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What the Essential Work By Order Means to You "Tantalus"

16th October 1942
Page 43
Page 43, 16th October 1942 — What the Essential Work By Order Means to You "Tantalus"
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

In Those Establishments Which Are Scheduled the Relationship of Employers and Workpeople is Largely Governed by the National Seivice Officers

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ALTHOUGH the Essential Work (General Provisions) Order, 1941, has been operative for some time and is, in fact, dated March 5, 1941, considerable misunderstanding still exists regarding its provisions and functions. It is hoped, therefore, that this article 'may serve to assist those who may be in doubt as to the purpose of the Order, which,. in truth, is the principle upon which several other Orders are based. The object of all of them is to prevent loss of production engendered by unnecessary turnover of labour, absenteeism and undisciplirte. There is no doubt that these Orders are regarded as important items of legislation, directed to assisting the.war effort. Indeed, without such measures of control, labour supply would have been in a state of

confusion. , There are two main qualifications for scheduling which are clearly stated in the Order and regarding which there is no ambiguity. They are as follow:— (a) An undertaking must be engaged in essential work.

(b) That it is expedient for securing the defence •• of the realm or the efficient prosecution of the war or for maintaining supplies or services essential to the life of the community. '

Such concerns are recommended for scheduling by tbe Government Departments concerned, and the Ministry of Labour—which authorizes the scheduling—has to be satisfied thaf the terms and conditions of employment) of workers are not less favourable than those determined by the collective agreements of the industries concerned. Also, there must be satisfactory provision for the welfare of the workers, both inside and outside the factory.

When the N.S.O. Must Be Consulted Scheduling imposes conditions upon the employer and the worker. The employer is called upon to pay a guaranteed wage. It is incumbent upon the employer and worker alike to give the other one week's notice—or such notice as has been customary in the industry—of intention to terminate employment. The employer, however, cannot discharge a worker except for serious. misconduct; neither can a worker leave hilt. employment without the permission of the National Service Officer. The Order imposes no hardships whatsoever on those workers who endeavour to render willing and satisfaotory service. --On the other hand, the provisions, as laid down by the Order, have, from time to time, been successfully invoked in cases of flagrant and persistent absenteeism. It should be remarked that the worker has the right of appeal against discharge. If such appeal be allowed, he must be reinstated and paid the wages lost between the dates of dismissal and reinstatement.

Persons who, by reason of war conditions, are employed for not more than SO hours per week are excluded from the Order.

Reverting to the matter of conditions for scheduling, notwithstanding .the foregoing provisions of the Order, the Minister may in any case issue a provisional certificate. Any such certificate shall not remain in force for a period longer than three months from the date thereof; or for such further periods, not exceeding three months at any one time, as the Minister may direct.. Any certifi

cate or provisional certificate may be cancelled by the Minister at any time. In this connection it should be noted that if any undertaking—by reason of a breach or failing to comply with the conditions imposed by the Order—be de-scheduled, it is extremely difficult to obtain reinstatement. It may be that a word regarding the functions of the National Service Officer will prove helpful. One of the chief duties of this officer is to receive and determine applications from employers for permission to dismiss workers, and from workers who desire to leave their • employment. Before reaching a decision he has to consider whether the proposed change would assist or. impede the war effort. He is at the service of both parties and his decision must be made without bias in favour either of employer or. employee. In the event. of a worker being granted permission to leave his employment, he is not free to take up alternative employment where he may choose. It is the responsibility of the National Service Officer to direct the individual where his service can be used to the best advantage.

Works Committees Encouraged The National Service Officer does not legally interpret The Order; that is a matter for the Courts. Nor does he settle disputes regarding wages and conditions of employment; that is for the normal negotiating machinery. He does come into the picture, however, where absenteeism is involved. Where there are works committees representing employers and workers, the National Service Officer may be requested to institute legal proceedings in cases of absenteeism. In such instances he must be satisfied that the said committees are properly constituted. It should be noted, however, that the setting up of such committees, whilst not compulsory, is, nevertheless, encouraged.

It is part of the duty of the National Service Officer to advise and guide employers and employees in all matters concerning the Essential Work Order.

The position is as follows:—

(a) If the person carrying on an undertaking, or any person by or in respect of ..whom an application to a National Service Officer has been made, is aggrieved by reason of the fact that the National Service Officer has given or refused the permission asked for; or (b) if a person has been dismissed from his employment on the ground that he has been guilty of serious misconduct, he may, within 14 days of the giving or refusal of such permission or dismissal, request the National Service Officer to submit the matter to the Local Appeal Board. The Officer will then submit the matter to the Board, which will, make such recommendation as is considered fit. Then, after considering this recommendation, the National Service Officer may cancel any permission already given or direct any person who has left his employment to return to it, • or direct the reinstatement of any person who has been dismissed.

In conclusion, emphasis must be laid on the fact that the Essential Work Order must not be confused with "Protected Establishments."


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