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Family Notices







FEDERATION AGAINST FEDERATION. WHEN the Trade Unions first discussed the possibility of a grand Federation of all the trades, it was foreseen that the movement must inevitably lead to a grand Federation of all the employees. Both events now seem to have taken shape and form, and though it would be easy to exaggerate their importance, it is clear that these new deve- lopments must add to the danger and probable extent of industrial conflicts. The proposals for bringing about a Federation of Trades Unions have now been formula- ted, and these will be considered at a con- ference on the subject, which is to be held at Manchester on the 24th inst. The objects in view, as may be gathered from the resolutions, are to uphold the rights of combination of labour, to improve the general position and status of workers, to consolidate labour as a whole, and to secure unity of action among all the societies forming the Federation. There is no fault to find with the first two of these proposi tions, but for the rest it depends upon the meaning that is to be attached to the sug- gested unity and consolidation. If it means the creation of a central war fund, upon which all the societies. would fall back in the case of a strike or lock-out, then it seems to greatly increase the chances of a general conflict in which much of the tradp by which employers and men must live, would be driven out of the country. The call to federate is not, of course, based upon a policy of menace or intimidation. The expressed desire is to promote industrial peace, to prevent strikes and lock-outs, and to settle disputes between the different trades and organisations. All this is much to the same effect as was said of the Concert of Europe, which, however, did not prevent the war between Greece and Turkey. Similarly it is open to doubt whether a grand Federation of Trades Unions would have the ability, or whether it could be trusted to always make a wise use of its powers. At any rate, the general body of employers are not disposed to leave matters to chance, and they now propose to take up their ground with the massed force of federated capital. This movement is very largely the outcome of the triumph achieved by the Federated engineers a year ago. There is now an Employers' Parliamentary Council which is understood to be only the figure-head of an extensive organisation. A war fund is to be provided which will guarantee the full average profits of any firm engaged in fighting a dispute with its workmen, with the approval of the Federa tiOD. We thus have the employers as well as the employed, arranging themselves with all the ready means for industrial warfare. The amiable objects which each side pro- fesses to have in view are, of course, of secondary'importance to that of self-inter- est, and there does not seem to be any- thing, except the common sense of the race, to prevent both sides meeting upon one vast battlefield. It is the saving quality of caution of wisdom that seems to need re- commendation to the great body of trade unionists. They alienated much public sympathy by the socialistic resolutions at Norwich. There are general complaints in many industries that the men will not give a full output of work, while they take ad- vantage of the present high wages to idle one day or two days out of the week. There is also a point beyond which public sym- pathy refuses to go with the trade unionists in their demands for better conditions, and it was because this was the case in the engineers' dispute, or rather with its origin, that it came to a profitless ending. Expe- rience goes to show that these matters are largely guided by the trend of public opin- ion, and this will certainly not support any proposal to use larger powers for enforcing unreasonable demands, while popular feel ing will be even lass inclined to sympathise with any such arbitrary action on behalf of organised capital. It is too early to say how this new unionism will work out in practice. In America it has tended to the enormous developmont of trusts, which flourish at the public expense, and which now control a very large share of the whole trade of the States. But there is no such scope for exploiting the public in. a Free Trade country. Any combination to unduly put up the price of goods, is almost bound to sooner or later defeat itself by opening the door to foreign competition. Still tbis is not to say that there is no margin to com- bine a living wage with a living profit, and if wisely used, it is quite possible that these new Federations may assist to promote fair working arrangements between capital and labour.

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