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Trade Union Notes


Trade Union Notes By Trade Unionist. TRADES UNIONS AND THE "COMB-OUT." Mr. Lloyd George's speech in the House of Commons on December 20th must be regarded with very grave concern in the Trade Union world. He stated that owing to the necessity for an increase of man-power the pledges given by Mr. Asquith would have to be cancelled. With Russia out of the war, and America not yet in it, and the great peril of Italy, he pointed out that the need for more, men is imperative. It will be remembered that these pledges of pro- tection" given to the Trade Unions was the price paid by the Government for the co-opera- tion of Labour in the prosecution of the war, and its support for, or at least its acqui-eseenee. in, the very repressive measures resorted to. Old established cusiomc,, set up by the Trade Unions for the protection of their members, have baen set on one side, and dangerous, or what the unions deemed to be dangerous innovations in- troduced, with the guarantee that the pre-war conditions would be restored after the war. Now they are told that their ranks must be combed out to meet the requirements of the army, while the new working conditions, only submitted to on account of the immunity from military ser- vice granted them, will continue in operation. Wny, indeed most, of the personal and social liberties enjoyed by the people have been taken away without serious protest from the unions, because of the undertakings given by the government. These undertakings are now to be retracted, without the lost liberties being re- stored. LABOUR UNSYMPATHETIC? I Sir Auckland Geddes, the Minister for Na- Üonl Service, is calling a conference this week, of Labour leaders, to discuss the whole question. Bowerman, M.P., has, I notice, hastened to inform the Government that Labour will lend a sympathetic ear to their suggestions. However, "atbeir incline to agree with Mr. Adamson, M.P., the leader of the Labour Party in. the ROllse, when he said, iJII. the course of the dis- cussion following the Premier's speech, that La- bour Was not now in so quiescent a mood as for- that the old enthusiasm for the war no obtains, and that consequently the Gov- <ernment>s approaches will be met very critically. LIMITATION OF WORKERS' LEADERS. I ,t ? -1 Government will do well to remember that th,. ?ank and file of Labour are in no mood just ?P? to be bound down to arrangements made ^1 i their consent between Labour leaders ,and Ministers of DepaTtments. Recent events fre a sufficient proof of the very decided limita- tions 0f their power. In this instance, the whole  ? ? bargain of the Government and the T,,Me Unions, is to be re-opened) and he must be a. very sanguine person who thinks that a settlerrnent can be come to at a conference of leaders. The rank and file are going to have 11 ay in this- whatever the leadeTs may .gay or thInk. I do not wish to imply, however, that the leaders would, if left alone, enter into anv J, !ar?ain with the Government, which would still further burden the workers with obnoxious .9.Thd oppressive conditions, in faot, I believe that tnost of ii har? also shod their old enthu- tlie,wo,r fever has left them, and now in ,thei,i, raoi,-c- normal condition they will be more anxious about establishing Democrac^y in this country than in Germany. :{< 1* OUR WAR AIMS. I- Whatever the proposals of the Government I the trade1 unionists have a right to have satisfaction upon one or two points before they :agroo to any of them. When the Government ,a,slrs the organised workers to agree to the can- eellauon of pledges solemnly given, the workers Jiave a l'iuht on their side to have satisfaction, ,as to the conduct of the war. The country is, unfortunately, kept in an almost continuous state of irritation, caused by the colossal and jnexcxjsa^i^, blundering of those placed in author- ity. Fhey have 'also a right to have definitely ana explicitly stated, to them what they are '1Jemg asked' to fight for. The Executive of the Labour Party jointly with the Parliamentary ,Ijominitteo of the Trade Union Congress have just issued a document which embodies the war aims of Labour. This document is the most oom- •preheBisive and statesmanlike official declaration yet made. It sets forth clearly and decisively thelr ahns. The Government have told us that they have ddared their aims many times. Their spokesmen persist in saying that the whole world knows what Great Britain is fighting for. I must say, after reading the speeches by various Cabinet Manisters, purporting to set forth the ,G-,oveTiii-fie,nt airnq that I am as ignorant as ever on the matter, and that. also is the case with veryone else. It is guite impossible to ascertain from the Government declarations what their war aims are. « LEAGUE OF NATIONS. I Tlw new demands now made upon Labour rgives it its opportunity. Labour must insist upon the Government coming down from their peron, and telling the country plainly for what it is being asked to make sacrifices. They must do what. they have hitherto absolutely refused to do, viz: state unmistakably their war aims. More than that: if. the Government's war aims programme is not that of Labour, Labour must assert itself, and insist upon its own war aims programme- being made the Government pro- gramme. There is nothing unreasonable or ex- travagant in this. Anyone who reads Labour's programme must conclude that it contains all those fundamental purposes with which we en- tered the war, and is consistent with the idea of a real, effective League of Nations which will in the future1 be the guarantee of a world-wide and enduring peace. I SHOP STEWARDS' AGREEMENT. An agreement has been arranged between the Engineering Employers' Federation and eleven unions catering for those employed in the various sections of engineering works upon the much dis- "edand anxious question of the official recog- nition of shop stewards. The matter was one of great importance to the Trade, Unions, the em- ployers and the Government. The following are the chief points of the agreement: The members 'm the Various Trades Unions may appoint repre- s2 entatives from their number to act on their be- t 5 rSfe aPl>ointed to be known as shop stew- ards. The ???d of &el?otion is to be left t? the Trade Unions concerned. The stewards are to be subject to the control of the unions, and "We to act in accordance with the rules and regu- un^ons< .Facilities are to be af- forded the stewards to deal with questions raised :1:1\ a shop of portion of a shop in which they are employed. They may also visit, with the con- sent of the management, any other shop in the establishment, if the necessity arises. In all other respects they are to conform to the same working conditions as their fellow workmen.  A, ? PROCEEDURE IN DISPUTES. I In the carrying out of their duties, the stew- ards- are to proceed, when concerned with the avoidance of disputes in accordance with the following proceedure: Workmen desiring t-o raise any question in which they are directly concerned are fimt of all to discuss the same with their foremen. Failing settlement, the question shall be taken up by the shop steward and one: of the workmen directly concerned. If no settlement is then arrived at the question shall, at the re- quest of either party, be further considered at a meeting to 'oe arranged between the manage- ment, and the appropriate shop steward, to- gether with a deputation of the workmen con- cerned. I ATTITUDE OF A.S.E. No stoppage of work shall take place until the question has been fully dealt with in accordance with the agreement. The question must not, however, be considered as finally and satisfac- torily settled, because of the significant fact that the A.S.E., the strongest by far of the unions concerned, is not a party to the agree- ment, its representatives having been withdrawn at an early stage of the negotiations. What the nature of the A.S.O. objection is" is not at pre- sent known to me, but I surmise that it must be a serious one that would prevent them at this time and upon this important matter, from being parties to the agreement. N.A.U.S.A. AND SWEATING. I have on several occasions in these notes, re- ferred to, the efforts made by the National Amal- gamated Union of Shop Assistants, Warehouse- men and Clerks to have the Trade Boards ex- tended to cover the distributive trades. As il- lustrating the necessity of such a step, will trades unionists please not the following ques- tion addressed by W. C. Anderson, M.P., in the House of Commons — fr. Anderson: To ask the Minister of Labour whether he has yet come to a decision regarding the extension of the Trade Boards Act to workers in distributive shops, whether he is aware that recent investigations made by the Shop Assistants' Union revealed the existence of sweated conditions, whether he has been in- formed that among the workers in distributive bazaars in Derby it was found that 22 women, their ages ranging from 23 to 31, worked 75 hours a week for an average wage of 8/4 a week, the wage not exceeding 10/- in any case, whilst girls similarly employed in Sunderland received from 5/- to 8/- a week, and that authentic cases have been tabulated from other districts showing that dressmakers, 21 years of ,age, were paid 8/6 a week; 24 years of age, 11/- a week; 26 years of age, 12/- a week, and that facts from South Wales showed women shopworkers, 19 years of age, earning respectively 4/- a week, 6/- a week, and 12/- a week, and, in view of such facts, what action he proposes to take re- specting the extension of the Trade Boards Act. The Minister of Labour: My attention has been directed to cases of low wages in distribu- tive trades. Investigations whieh will be extended to the distributive trades are at present being carried out by my Department with- a. view to ascertaining the conditions in a number of trades to which the application, of the Trade Boards Act has been suggested. Legislation would, however, be re- quired for any extension of the scope of the Act, and as soon as Parliamentary exigencies permit I hope to introduce a Bill to facilitate the Act to trades that require its protection.

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