The Latest Call-up as It Affects Labour
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The Needs of the Fighting 'Services Must Be Met Without Unduly Affecting, Now or Later, the War Production Capacity of Our Factories
OF the many problems connected with the war none has been more difficult to deal with than that of manpower. To supply the demands of the Fighting Services, whilst, at the same time, meeting production needs, has proved almost a Herculean task. It is natural, when so large a percentage of both the male and female population is affected, that there should be criticism and even complaints. Having regard, however, to the immensity of the scheme and the breadth of its ramifications, it has, generally speaking, worked with creditable smoothness and success. There must necessarily be misfits—just as there are in the Services—but, comparatively, such cases represent but a small proportion of the whole.
The most prevalent complaints relate to cases where workers engaged in essential occupations are withdrawn from such occupations and directed to employment of a similar nature either in the same district or farther afield. The reason for these decisions is not understood and arguments arise as to why such disturbance is necessary, sinoe it is asserted frequently that the persons concerned could not be engaged on more important work wherever situated.
In this connection, first it should be remembered that the Ministry of Labour and National Service must, of necessity, have regard to the position as a whole, whereas employers are concerned merely with their own particular difficulties and not even those of their contemporaries. When decisions are reached involving the transfer of one or more employees from one factory to another, the reason is that the needs of the one establishment are greater than those of the other and cannot be supplied locally. For example, skilletl turners, fitters, tool-setters, etc., may be trangferred to take up work as charge hands or foremen in instances where their skill can be used to better purpose in the training or supervising of trainee labour. Then again, in some circumstances, it is found necessary to withdraw labour from certain districts—where this can be done without production being affected—in order to meet the demands in other areas where there is a definite shortage of particular types of skilled labour. It must be emphasized that the policy of the Ministry—first and foremost—is to ensure that labour is used to the very best advantage in the places where, it is most needed. Having regard to the manifold difficulties obtaining, this policy has—on the whole--proved both satisfactory and successful.
Fears that Production Will Suffer
Considerable alarm and apprehension have arisen from the recent announcement made by 'the Ministry concerning the call-up of men below the age of .30 or 25 (according to occupations) on their prescribed registration day, who are engaged in occupations for which there was no age of reservation at December 31, 1941, or in other specified occupations. Fears have been expressed that production must suffer in consequence. Whether this will or will not be so remains to be seen. It is inconceivable that any such decision has been 'reached without previous discussion and agreement with the Government Departments concelled. If this be so, the deduction is that the Government, quite rightly, is determined that both manand woman-power shall be used to the utmost in an effort to meet present and future national needs. With regard to the new call-up, it should be noted that "men below the age of 30 " refers to those men born on or. after June 23, 1910, and in the case of the " under 25s " to those born on or after March '10, 1915. As to the occupations, reference should be made to the Schedule of Reserved Occupations (revision December, 1941) which introduced then, for the first time, the principle of dual ages.
It will be recalled that the lower age applies to men in establishments admitted to the Register of Protected Establishments. Those concerns ,which took the stes necessary to obtain registration now find that they arAn a more favourable position than those which failed to adopt this measure. There are on record numerous instances of applications for registration made by employers who, hoivever, failed to complete and return the appropriate form. This omission—too late to be repaired—they doubtless now regret. All applications for deferment are seriously affected by recent developments. Employers, therefore, who are in any doubt as to the position for deferment of members of their staffs—in relation to occupationsspecified or otherwise—should consult the National Service Officer without delay. When so doing the industry group letter (to be found on the top left-hand corner of the card, N.S.2) should be quoted. This particular card . is that which is handed to every man at the time of his registration under the Military Service Act.
The Position of Substitute Labour A most important point and one which must not be overlooked, is that relating to substitution in cases where a man is to be withdraWn. Whilst the Ministry has stated that a substitute will be provided, no assurance has been given that such substitute shall possess skill equal to that of the individual withdrawn. Employers, therefore, may have to take steps to effect still further internal reorganization, even to the extent of accepting two untrained or semi-skilled workers as substitutes, as also part-time workers. '
As the new Order is of but recent date there has not yet been time to assess its full effects. If, however, serious difficulties ensue, it may .be assumed that modifications will be introduced accordingly. Surveying the position as a whole, the following facts predominate:— (1) The demands of H.M. Forces are paramount.
(2) It is essential to eliminate in every way possible all forms of wastage of labour and machinery..
In his recent broadcast, the Prime Minister, in no uncer. tam n terms, made clear what the country must expect in 1943. To meet all contingencies which may arise the Minister of Labour has to prepare plans well in advance.
Whilst the road haulage industry may not be affected to the same extent as some others, it will doubtless have to share the difficulties created by the new demands.
Employers would be well advised to ascertain without delay the position obtaining regarding their employees, whether they .be drivers, ancillary workers, maintenance staffs or labour employed in the depots. By so doing they can succeed in reducing to a minimum dislocation and kindred difficulties. In the words of the slogan, ' " You have been warned! "