and other “district” boards referred to below). Moreover, in some of the most important cases of settlement of disputes by conciliation, the mediating party has not been a permanent board but a disinterested individual, e.g. the mayor, county court judge, government official or member of parliament. As will be seen below, the Conciliation Act now provides for the appointment of “conciliators” by the Board of Trade.
Voluntary trade boards, however (i.e. permanent joint boards representing employers and work-people in particular trades), are at once the most firmly established and the most important agencies in Great Britain for the prevention and settlement of labour disputes. Among the earliest of such bodies was the board of arbitration in the Macclesfield silk trade, formed in 1849, in imitation of the French “Conseils de Prud’hommes,” but which only lasted four years. The first board, however, which attained any degree of permanent success was that established for the hosiery and glove trade in Nottingham in 1860, through the efforts of A. J. Mundella. In 1864 a board was established in the Wolverhampton building trades, with Rupert Kettle as chairman, and in 1868 boards were formed for the pottery trade, the Leicester hosiery trade and the Nottingham lace trade. In 1869 there was formed one of the most important of the still existing boards, viz. the board of arbitration and conciliation in the manufactured iron and steel trades of the north of England, with which the names of Rupert Kettle, David Dale and others are associated. In 1872 and 1873 joint committees were formed in the Durham and Northumberland coal trades to deal with local questions. The Leicester boot and shoe trade board, the first of an elaborate system of local boards in this trade, was founded in 1875. From about 1870 onwards there was a great movement for the establishment of “sliding scales” in the coal and iron and steel trades, which by regulating wages automatically rendered unnecessary the settlement of general wages by conciliation or arbitration. These sliding scales, however, usually had attached to them joint committees for dealing with disputed questions. A sliding scale arranged by David Dale was attached to the manufactured iron trade board in 1871. A sliding scale for the Cleveland blast furnacemen came into force in 1879. Sliding scales were also adopted in the coal trade in many districts, e.g. South Wales (1875), Durham (1877) and Northumberland (1879). The movement was, however, followed by a reaction, and several of the sliding scales in the coal trade were terminated between 1887 and 1889. In 1902 the last surviving sliding scale in the coal trade, viz. in South Wales, ceased to exist and was replaced by a conciliation board.
The formation on a large scale of conciliation boards in the coal trade to fix the rate of wages dates from the great miners’ dispute of 1893, one of the terms of settlement agreed to at the conference held at the foreign office under Lord Rosebery being the formation of a conciliation board covering the districts affected. Northumberland followed in 1894, Durham in 1895, Scotland in 1900 and South Wales in 1903.
In 1907 an important scheme for the formation of conciliation boards for railway companies and their employees was adopted as the result of the action taken by the president of the Board of Trade to prevent a general strike of railway servants in that year. Under this scheme separate boards (sectional and general) were to be formed for the employees of each railway company which adhered to the scheme, with provision for reference in case of a deadlock to an umpire.
The first general district board to be formed was that established in London in 1890, through the London chamber of commerce, as a sequel to the Mansion House committee which mediated in the great London dock strike of 1889. The example was followed by several large towns, but the action taken by the boards in most of these provincial districts has been very limited.
In addition there are two boards composed of representatives of co-operators and trade-unionists for the settlement of disputes arising between co-operative societies and their employees.
The most typical form of machinery for the settlement of disputes by voluntary conciliation is a joint board consisting of equal numbers of representatives of employers and employed. The members of the board are usually Constitution and functions of voluntary conciliation boards. elected by the associations of employers and workmen, though in some cases (e.g. in the manufactured iron trade board) the workmen’s representatives are elected not by their trade union but by meetings of workmen employed at the various works. The chairman may be an independent person, or, more usually, a representative of the employers, the vice-chairman being a representative of the workmen. In the arbitration and conciliation boards in the boot and shoe trade, provision is made by which the chair may be occupied by representatives of the employers and workmen in alternate years. An independent chairman usually has a casting vote, which practically makes him an umpire in case of equal voting, but where there is no outside chairman there is often provision for reference of cases on which the board cannot agree to an umpire, who may either be a permanent officer of the board elected for a period of time (as in the case of several of the boards in the boot and shoe trade), or selected ad hoc by the board or appointed by some outside person or body. Thus the choice of the permanent chairman or umpire of the miners’ conciliation board, formed in pursuance of the settlement of the coal dispute of 1893 by Lord Rosebery, was left to the speaker of the House of Commons. The nomination of umpires under the Railway Agreement of 1907 was left to the speaker and the master of the rolls. Since the passing of the Conciliation Act, several conciliation boards have provided in their rules for the appointment of umpires by the Board of Trade.
Conciliation boards constituted as described above usually have rules providing that there shall always be equality of voting as between employer and workmen, in spite of the casual absence of individuals on one side or the other. In order to expedite business it is sometimes provided that all questions shall be first considered by a sub-committee, with power to settle them by agreement before coming before the full board. Boards of conciliation and arbitration conforming more or less to the above type exist in the coal, iron and steel, boot and shoe and other industries in the United Kingdom. A somewhat different form of organization has prevailed in the cotton-spinning trade (since the dispute of 1892-1893) and in the engineering trade (since the engineering dispute of 1897-1898). In these important industries there are no permanent boards for the settlement of general questions, but elaborate agreements are in force between the employers’ and workmen’s organizations which among other things prescribe the mode in which questions at issue shall be dealt with and if possible settled. In the first place, if the question cannot be settled between the employer and his workmen, it is dealt with by the local associations or committees or their officials, and failing a settlement in this manner, is referred to a joint meeting of the executive committees of the two associations. In neither agreement is there any provision for the ultimate decision of unsettled questions by arbitration. The agreement in the cotton trade is known as the “Brooklands Agreement,” and a large number of questions have been amicably settled under its provisions. In the building trade, it is very customary for the local “working rules,” agreed to mutually by employers and employed in particular districts, to contain “conciliation rules” providing for the reference of disputed questions to a joint committee with or without an ultimate reference to arbitration. Yet another form of voluntary board is the “district board,” consisting in most cases of representatives elected in equal numbers by the local chamber of commerce and trades council respectively. In the case, however, of the London Conciliation Board the workmen’s representatives are elected, twelve by specially summoned meetings of trade union delegates and two by co-optation. The functions of district boards are to deal with disputes in any trade which may occur within their districts, and of course they can only take action with the consent of both parties to the dispute, in this respect differing from the majority of “trade” boards, which, as a rule, are empowered by the agreement under which they are constituted