THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Settlement hope in Ulster strike, negotiations to be held

From the Belfast News Letter, September 19, 1949
Ballylumford power station pictured in January 2018. Picture: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker PressBallylumford power station pictured in January 2018. Picture: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
Ballylumford power station pictured in January 2018. Picture: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

It was reported that on this day in 1949 that efforts to settle the dispute in the Ulster electricity supply industry would be renewed later in the day when the Joint Industrial Council resumes negotiations.

After a five hour meeting on Saturday, October 17, in which both the Minister of Labour, Mr W V McCleery, and the Minister of Commerce, Mr W B Maginess, saw the members of the council “separately and jointly”, and it has been announced that arrangements had been made to continue the talks.

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Meanwhile, according to official statement, trades union representatives would take (he necessary steps advise their members to resume work forthwith.

Mr McCleery, in an official statement issued the previous night, said: “The prolonged discussions on Saturday were carried out such an atmosphere of goodwill as to give me great hopes for the future. The discussions of the Joint Council will, I am sure, be renewed with earnest effort by all concerned overcome the difficulties that have arisen.

“On behalf of the government I wish to add my appeal to that of the responsible trade union leaders to the men who have come out strike to return work immediately.”

Shop stewards affiliated to the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions on Saturday called for extension of the strike to the shipbuilding, aircraft and engineering industries, and lunch time meetings have been arranged for later that day.

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But with the possibility of a settlement the dispute it was not expected that other industries would become involved.

Londonderry shirt manufacturers had been informed that normal supplies of power to their factories were expected to be resumed that day, and workers had been asked to report as usual.

Electricity supply workers Coleraine were expected to hold meeting later that night.

At the previous day’s session of the Labour Party conference in Bangor an emergency resolution sponsored by the ETU and Carrick Labour Party was withdrawn. It had expressed regret at the decision of the British Government to supply Forces “to prevent workers from obtaining wage rates off par with British workers” and had asked for the immediate withdrawal of the Forces.

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The resolution was withdrawn after Mr Robert Thompson (Municipal Workers) said it was the interests of the party to “keep cool” and he appealed to the sponsors not to press the matter.

When the Mayor Bangor (Councillor W H McMillan, MA) extended civic welcome to conference on the Saturday, he told the delegates that he was not a judge of the electricity dispute.

“All know,” he said, “is that when two sides come together, and agree to bound by the decision of a third party, it is unfortunate that one of those sides should not see fit to stick to the bargain.”

He added that there seemed to be something wrong. He asked the unions not to impair the economic future of the province.

He said: “Such state of affairs, if continued, would lead to anarchy, and I hope that the unions will be able to get things fixed up soon.”

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