 31 years. If an agreement is reached on the lines of the employers latest offer, it would be at the rate of 11½ per cent. over 3½ years and would be accompanied by very tough productivity conditions. The problem in the case of the banks was that the settlement for men was twice the ceiling and that for women three times the ceiling, without it being possible exactly to cost the productivity return. That is why reference is to be made to the Board.

On a point of order. Will the right hon. Lady tell the House whether a reference has been made to the Board—