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National Industrial Council…


National Industrial Council WILL IT BREAKUP? I WORKERS' REPRESENTATIVES CHALLENGE GOVERNMENT. The Trade Union side of the Provisional Joint Industrial Committee at a meeting last w eek had under consideration* the posi- tion which has risen with regard to the for- mation of the National Industrial Council. In the course of the meeting the following statement was approved for publication It is true that a crisis has arisen in con- nection with the establishment of the Na- tional Industrial Council which it was pro- Posed to set up as a result of the Industrial conference of employers and Trade Union- ists which was called together by the Prime Minister last February; but since many of the statements which have appeared in the Press concerning this crisis arc seriously misleading, the Trade Union side of the Provisional Committee elected by the Con- ference has thought it necessary to issue a statement setting out briefly the true facts of the case. IIACTS OF THIR CASE. I Apart from the proposal to form the Na- tional Industrial Council, the most import- ant of the recommendations unanimously lgrecd to by the employers and Trade > Unionists were those dealing with hours of labour. It was agreed that a Bill should be illtroducc-d, laying down a maximum 48 hours' week, with provisions under strict -Safeguards for variation of the hours in either direction, and that this Bill should apply generally to all employed persons." This recommendation, together with others, Was unanimously accepted by the Second Industrial Conference, which met on April -4th. At this meeting, the Joint Conference Unanimously carried a resolution agreeing to proceed with the formation of the Na- tional Industrial Council as soon as the Government had promised to give full effect to the unanimous recommendations of the employers and the Trade Unions. It might have been anticipated that no difficulty would have been encountered in Persuading the Government to agree to pro- posals unanimously endorsed by the whole of the employers and Trade Unions repre- sented at the Conference. In fact, however, the whole time between April and now has been spent in a vain endeavour to get the Government to accept these joint proposals. The main difficulty has arisen in connec- tion with the Government's desire to ex- clude altogether from the Hours' Bill cer- tain classes of workers, of whom the most important are agricultural workers, sea- men, and supervisory workers. The chief difficulty has arisen in the case of agriculture. In the original draft of the Hours Bill presented to the Joint Commit- tee by the Ministry of Labour, agricultural Workers were definitely included. At a .later date, however, for some reason which has not been made known, the Govern- ment changed its mind, and determined to exclude agriculture from the Bill, at the same time making an attempt to add the question of hours of labour to the terms of reference of the Royal Commission on Agriculture. The Trade Union side of the Provisional Committee promptly protested Against this exclusion, and secured from the employers' side a renew ed expression of their willingness that agriculture should be hicluded. The Government was then again approached with a view to the inclusion of agriculture, both by the Provisional Com- mittee and by the agricultural workers' Trade Unions; but, although negotiations Jlax7c been proceeding until the present time, the Government has so far refused to -agree to carry out the terms of the joint Report in this respect. In the case of seamen, the first draft of the Bill definitely included workers en- gaged in transport by water," which was understood by the Trade Union side to ap- ply to seamen. At a later stage, it was sug- gested that there would be special difficul- ties in applying the Act to seamen, and the Government proposed their exclusion. The Trade Union side were unable to agree to this, and urged the Government, before making any decision, to confer directly with the organisations representing sea- men, with a view to overcoming the difficulties in the way. To the best of our knowledge, no such Conference has £ ver been convened, and yet the Govern- ment has persisted in excluding seamen from the Bill. The remaining difficulties in the way, al- though important, are of a somewhat tech- nical character, and need not be further re- ferred to here. It should, however, be noted that the Joint Committee proposed that power should be taken in the Act for the subsequent inclusion of any of the classes of workers which it was proposed to exclude. This proposal has not so far been accepted by the Government. In face of these facts, the Trade Union side of the Provisional Committee felt that they were definitely debarred by the terms of the resolution carried by the full Confer- ence on April 4th from proceeding further with the formation of the National Indus- trial Council as long as the Government's attitude remained unchanged. They note that, in certain newspapers, the attempt is being made to represent this attitude as a sudden change of position on their part, and that it is being stated that, when the original invitations to Trad. Unions to join the National Industrial Council were issued, they already knew that agriculture was to be excluded. This is not the case. The circulars asking Trade Unions to join the National Industrial Council were approved by the Trade Union side before it was realised that any serious difficulty was going to arise concerning the exclusion of agricultural or other workers. The cireu- lars were actually issued at a subsequent date by the Ministry of Labour while nego- tiations were proceeding, and while the Trade Union side felt no doubt as to their successful completion. As soon as it was realised that the Government was deter- mined to persist in its refusal to exclude agriculture, the issue of further circulars was stopped, and numerous applications for them are held over for the prosent. All the Societies which applied before the crisis arose were informed as soon as possible that a difficulty had arisen, and that considera- tion of their applications would be ad- journed pending a solution of the difficulty. The Trade Union side note that allega- tions are being made that there is some sin- ister motive behind their present attitude. and that this attitude represents a sudden change 'of front. In reply to this, they de- sire to state categorically first, that no change of front on their part has occurred, and secondly, that they had no other desire, as long as the attitude of the Government seemed to hold out a prospect of a satisfac- tory accommodation, than to proceed with the least possible delay with the formation of the National Industrial Council proposed in the agreed Report. If there has been a change of front it has been solely on the part of the Government; for the difficulty has arisen entirely out of its persistent re- fusal to give full effect to the terms of the Report on which employers and Trade Unionists were able unanimously to agree. At one time the Trade Union side believed that the Government were prepared to agree. They thereupon took the pre- liminary steps to bring the National Indus- trial Council into being. If the Govern- ment is prepared to carry out the terms of the agreed Report they are willing to pro- ceed immediately with their work; but, while the attitude of the Government re- mains what it is to-day, the resolution car- ried unanimously by the Joint Industrial Conference on April 4th leaves them no alternative to taking up, however regret- fully, the attitude which they have been compelled to adopt. The Trade Union side has now arranged to meet the Government to discuss the whole position on Tuesday next. In the event of the Government's reply being satis- factory, steps will be taken to proceed at once with the constitution of the National -Industrial Council. In the event, however, of the Government's reply still being un- satisfactory, after this joint meeting, it will be necessary for the Trade Union side to demand the re-assembling of the Industrial Conference in order that they may report to their constituent bodies the unsatisfac- tory position in which they are placed, and ask for further instructions as to their method of proceeding in face of the refusal of the Government to give effect to the terms of the report. Signed for the Trade Union side of the Provisional Industrial Committee A. Henderson (Chairman), M. G. Bondfield, W. Bradshaw, J. Compton, A. Conley, W. J. Davis, J. Hill, J. Hindle, G. W.. Jones, W. T. Kelly, A. Logan, J. J. Mallon, J. Marston, H. Parker, E. L. Poulton, A. A. Purcell, W. F. Purdv, G. H. Stuart-Bun- ning, J. Turner, R. B. Walker, W. J. Went worth, G. D. H. Cole (Secretary), F. Bramley and W. W. Henderson (Assistant Secretaries). 16th October, 1919. v

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