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A Query To You!

Labour Notes.I


Labour Notes. TRADE UNION MEMBERSHIP. It is impossible as yet to obtain anything like lull figures as to the growth of trade unions in 1918. But already from what figures have been published it seems pretty clear that the high rate of increase of the years 1916 and 1917 was well maintained 1a.st year. With the cessation of wartime employment and the probability of large numbers beitig out of work, a diminution in num bers will now have to be guarded against. In this connection it is interesting to note that the Government's scheme for Emer- gency Donation Benefits (in the administration of which the trade unions have been allowed no say) is likely to prove an adverse factor for the acquisition and retention of new members. NO NATIONAL FACTORIES. J he Government is dispelling the fears of pri- vate traders by disposing at top speed of all its factories, some in the open market, some (and t-Hese generally the best) by the far less eredi- ta ble method of private treaty between The Ministry of Munitions and the large firms, "ft was feared, said Sir Eric Geddes on demobili- sation, "that the Government proposed to em- bark on industrial ventures, but. there was no foundation for that. The Cabinet had decided that it would manllfactun in national factories no articles requiring sales organisation. A cer- tain number would be maintained purely for munitions and special Government purposes there was no intention of retaining them for the manufacture or sale of trade articles. Some of the factories wore being sold to industrial con- cerns. co-operative societies, trade unions, if they wanted to take up manufacture, and local authorities. (Those which are being offered to trade unions, if any, are- as the Times was kind enough to point out for us a little while ago, those which would be of no use to private manufacturers). So much for the thoroughly soc ial and practical demands of the shop stew- ards at Aintree. Waldon. and elsewhere. SWEATINC IN ACRICULTURE. I he agricultural minimum rates, which run between 30; and 33 in the ma jority of coun- ties, are so low that it must still be regarded as a sweated industry. Even >0. however, farmers in several cases have forced' on the la- bourers' yearly hiring contracts providing for payment at less than the minimum wage. This is. of course, quite- illegal, and the Agrc-ultural ages Boaif! draws attention to the fact. In certain trade union quarters the opinion is pi- press*ed that a. series of prosecutions followed by smart penalties would W a better means of bringing the farmers into a proper state of mind. WHO IS TO PAY FOR THE WAR? I lie AssiHiation 01 ,Cha mbprs of Commerce have decided that they at any rat? are not ?gi)ltlg to pay. rhey may have profiteered and made a good thing out 0/ it, but footing tho bill is another matter. The German working- class is to pay for everything. Incidentally, the bondage which this entails upon German workers would react unfavourably upon British workers. But, leaving that apart. it is clear from the Chamber of Commerce programme that thev will be able to get rid of the Excess Profits Tax (if Germany pays all). and perhaps the super- tax too. This sort of proposal is to be carefullv watched. It simply uses the cloak of patriotism to disguise the commercial objection to any capi- tal levy or other method of refunding the swollen profits of the war period. NO RAILWAY NATIONALISATION. years an increasing demand for nationali- sation of our railways has. been voiced by La- bour. It was demanded on many grounds, amongst them being the \Lstt> and inefficiency of the present system by which the interests of the shareholders arc considered first and the public last. In August, 1918, a select commit- tee of the House of Commons was appointed to inquire into Transport. It reported before, the close of the last session, and even in its tepid report it. was forced to the conclusion that "uni- fication" wa.s necessary, though it carefully al- lowed for this unification" being carried out by the formation of one big railway trust, under Government control and possiblv with Govern- ment subsidy. Was this last wha.t Mr. Churchill meant when lie said in his electioneering speech that the Government had decided to nationalise th^rrailways? If so, it is not go<xl enough. But whatever he the Government Measure, we are now told that it must be postponed, indefinitely. Wliat does this mean? And what has caused this evasion of Mr. Churchill's pledge? We do not know for certain. But it is significant that a railway manager. Sir Albert Stanlev, is now at the head of the Board of Trade. We note. too, the signific.ant sentence in which the South Eastern :alld Chatham Railway. in announcing that Sir George Younger has become a director, say that he will be useful because of his posi- tion in Parliament. Sir Georce Younger is the Unionist Chief Whip. >, WHAT ABOUT THE PLEDGES TO WOMEN? I The Government Committee, on Equal Pay seems by all accounts to be working very hard; but as to its conclusions and when they will ap- pear, we are left entirely in the dark. We learn that the Committee are taking into con- sideration the pledges made by the Government to pay equal rates to men and women on skilled work, and the way in which these have been ful- filled. Among all who have any acquaintance with the subject it is a matter of common know- ledge that the Government has quite impudently broken its word, both by allowing deductions to be made, and by refusing to the women advances granted to the men since May, 1917. But there is a very large number of people who have no acquaintance with the subject, and for this rea- son we are very anxious that the Committee's views on the Government's actions should be put on public record at the earliest Possible oppor- tunity, not delayed until everyone has forgotten all about them. If the Committee's Report on the whole principle of equal pay cannot be pub- lished soon—and from all we know of the sub- ject the last trumpet may well have sounded before they have reached any conclusion—an In- terim Report on the pledges is perfectly pos- sible, and we would urge all Labour men to press for its publication without delay. In these days, when Coalition promises have re- cently been handed out as largesse by irrespon- sible ministers trembling for their seats, it is as well that all should be reminded that piecrust is made to be broken. MILITARISM IN THE AIR. I The Report of the Civil Transport Com pi it tee makes very disquieting reading. The Commit- tee sceni to have- bowed on almost every point to the wishes of the military authorities, and it seems likely that, if they have their way, the- development uf the air service in this coiinti, v will be made entirely subordinate to the Jun- kers. The sovereignty of each State over the air above1 its territory -Is to extend right up to the sky, lest foreign aircra-ft Qiould have un- I, desirable opportunities for espoinage," a-ad on this point the Committee understand that "th views of the Foreign Office and of the naval and military advisers of the Crown are unchanged." Similarly, the Draft Bill which they present. provides that no person shall own aircraft who is not a British subject or naturalised. The | Committee. wish to emphasise the need that all established commercial air routes with their aerodromes and landing-stages should be suit- able for strategical and tactical use in the event of war, and the need of the rapid convertibility in the same event of types of commercial air- craf t to military use; and they think it essen- tial that the output of military and naval air- craft should be kept up after the war. With re- gard to the means and methods to lie used for the development of the industry after thenar, the Committor could not make up their minds; they realise that some State action is necessary, and apparently incline to the view that it should be given in the form of State subsidies to un- lettered private firms-lest the firms should be angry and refuse to make aircraft. Labour, in their eyes, .presents no special problems, except, that much of the labour now employe! will have to be discharged (what is to happen to it then they do not state), and that there are too many Unions concerned. ITieir own participation in the problem, they think, should begin and end w ith the recommendation that in the considera- tion of the subject the parties should have in mind the principles underlying the Whitley Re- poit, and should approach the problem in the spirit of that Report." The only good thing in the whole document is the Minority Report of the Chairman of the La- bour Committee, Mr. H. G. Wells, who soundly rates the whole Committee for timidity, weak- ness, and indecision, accusing them of failing to appreciate the importance of the Labour prob- lem, or to bring any imagination to bear upon the prospects afforded by the development of this great new service, and offers them a series of suggestions. This is good reading. But if, as the Committee actually state, it is to be clearly understood that military considera- tions must, override all others in the matter of aerial transport, then the prospects of a League of Nations and of any universal peace are black indeed.

Miners' Grievances.-