Proposal to keep immigrants out of supervisory jobs PREFERENCE FOR THE WHITE WORKERS
I N spite of official denials, Catholics—both priests and laity—in
close touch with trade union activities are afraid that a serious colour bar problem is emerging among people in this country who constantly condemn discrimination when the bar is put up in other parts of the world.
A hundred trade union officials were due to meet yesterday to consider the proposal of Mr. Jim Leask, organiser for the 60,00D Midland engineering members of the Transport and General Workers Union, to ban promotion for coloured workers.
The background to the problem is the rapid increase in the immi
gration rate of coloured workers from the Colonies. They are now coming into Britain at the rate of between 11,000 and 12,000 a year, the majority at present from the West Indies.
Six hundred Jamaicans were due to arrive yesterday and today.
Most of them will live and work in London.
It is generally recognised that their arrival creates urgent housing, employment and social problems.
Mr. Leask was optimistic that yesterday's meeting would accept his proposal and that it would be sent to the T.U.C.
The full proposals submitted to the gathering are:
1. That coloured workers should not get supervisory john.
2. That they should not get jobs at all if white people are available.
3. That there should always he employer-union talks before coloured workers are employed.
4. That if there is any slackening off in employment the first people to be discharged should be the coloured workers.
Denial of opportunities will only cause trouble'
MR. R. P. WALSH, editor of "The Catholic Worker" and secretary of the Federation of Catholic Trade Unionists, writes to "The Catholic Herald": Mr. Leask maintains that there is no colour bar in his proposals and that he is advocating the full consideration of a difficult problem now before it gets too vast and before there is a recession or slump.
If coloured workers are kept on and white workers discharged in a slump, then racial feelings will become bitter.
Threats to strike
Recently there was a short strike at a London bus garage because coloured workers were introduced without consultation with the Union. As was made clear afterwards by the bus men and the coloured workers involved. the issue was not an objection to colour but a fear of the future unless the position was neatly tied up by union-employer agreement.
There have been many instances of unofficial strikes or threats to strike when coloured people have been taken on for particular jobs.
The one that probably had the most publicity was the attitude of the Birmingham Corporation transport workers who at first said no. This was all the more strange in that at the same time coloured staff were on the buses of the Midland Red working from the Birmingham garages of that company.
There are many fears that need to be appreciated if the attitude of the workers is to be understood. There is first of all the natural suspicion of the Englishman of someone who is different.
Secondly, and this is far more real a fear than is generally realised, there is the fear of unemployment.
Too many workers who suffered in the depression between the wars are able to transfer their innate fears to younger men. It is a common enough topic of conversation to dis cuss what will happen when unemployment figures rise.
First to suffer
It is here that the traditional attitude of last in first out becomes so important a principle for the workers. It is this that has made the ship repairers' strike on the Thames last so long.
In all the industries where coloured workers are being taken on there is a desire to have a tight agreement with the employers regulating this position.
It was. applied often enough to women during and after the war. They were allowed in but only on the understanding that if there was redundancy the women were discharged first.
Now the demand is. in mane quarters, that if workers have to he laid off, the coloured men should be the first to suffer.
The justification runs along such lines as "This is my country and I COnthined on page 8 Continued from page I can go nowhere else, while he is from abroad and can always go back home."
But understanding how this view comes about does not settle the morality of it. To allow any form of colour bar in this country cannot be justified in any way.
Workers who erect barriers to protect what they imagine to be their interests are behaving just like the South Africans so often denouteed in trade union branch resolutions.
Further it is probably true to say that there is bound to be a considerable immigration into this country and the present 75,000 coloured workers in Britain will soon rise to the 1,000,000 mark. To deny these men and women normal opportunities in industry will only cause trouble and an intensification of racial bitterness.
The Mr. Leasks of trade unionism are the modern Canutes. They had better turn their attention to helping the absorption of the coloured workers and to ensure that there is mutual understanding,
'Frank discussions will help both sides' THERE is no valid reason why 1 White people should object to working under a Coloured man whose employers consider him fitted to hold a supervisory post.
Any objection can only be based on sheer prejudice.
This is the view of Fr. Michael Walsh, Superior of the English province of the Society of African Missions, who recently opened the 30-roomed house in Moss Side, Manchester—in the heart of the city's "Little Harlem"—as a centre .for Coloured folk.
And with his three priest helpers, Fr. Walsh is going flat out to solve the multitude of problems presented by his Coloured "parishioners"— problems of jobs. of accommodation, arid of settling down in Britain.
"Prejudice is largely based on fear and ignorance, and there is a feeling that it is 'not right' for White people no be supervised by a Coloured man," said Fr. Walsh.
But because of the difficulties of Coloured people find in getting into trade unions in skilled jobs, Fr. Walsh believes that the "Coloured boss" problem is not going to arise too often.
"I only wish itwould." he said. "The majority of jobs open to Coloured people are menial, blind-alley jobs, with no chance of promotion.
"Even well-educated Coloured men who were efficient clerks on the West Coast of Africa find only the lowest labouring jobs are open to them here."
But Fr. Walsh is not bitter about it. He understands that the trade union are worrying about what might happen if a slump came to Britain. And he welcomes the spotlights now being thrown on the Colour problem. He feels that frank discussions on the question will help both sides.
Fr. Walsh does not believe that the Colour problem is growing.
"But it is being unearthed," he maid. "It is coming to a head due to the large post-war influx of Coloured people. I think it is a good thing that this problem is going to be thrashed ow,
"These people are British subjects. They have a right to be treated as full subjects."
Evidence by West Indian journalist here
IVIR. EDWARD SCOBIE, London correspondent of the "Chicago Defender" a paper for coloured people—told THE CATHOLIC HERALD: "Employers are usually very good about taking on West Indians and are willing to promote any coloured worker who shows himself to be keen. Any trouble is more likely to come on a lower level—from foremen, for example,
"Yet on the whole the workers don't seem to mind having West Indians working with them and even having a West Indian put over them, so long as he's good at the job and a 'regular' sort of chap.
"Coloured people here are no better and no worse than anyone else. The Colonial Office says that less than t per cent. of colonial immigrants get into trouble.
"A majority of those who do get into trouble are unmarried; 'unattached,' and thus more easily led astray.
"The coloured men running coloured clubs usually mean well hut it is hard to keep out the wrong type of English woman. It is rare for West Indians to 'make passes' at women, as is sometimes alleged.
"People are usually very nice to us in shops. Incidents painful to us do occur in dance halls, for example. where white girls sometimes refuse to dance with a perfectly decent West Indian. This is by no means the universal rule, but it does happen quite often and it sets the man back terribly in his own mind.
"English people don't like taking coloured people into their houses. Often enough the landlady is friendly enough, but she may be afraid of the reactions of her other guests.
"The trouble ties among the English working classes rather than among educated people. Yet some West Indians are happy members of working men's clubs. It varies a good deal from place to place."
Reds are 'cashing in' D'GLAS HYDE writes: Among the coloured people from the West Indies and West Africa who have recently come to London. Birmingham and other big cities. there are many who were Catholics when they left home.
Very few of them have as yet been absorbed into our Catholic life. I have heard of many who have dropped the practice of the Faith.
They are too shy, in most cases, to seek us out and little has been done by Catholic organisations to contact them and make them feel that they are of our household. The result is yet another cause of "leakage" from the Church where we might be making converts.
The Communists have been quick to "cash in" on the present situation. They are going out of their way to make the coloured people welcome at their ,gatherings, have created special organisations for them and their own publication. The results arc already being felt not only here but in the West Indies too. But why leave them to the Communists?
There would here seem to be yet another job for, perhaps. the Legion of Mary, who have done such worth while work in contacting the overseas students, What is certain is that Catholicism and colour prejudice do not go together—they are almost a contradiction in terms.
Union against a bar
1%/1R. JACK JONES, a district Lvisecretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, stated on Tuesday that his union does not support a colour bar.
Coloured people. said Mr. Jones, are useful workers and loyal union members.
The plan to ban the promotion of coloured workers would only create ill-feeling.
View of C.S.G. secretary 'UR. PAUL CRANE, S.J.„ secretary of the Catholic Social Guild, had some forthright remarks to make to THE CATHOLIC HPRALD.
"This country must encourage immigration generally," said Fr, Crane. "The • age content here is shifting to old age.
"There will be something like 8,000,000 old age pensioners in the mid-1970s who will have to be supported.
"Immigration is vitally necessary. Wholesale emigration is short-sighted and fatuous when we are going to find ourselves with more and more mouths to feed—mouths. so to speak, without hands.
"Why this sudden anxiety about the flow of immigrants from the West Indies. We have been encouraging thousands of Irish labourers as immigrants for years.
"There are those who will give you all sorts of speciou s, allegedly economic reasons for stopping the flow. But these reasons have no foundation in fact.
"The real reason is unChristian racial prejudice—sheer colour bar. We've seen the same sort of bias against the Italian workers in the mining fields here and the displaced peoples who have conic to work in this country.
"It is not only among educated people that this race and colour prejudice is found. You find it just as much among ordinary working people, if not more so.
"I have the impression. ineidentally, that there is a tendency to keep coloured people out of skilled and clerical jobs. to restrict them to unskilled labouring.
"If we give the impression that there is anything like a serious colour bar here, the repercussions in the colonies will he appalling. We shall be branded as hypocrites after all that has been said in this country about the brotherhood of man.
"We ought to get rid of the tendency for immigrants to concentrate in local 'Harlems,"Negro quarters' and so forth.
"Personal contacts between them and ourselves are essential so that they can be absorbed into the ordinary life of the country, not isolated in 'ghettos.'
"I am afraid the colour prejudice is growing here. Some of it is ignorant racial antipathy, some of it arises from a fear of economic undercutting.
"If coloured workers arc excluded from the trade unions. then the unionists will be sheer hypocrites. and they can shut up talking about our duty to backward peoples. "There are two points 1 would especial!) make: "Don't patronise Immigrants. Coloured people In particular are very sensitive to it.
Help them to make plenty of personal contacts particularly through mixed groups.
"The point is, are they or are they not members with us of the Mystical Body? Of course they are, and the Mystical Body belongs to no racial or colour group.
"Immigrant workers need an organisation to help them with their appalling housing problems, an organisation to defend their rights.
"They need an information bureau. an overseas immigrants' advice bureau, something like the organisation which Mgr. Coonan is running for overseas students in London.
"Put them in contact with knowledgeable Catholics and particularly with Catholic social workers."
Exploited by own people
rILERGY in various parts of the N.---country all told 'Din CenenLic Reams, that they all get on very well with immigrant coloured parishioners. They say they are good people. They deny that coloured people are more criminal than anyone else, They are mostly hardworking people trying to better themselves.
A London priest, speaking of the immigrants' housing conditions—one of the main problems dealt with in the recent Commons debate — said that the immigrants are less exploited by White people than by their own people who have bought up poor properties and exploit their fellowcountrymen appallingly.