C.O.'S IN THE POST OFFICE

From The Tribunal January 17th 1918

This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 19q8
For other extracts go to: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

The following article is taken from the “Postal and Telegraph Record” for January 3rd, 1918, and deals with the recent action taken by the Government with respect to conscientious objectors in the postal service. We have received private information that in the one case (that of a married man) the effect has been to reduce his pay from 60’s to 30’s:-

COERCION FOR GOVERNMENT C.O.‘s

“The Government has just adopted a most amazing weapon with which to coerce conscientious objectors who are in the service of the State. In order to bring pressure to forego their claims to exemption, C.O.‘s who have been permitted by military tribunals to remain in Post Office employment as satisfying the authorities that they are engaged in work of national importance, are to have their wages substantially reduced. One of our members whose claims to the relief granted by Act of Parliament has been recognised by a tribunal, has received the following notification:-

“‘I have to inform you that, in accordance with a decision of the Government, P>O> servants who have been granted by the Tribunal exemption from military service on the ground of conscientious objection, conditionally upon their engaging in work of national importance, and have been allowed to remain on their P.O. duties as fulfilling this condition, can only receive after 31st inst. either the actual rate of remuneration drawn by them at the date of exemption (without further increment) or the rate at which would be paid to a temporary substitute performing the duty, whichever is less; and their service under these conditions will not count for pension or increments.
“‘You may if you prefer it, apply to the Tribunal for leave to undertake some alternative work outside the P>O> as a condition of exemption.’ 29/12/17.

“This action of the Government must be challenged at once, and all the power our Association can command must be exerted to get the persecuting decision of the Government revoked immediately. We cannot think that the authorities are foolish enough to imagine that a coercive measure such as this is likely to lead to the increase of the Army by a single individual. The only possible effect the new order can have is the infliction of punishment. The wives and families of conscientious objectors are the people who will suffer. We have here the spectacle of a Government which has gone to the length of legislating for the protection of conscience now turning round, and in a most spiteful and vindictive spirit saying to men whose only offence is that they will not degrade their conscience: “It is true that we recognise your conscience, but we are not prepared to stand by and allow you to take advantage of what you are legally entitled to. We propose, therefore, to make it difficult for you to live, and in order to induce you to reconsider your attitude towards your conscience we will reduce your wages.’ If the workers will permit the Government to do this, the next step will be to apply the coercion to industry in general – a position we feel certain the Labout movement would not tolerate for a moment. The action of the authorities is not only mean and spiteful, but it constitutes a grave violation of trade union rights. It enables the Government as an employer to sweat its servants, and is therefore as immoral as it is mean. It places the victim in the position of having to choose between his conscience or cutting the rates of pay of his colleagues.

“We want to mate it quite clear that we are not at the moment concerned with the question as to whether the conscientious objectors are right or wrong in the attitude that they take to up towards military service. The business, however. affects every member of the Association and every worker. It is a trade union matter, in addition to fact that the Government order will inflict a grave injustice on individuals. We trust that our branches will lose no opportunity of bringing the matter to the notice of other trade unions. The good offices of members of Parliament should also be invoked to secure the withdrawal of an order that not only violates all canons of decency, but is an illegal infringement of statutory conditions and obligations. We do not believe the House of Commons has either been consulted or made acquainted with this objectionable proposal.”

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