« ПретходнаНастави »
his daily income even fractionally diminished.'* The present generation of the higher civil service- our real rulers,' we learn, 'in points of administrative detail’-are for the most part invincibly ignorant both of industrial organisation and modern economics, and so they continue to render futile the avowed intention of ministry after ministry to make the government'a model employer' by abandonment of competition wages. It is not necessary to dwell long on the hopelessignorance of economics ’here displayed, to point out that it is not the civil service manager who is the employer of the men in the Admiralty dockyards, but the taxpayer; that every taxpayer, even if he belong to a trade union, does find his income diminished if the Admiralty dockyards are carried on at a loss; or that it is sounder modern'as well as ancient economics to pay a market rate of wages fixed with regard to competition and combination alike than to adopt a 'standard' fixed at the mere arbitrament of an irresponsible and not impartial society. There might be much interest in such a task. But it is foreign to our present purpose. What is important is to recognise in this elaborate exposition of motives the naïve admission that trade unions fight at the greatest advantage, make many men bankrupt, and ruin trusts when workmen are combined and employers are not. There is no pause to consider whether it is for the advantage of trade that business firins should be bankrupt or companies ruined, or whether the sufferings of the wives and children of workmen during a long period of enforced idleness is not a wholly disproportionate price to pay for the attainment of limited concessions. All that is considered is the strategic ad'vantage, and the opportunity which it confers, not for peaceful progress, but for 'embittered and obstinate' war.
Mr. and Mrs. Webb appear to deplore that Parliament is not really prepared to insist on the conditions of government employment being brought into conformity with tradeunion regulations. If their view of those regulations and the policy which dictates them is correct, there is no need for astonishment. The lesson of all this is obvious. A prolific cause of trade
A disputes admittedly exists when the employers in a trade are not organised, do not act together, allow divergence of interest to prevail, and are consequently weak in resisting a combination of workmen, Associations therefore of em
* Vol. ii. p. 551.
ployers must be encouraged. Combination must be met by combination. And this not with a view of crushing trade unionism, or driving men out of trade unions, but with the object of confining those bodies to their proper functions and limiting them to proper methods. For the wisest efforts of associations of employers will be directed to fixing rates of wages and conditions of employment fair to all parties interested, to improving in every legitimate way the circumstances of wage-earners, developing their prosperity, cultivating their moral and intellectual welfare, and at the same time sternly discountenancing the subordination of individual discretion to the dietates of paid organisers, and the slavish subjection of free labour to class despotism. In many trades this is becoming understood. The outcome of the disputes in the coal trade and the strike in the engineering trade has been to impress on employers the expediency of acting together. And they will do well if they are not seduced by the present burst of prosperity from the policy of forming associations not merely to guard, but to advance their interests as a body.
Trade unions are, like all other organised bodies of men, learning by experience. But like all organisations, and especially those which have no corporate existence, but are at any time dissoluble by the will of the majority, they learn slowly. Many of them still adhere to their belief in two fallacies—the first, that wages regulate prices; and the second, that artificial limitation of output is for the advantage of wage-earners. The first is a good example of the falsehood which has a modicum of truth. Wages affect prices but do not regulate them. In a falling market the value of labour as of other commodities must fall, for the simple reason that there is lessened employment in the production of the article affected. In a rising market the value of labour rises for a similar reason. There is more demand for it. Thus an obstinate refusal to work at a price which employers can afford to pay will not benefit those who refuse, even if means can be lastingly adopted for preventing other men from taking the employment which they reject. The simple result of such a refusal will be the closing of the factories, or mines, or whatever may be the sphere of labour concerned, and a more or less permanent loss of opportunity.
The second fallacy is as full of mischief and even more insidious. There are many trade unions-not, perhaps, the wisest of them who seek to limit the amount of work done
by their members, not by the capacity of the individual, but by an arbitrary rule. Not long ago a bricklayer out of work applied for a job to a large employer of labour who was building a house. The application was granted and the man taken on by the contractor. He showed gratitude assiduity. But in a few days the contractor was informed that the new hand must be peremptorily dismissed, because he was laying more bricks per diem than the rules of the union allowed. Of this short-sighted tyranny instances without number could be found. It cannot fail to defeat its own object, because that object is not to raise the level of work, but to reduce it to mediocrity : not to encourage the developement of skill, but to check it. Or the fallacy displays itself in another form. In many unions the employment of women and girls, of boys and old men, is stubbornly resisted. The same spirit prevails which in earlier days led to the smashing of labour-saving machinery. It is due to the fancy that whatever tends to cheapen production tends to lower wages. The belief has been almost rooted out so far as machinery is concerned. But even now in England there is a residuum of opposition to new appliances, which to some extent impedes their introduction. Macbines which a boy or girl can efficiently manage must be consigned to a man in full earnings, or the union will know the reason why.
Or other methods are adopted. The work * done by * machines is belittled--the men working their machines
exercise all their ingenuity in making the machines as expensive as hand-labour. The man working a machine • takes care not to allow a machine to beat a shopmate
working by hand on the same job.' In America there is less of this foolishness, and the working men no longer resist the proposition, even where they do not wholly understand it, that whatever saves labour is for the ultimate advantage of the labourer. The consequence is that an inventive nation is rapidly pushing invention, and that not only the British manufacturer is damnified, but also the workman he employs.
In America, for instance, the use of machines for coalcutting is welcoined by the men as relieving them of the
• The Shoe and Leathes Record, February 19, 1892, cited by the Webbs, vol. i. p. 398. The latter admit that so far, at any rate, as times of strained relations are concerned, there is no reason to question the accuracy of this statement.'
most severe part of their labour. Such machines, therefore, are generally used. In this country the men, without making positive objection to machines, by carelessness or lack of zeal make their employment a failure. In one instance a large employer of labour, who paid his men the same price for cutting the coal with machines as they were paid for cutting the coal without it, was obliged to abandon an attempt, made at great cost and with much patience, to make the machines popular and save his men trouble. This is one factor in the difference of price here and the United States.
As we have said, however, the opposition to machinery is disappearing. It has done an enormous amount of harm, but its influence for evil is no longer great. Not so with the introduction of female and boy labour, or the considerate kindness which leads employers to keep on old hands no longer capable of a full day's work. The intensity of the resentment, say the Webbs, with which the average working-man regards the idea of women entering his trade equals that displayed by the medical practitioner of the • last generation. Not only is this because the proper place for females is their home, but because women, having a lower standard of comfort than men, content to accept less wages, and far less apt to quarrel with imaginary grievances, are the most dangerous enemies of the artisan's • standard of life.'t Consequently many trade unions still oppose to their utmost capacity the introduction of female labour. Happily their influence in this direction, as in their opposition to the introduction of boy labour, is not prohibitive. Wherever, say the Webbs, "any consider* able number of employers have resolutely sought to bring
women into any trade within their capacity, the trades ' unions have utterly failed to prevent them.' And 'whilst ' any legal restriction on the number of boys to be em‘ployed in a particular industry can scarcely fail to be * inequitable, any general restriction on the number of boys 'to be employed in all trades whatsoever is plainly impos*sible.'S Against such form of competition many unions continue to struggle. But their struggle must be in vain. Against them the laws of economy contend. And the whole power of family influence and home arguments being for once on the side of the laws of economy, their effect cannot be lastingly delayed.
* Vol. ii. p.
496. # Vol. ii. p. 498.
of Vol. ii.
497. $ Vol. ii. p. 188.
We have dwelt on some of the tenets of trade unions which appear to us to lead to unnecessary trade quarrels. We might spend time and space in criticism of many others. But we pass over such theories as those which affect demarcation, or in other words the attempt to absolutely probibit a carpenter, employed in ship-building or shipmending, from putting in a bolt or mending a valve, a plasterer from planing a door or driving a nail. Theories which lead to embittered quarrels between engineers and brass-workers, boiler-makers and chippers, joiners and cabinet-makers; which inay throw the whole of a large piece of work out of gear because in some trivial detail one trade has overlapped another; and put an end to a large and remunerative contract because of some childish objection to allow a workman belonging to one trade to do in emergency an inch or two of work claimed by another. We pass over also the equally childish petulance which has led some trade unionists to sulkily refuse to work on material not produced in their own district, and which in one notable instance led to the abandonment by a large shipbuilding firm of the construction of extensive new offices because the cabinet-makers refused to work at cabinets purchased in a neighbouring town. We must, however, refer to one more tendency of the employed before we consider how far the employers adopt attitudes conducive to disputes.
In certain unions and in some well-known cases grave evil has followed from the tendency of the more turbulent members of unions to refuse to abide by an arrangement to which their leaders with their assent have agreed, or an award made by an arbitrator of their own choosing. Employers say, and say with partial though not we believe with universal justification, that they have no assurance that a bargain, however elaborately made, will be followed. Unless some sanction can be found for agreements and some easy method discovered for punishing the breach of them, conciliators and arbitrators work at a disadvantage. The leaders of unions hesitate at the expulsion of members, and expulsion, though sometimes necessary, is at best a clumsy expedient. We propose presently to consider a method by which repudiation of an agreement or an award may be penalised, without any attempt at such impossible compulsion as would seek to force employers to keep open workshops against their will, or workmen to continue to accept distasteful conditions.
But for a moment we pass to the attitude of employers. And here we have happily less to criticise. Employers have