The History of Trade Unionism/IX. Thirty years’ growth 1890-1920

CHAPTER IX THIRTY YEARS' GROWTH [1890-1920]Edit

IN 1892, after more than two centuries of development, Trade Unionism in the United Kingdom numbered, as we have seen, little more than a million and a half of members, in a community approaching forty millions ; or about 4 per cent of the census population and including possibly 20 per cent of the adult male manual-working wage-earners v XAt the beginning of 1920, as we estimate, the number of Trade Unionists is Well over six millions, in a community that does not quite reach forty-eight millions ; being over 12 per cent of the census population and including probably as many as 60 per cent x of all the adult male manual-working wage-

1 It is doubtful whether, in any country in the world, even in Australia or Denmark, there is in 1920 so large a proportion of the adult male manual workers enrolled in Trade Unions as in the United Kingdom ; and Ireland being still relatively unorganised industrially certainly not so large a proportion as in Great Britain alone.

The Trade Union Movement in Ireland has, apart from the Irish branches of British Unions, largely concentrated in the Belfast area, little connection with that in Great Britain, but its progress during the past thirty years has been scarcely less remarkable. The Irish railwaymen have abandoned their attempts at organisation in an Irish Union, and have lately swarmed into the National Union of Railwaymen to the number of over 20,000. The engineers in Ireland, whether at Belfast or elsewhere, are, to the number of 9000, in the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and other British Unions. The other great Unions have nearly all their Irish branches. But the great transformation has been in the foundation and remarkable development of the Transport and General Workers' Union, built up by James Connolly and James Larkin, which

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The Great Expansion 473

earners in the kingdom. With the exception of slight pauses in 1893-95, 1902-4, and 1908-9, this remarkable growth in aggregate membership has been continuous during the whole thirty years.

It is important to notice the continuous acceleration of this increase. For a few years after the high tide of 1889-92 the aggregate membership dropped slightly. When in 1897 it started to rise again it took a whole decade to add half a million to the total of 1892-96. Three years more brought a second half million : a total growth in the eighteen years from 1892 to 1910 of about a million, or only about 66 per cent. It then took only three or four years to add another million ; whilst during the last few years the increase has not fallen far short of half a million a year, or of the order of 10 per cent per annum. Trade Union membership has, in fact, doubled in the last eight years. 1


has survived both its tremendous Dublin strike of 1913 and the loss of both its leaders, and claims in 1920 over 100,000 members in 400 branches, being half the Trade Unionists in all Ireland. The only other Irish Trade Unions exceeding 5000 members are the Flax Roughers' Union, included with other Unions in an Irish Textile Workers' Federation, and the Clerical Workers' Union, together with the Irish Teachers' Society, which (unlike the National Union of Teachers in England and the Educational Institute of Scotland) is frankly affiliated with the (Irish) Labour Party. Scores of other Irish Trade Unions exist, practically all small, local, and sectional in character, and almost confined to the ten towns of Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Dundalk, Derry, Clonmel, Sligo, and Kilkenny. The total Trade Union membership in Ireland, which thirty years ago was only put at 40,000, may now exceed 200,000, about one-fifth of which is in and about Belfast. The Irish Trades Union Congress, established in 1894, and the Irish Labour Party meet annually.

The Irish Trade Union Movement, emerging from handicraftsmen's local clubs, some of them dating from the middle of the eighteenth century, and monopolist and sectional in policy, has, during the present century, become fired with nationalist spirit and almost revolutionary fervour. Its heroes are Michael Davitt, James Connolly, and James Larkin. The story of the Transport and General Workers' Union, with its extraordinary extension to all grades of wage-earners all over Ireland, and its sensa- tional strikes in Dublin in 1913-14, is an epic in itself. Some idea of this development may be gathered from The Irish Labour Movement, by W. P. Ryan, 1919 ; Labour in Irish History, by James Connolly ; Socialism Made Easy, by the same (about 1905) ; the Annual Reports of the Irish Trades Union Congress since 1895 ; and those of the Irish Labour Party.

1 Statistics of aggregate membership in the past are lacking. But we


474 Thirty years' Growth

No less significant is the fact that the increase has not been confined to particular industries, particular localities, or a particular sex, but has taken place, more or less, over the whole field. It is common in varying degrees to the skilled, the semi-skilled, and the unskilled workers. Even the women, still much less organised than the men, have in 1920 five or six times as many Trade Unionists as they had thirty years previously ; and have trebled or quadrupled the then proportion of Trade Union membership to the adult women manual-working wage-earners. Financially, too, the Trade Unions have, on the whole, greatly advanced ; and their aggregate accumulated funds in 1920 (apart from the assets of their Approved Society sections under the National Insurance Act) exceed fifteen millions sterling ; being about ten times as much as in 1890, and constituting a " fighting fund " unimaginably greater than ever entered the mind of Gast or Doherty, Martin Jude or William Newton, or any other Trade Union leader of the preceding century. It is the stages and incidents of this past thirty years' growth that we have now to describe. We shall refer incidentally to half-a-dozen of the more important strikes of the generation ; but nowadays it is not so much in- dustrial disputes that .constitute landmarks of Trade Union history as the steps, often statutory or political in character, by which the Movement advances in public in- fluence and in a recognised participation in the government of industry. During the present century, at any rate, the action of Trade Unionism on legislation, and of legislation on Trade Unionism, has been incessant and reciprocal. The growing strength of the Movement has been marked by a series of legislative changes which have ratified and legalised the increasing influence of the wage-earners' corn-


suggest that after the transient mass enrolments of 1833-34 nac * lapsed, the total membership in Great Britain of such Trade Unions as survived probably did not reach 100,000. It is doubtful whether, as late as 1860, there were half a million Trade Unionists. We give in an Appendix such past statistics as we have found.


The " Cotton Men" 475

binations in the government both of industry and political relations. And every one of these statutes notably the Trade Disputes Act of 1906, the Trade Boards Act of 1908, the Coal Mines Regulation (Eight Hours) Act of 1908, the National Insurance Act of 1911, the Trade Union Act of 1913, the Corn Production Act of 1917, and the Trade Boards Extension Act of 1918 have been marked by immediate extensions of Trade Union membership and improvements in Trade Union organisation in the indus- tries concerned.

During the thirty years which have elapsed since 1890 the progress of the Trade Union Movement, enormous as it has been, has been accompanied by relatively little change in the internal structure of the several Unions. What has occurred has been a marked change in the relative position and influence of the different sections of the Trade Union world, and even in its composition. Some sections have declined relatively to others. Even more significant is the vastly greater consolidation of the Trade Unionism of 1920 than that of 1890. Not only have many more of the societies grown into organisations of numerical and financial strength, but there has also been developed, especially during recent years, an interesting network of federations among Unions in the same industry, and often among cognate or associated industries, some of which, under- taking negotiations on a national scale for a whole industry, have become more influential and important than any but the largest Unions.

THE COTTON OPERATIVES

The most notable of these changes is the decline in relative influence of the cotton operatives. It is not that the Unions of Spinners, Weavers and Cardroom Operatives have decreased in membership or in accumulated funds. On the contrary, they have in the aggregate during the past thirty years more than doubled their membership ; and the


476 Thirty Years Growth

Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton Spinners, with three-quarters of a million pounds belonging to its 25,000 members (exclusive of 26,000 piecers), is, now as formerly, the wealthiest Trade Union of any magnitude. Nor have these Unions in any sense lost their hold on their own trade, at least in its central district of Lanca- shire and Cheshire, though its outlying areas in Derbyshire, Yorkshire, and Glasgow are still somewhat neglected. But the growth of Trade Unionism in other industries has reduced the " Cotton Men " from ten or twelve to four or five per cent of the Trades Union Congress ; and, owing partly to internal differences, their leading personalities no longer dominate the counsels of the Movement. The excellent organisation of the Cotton Trade Unions has been main- tained ; but it has not been copied by other trades, and their internecine dissensions have detracted from the in- fluence of their various federations. There has been, in fact, during the whole thirty years, only two or three im- portant incidents. A general strike of cotton-spinners took place in 1893, when all the mills were stopped for no less than twenty weeks. The employers had demanded a re- duction of 10 per cent, whilst the Trade Union urged that the depression should be met by placing all the mills on short time. This stoppage was at last brought to an end by agreement between the employers and the Trade Union, arrived at without external intervention in a fourteen hours continuous session, which made the reduction in rates only 7d. in the (2-916 instead of 10 per cent), and included elaborate arrangements for future adjustment of wages and other differences by mutual discussion without cessation of work. 1 This " Brooklands Agreement/' which we described in our Industrial Democracy, governed the spinning trade frcm 1893 to 1905, but was in the latter year formally terminated by the Unions concerned, on the ground that the machinery worked both slowly and in such a way as to hamper the operatives in obtaining the advantage of

1 Industrial Democracy, pp. 38, 92, 103, 123, 258, etc.


Complex Organisation 477

good times. Provisional arrangements were made, but these did not prevent a strike of seven weeks in 1908, which ended in a compromise advantageous to the operatives. Apart from minor and local disputes, frequently about bad material or refusal to -work with a non-Unionist, there was, however, no forward movement, notably with regard to the hours of labour. In 1902 a slight amendment of the Factory Act was secured by agreement with the employers, by which the factory week was reduced from 56^ to 55^ hours ; and with this the trade remained contented. Right down to 1919 there was no important trade movement, but in February of that year all sections of the cotton operatives claimed their share in the general reduction of hours that was proceeding ; and, after prolonged negotiations, 300,000 operatives struck in June. When it was seen that the stoppage of the mills had become general, the employers gave way and conceded a Forty-eight Hours week, which has not yet been embodied in law, accompanied by a 30 per cent advance in piece rates so as to involve no reduction of earnings. The organisation of the cotton operatives, whilst remain- ing essentially as described in our Industrial Democracy, has gone on increasing in federal complexity. The various sections notably spinners with their attendant piecers ; weavers, including winders, and in some towns also warpers, beamers, and reelers ; card, blowing and ring-room opera- tives ; warp-dressers and warpers ; tape-sizers ; beamers, twisters and drawers ; and overlookers continue to be organised in very autonomous local bodies, which are styled sometimes societies or associations, and sometimes merely branches, and which vary in number in the different sections from half-a-dozen to ten times as many. But these are nearly all doubly united, first in a federal body for the whole of each section (which may be styled an amalgamation, a federation, an association, or a General Union of the section), and also in a local " Cotton Trades Federation " or " Textile Trades Federation/' which combines the local organisations of the weavers and sometimes other sections in each of a


478 Thirty Years' Growth

couple of dozen geographical districts in Lancashire and Cheshire. The weavers' " amalgamation," and other sec- tions of the " manufacturing " trade, are further united in the Northern Counties Amalgamated Association, with 175,000 members. Finally, all the federal organisations of the several sections are brought together in the United Textile Factory Workers' Association, which focuses the opinion of all the cotton operatives, including the Amalga- mated Association of Bleachers and Dyers, on those funda- mental issues on which they are conscious of a common and an equal interest. 1

The officials of the Cotton Trade Unions herein differing from those of the greatly developed General Union of Textile Workers, which has organised the (principally women) woollen weavers have remained predominantly technicians, devot-

1 The Amalgamated Association of Card and Blowing Room Opera- tives is (1920) once more a member. A further development of federal complexity is the formation of a Federation of Kindred Trades connected with the Export Shipping Industry of Manchester.

An invidious feature, in which the textile industry is unique, is the appearance during the present century, as the result of a quarrel as to " political action," of half-a-dozen separate local Trade Unions of weavers, largely Roman Catholic, at one time united in the Lancashire Federation of Protection Societies. These, which are neither numerous nor of ex- tensive membership, remain outside the Amalgamated Association of Weavers ; and are watchful critics of any proposals, at the Trades Union Congress (to which they do not seek admission) or elsewhere, that offend the Roman Catholic Church (notably any suggestion of " Secular Educa- tion," or educational changes deemed inimical to the Roman Catholic schools). There is a National Conference of Catholic Trade Unionists having similar objects.

There was, in 1919, also a Jewish National Labour Council of Great Britain ; and from time to time Unions are formed, especially in the clothing trade (such as the Amalgamated Jewish Tailors, Machinists, and Pressers, established 1893), and in baking and cabinetmaking, aiming at enrolling Jewish workers. But this is not really a religious, or even primarily a racial, cleavage, but merely sectional organisation, usually transient, among particular branches of industry which happen to be prircipally carried on by Jews. At present most such societies in the clothing trade have been absorbed in the United Garment Workers' Trade Union, which, with upwards of 100,000 members, is actively negotiating for a merger with the older Amalgamated Society of Tailors and Tailoresses (established 1865) and the effective Scottish Operative Tailors' and Tailoresses' Association, with 5000 members, under the title of the United Tailors and Garment Workers.


Political Slowness 479

ing themselves almost entirely to the protection of their members' trade interests, without taking much part in the wider interests now largely influencing the Trade Union world, and showing little sympathy either in larger federa- tions or in the new spirit. They have been slow to take an active part in the political development of the Trade Union world, which has manifested itself, as we shall describe in a subsequent chapter, in the organisation of the Labour Party. This backwardness may be ascribed, in some degree, to the political history of Lancashire, where an ancestral Conservatism still lingers, and where it was possible, even in the twentieth century, for so prominent a Trade Union official as the late James Mawdsley, the able leader of the cotton-spinners, to stand for Parliament in 1906 as a member of the Conservative Party. The influence of an exceptionally large proportion of Roman Catholics among the cotton operatives must also be noted. It is a unique feature of the technical officials of the Cotton Unions that they have frequently been willing to serve the industry as the paid officials of the Employers' Associations when they have been offered higher salaries. Their main duty, whether acting for the employers or the workmen, is to secure uni- formity in the application of the Collective Agreements as between mill and mill ; and such a duty, it is argued, like that of the valuer or accountant, is independent of personal opinion or bias, and can be rendered with equal fidelity to either client. This was not at first resented by the work- men, who even saw some advantage in the Employers' Association being served by officers thoroughly acquainted with the complicated technicalities as the operatives saw them. There has, however, latterly been a change of feeling ; and though such transfers of services cannot be prevented (the Employers' Associations constantly finding the Trade Union official the best man available), they are now resented. 1

1 A recent case in which the Trade Union Assistant Secretary left the weavers for the employers, in the midst of a crisis, with the Union affairs in confusion, was stigmatised as desertion.


480 Thirty Years Growth

It is felt in some quarters that many of the " cotton men have fallen out of harmony with the newer currents of thought in the Trade Union world. It is alleged that they accept too implicitly the employers' assumptions, and do not sympathise with aspirations of more fundamental change than a variation of wages or hours. But the influence of the " cotton men " is, in the Trade Union world, still im- portant for their specific contribution, to Trade Union theory and practice, of equal piecework rates for both sexes ; of a rigid refusal to allow an employer to make the inferiority either of any workers or of any machines that he chooses to employ an excuse for deductions from the Standard Rate, and of the utmost possible improvement of machinery so long as the piecework rates are strictly controlled by Collective Bargaining and firmly embodied in rigidly enforced lists points on which many Trade Unionists who would deem themselves " advanced " have not yet attained the same level. 1

1 The workers in the woollen and worsted trades, whose organisation went to pieces early in the nineteenth century on the extensive introduc- tion of women and the successive transformations of the industry by machinery, have, during the past thirty years, developed extensive Trade Unions, which have steadily gained strength. In 1892 we could count only 18,000 Trade Unionists in the whole industry. In 1920, whilst the National Society of Woolcombers and Kindred Trades has 12,000 members and there are strong organisations of wool-sorters, warp-dressers, and over- lookers, the General Union of Textile Workers, established in 1881, now includes a membership, in the West of England as well as in Yorkshire, principally male and female weavers, numbering more than 100,000 (The Heavy Woollen District Textile Workers' Union, by Ben Turner, 1917). During the war these Unions were accorded equal representation with the employers and with the Government on the Wool Control Board, by which the Government supplies of wool were " rationed " among the manufacturers, and the prices fixed.

In the dyeing and finishing branch of the textile industry the Amal- gamated Society of Dyers, Bleachers, Finishers, and Kindred Trades (established 1878), with 30,000 members, has outstripped the older National Society of Dyers and Finishers (established 1851 ; 12,000 members), and has entered into remarkable agreements with the monopolist combination of employers. (The Amalgamated Association of Bleachers and Dyers, centred at Bolton, which has over 22,000 members, occupies a similar leading position as regards the dyeing of cotton goods.) A recently formed National Association of Unions in the Textile Trades seeks to co-ordinate .the influence of all the woollen workers and dyers, and counts a member-


The Builders 481


THE BUILDING TRADES

The Building Trades have lost their relative position in the Trade Union world to nearly as great an extent as the cotton operatives. Thirty years ago their representatives stood for 10 per cent of the Trades Union Congress, whereas to-day they probably do not represent 3 per cent of its membership. They have, for a whole generation, supplied no influential leader. The only large society in this section, the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters, Cabinetmakers, and Joiners (133,000 members), has more than doubled its membership since 1890, drawing in various small societies of cabinetmakers, and carpenters, but not yet the older General Union of Carpenters and Joiners, which counts 15,000 members ; and so, too, has the small but solid United Operative Plumbers' Society, with 14,000 members neither of them, however, commanding the allegiance of anything like the whole of its craft. The numerous small societies of painters have, for the most part, drawn themselves together in the National Amalgamated Society of Operative House and Ship Painters and Decorators (30,000 members) ; whilst the National Amalgamated Furnishing Trades Association (12,500 members) represents a union of many small societies. Altogether the Trade Unions in the building trades, including all the little local societies, have probably done no more than double their membership of 1892, and the increase has been relatively least in the most skilled grades. This is due, in part, to an actual decline in the trade, the total numbers enumerated in the 1911 census being actually less than in that of 1901, the fall being even greater down to 1919, when it was estimated that only seven- twelfths as many men were at work at building as in 1901.

The story of the Building Trade Unions during the

ship of about 150,000, in 35 societies, which are grouped in four sections (" Raw Wool," " Managers and Overlookers," " Textile Workers," and " Dyers' Societies ").

R


482 Thirty Years' Growth

thirty years is one of innumerable small sectional and local disputes with their employers taking the form, during 1913, of repeated sudden strikes in the London area against non-Unionists, forced on by the " hot-heads " and discountenanced by the Executive Committees, and leading, in 1914, to a general lock-out by the London Master Builders' Association. The employers demanded that the Trade Unions should penalise members who struck without authority, and that the Unions should put up a pecuniary deposit which might be forfeited when a strike occurred in violation of the Working Rules. They also insisted on each workman signing a personal agreement to work quietly with non-Unionists, under penalty of a fine of 2os. In the lock-out that ensued the whole building trade of the Metropolis was stopped for over six months. Efforts at a settlement in June were rejected on ballot of the opera- tives ; and whilst signs of weakening occurred among the operatives the National Federation of Building Trade Employers had decided on a national lock-out throughout the kingdom in order to secure the employers' terms, when the outbreak of war brought the struggle to an end, and work was resumed practically on the old conditions.

During the war, when the bulk of the operatives were enrolled in the army, and building was restricted to the most urgently needed works, disputes remained in abeyance. At the beginning of 1918 a new start was made in the organisation of the industry by the establishment of a National Federation of Building Trade Operatives, itself a development from a previous National Building Trades Council, in which all the national Trade Unions, 13 in number, for the first time joined together. Notwithstanding great differences in numerical strength, the Unions agreed to constitute the Federation Executive of two representa- tives from each national union. The Federation is formed of local branches, each of which is composed of the branches in the locality of the nationally affiliated Unions, governed by the aggregate of the " Trades Management Committee "


The " Builders' Parliament " 483

of such branches, acting under the direction and control of the Federation Executive. A significant new feature, recalling an expedient of the Trade Unionism of 1834, * s the establishment of " Composite Branches " of individual building trades operatives in localities where no branch of the separate national unions exists. What success may attend this renewed effort at unified national organisation of the whole industry it is impossible to predict ; there are signs of a movement for actual amalgamation. The four principal Builders' Labourers' Unions are on the point of uniting in a strong amalgamation with 40,000 members. Other attempts at amalgamation, including one among the " house builders/' the societies of bricklayers, masons and plasterers, have been voted. The Furnishing Trades Associa- tion was only prevented from merging in the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters by technical difficulties. On the other hand the separate Scottish and Irish Unions (except for the merging of the Associated Carpenters) stubbornly maintain their independence. Down to the present it must be said that combination in the building trades, torn by internecine conflicts and financially weakened by unsuccess- ful strikes, has, on the whole, been falling back. The gradual change of processes, and the introduction of new materials, with an actual decline in the numbers employed, has not been met by any improvement in the organisation of the older craft unions, whilst the workers in the new processes have failed to achieve effective union. With the great demand for building since the Armistice, the Building Trades Unions have, however, shown increased vitality; and the position in the negotiating Joint Boards, at which they are now regularly meeting the employers' representa- tives, has considerably improved. The latest achievement of the industry is the establishment, jointly with the em- ployers, of a "Builders' Parliament "largely at the instance of Mr. Malcolm Sparkes which is the most note- worthy example of the " Whitley Councils," to which we shall refer later.


484 Thirty Years' Growth


ENGINEERING AND THE METAL TRADES

The large and steadily increasing army of operatives in the various processes connected with metals (who are com- bined in Germany in a single gigantic Metal Workers' Union) can be noticed here only in its three principal sections, the engineering industry, boilermaking and ship- building, and the production of iron and steel from the ore.

Trade Unionism in the engineering industry, though it has, during the past thirty years, greatly increased in aggregate membership, notably among the unskilled and semi-skilled workmen employed in engineering shops, can hardly be said to have grown in strength, whether manifested in effect upon the engineering employers, who have become very strongly combined throughout the whole kingdom, or in influence in the Trade Union world. This relative decline must be ascribed to the continued lack of any systematic organisation of the industry as a whole ; to a failure to cope with the changing processes and systems of remunera- tion which the employers have introduced ; and to the persistence of internecine war among the rival Unions themselves.

The trouble in the engineering world came to a head in 1897, precipitated perhaps by the employers, who wanted, as they said, to be " masters in their own shops." The Amalgamated Society of Engineers, which had maintained its predominant position among the engineering workmen, but only commanded the allegiance of a part of them, after a series of bickerings with the employers about the technical improvement of the industry, in which the workmen had shown themselves, to say the least, very conservative, found itself involved in a general strike and lock-out in all the principal engineering centres, nominally about the London engineering workmen's precipitate demand for an Eight Hours Day, but substantially over the employers' insistence on being masters in their own workshops, entitled to intro-


The Engineers 485

duce what new methods of working they chose, and whatever new systems of remuneration according to results that they could persuade the several workmen to accept. The Union, to which apparently it did not occur to use the methods of publicity on which William Newton and John Burnett would have relied, failed to make clear its case to the public ; and public opinion was accordingly against the engineering workmen, believing them to be at the same time obstructive to industrial improvements and unable to formulate condi- tions that would safeguard their legitimate interests. The result was that the prolonged stoppage, which reduced the funds of the A.S.E. down to what only sufficed to meet the accrued liabilities for Superannuation Benefit, ended in a virtual victory for the employers. The A.S.E. quickly re- sumed its growth and stood, in the autumn of 1919, at 320,000 members, or over five times its membership of 1892. But the sectional societies also increased in size, and down to 1919 they counted in the aggregate, as in 1892, about half as many members as the A.S.E. itself. 1 Meanwhile, the great development of the engineering industry, and the successive changes in the machinery employed, have been accompanied by the introduction of various forms of " Payment by Results," in which the engineering Trade Unions have not known how to prevent the reintroduction of individual bargaining. Owing to its quarrels with the various sectional societies in the industry, the A.S.E. has been alternately in and out of the Trades Union Congress ; and, on general issues, has seldom sought to influence the Trade Union world as much as its magnitude -and position would have entitled it to do. The same may be said of the other Trade

1 The history of the struggles in the engineering industry may be gathered from the monthly Journal of the A.S.E. and the Annual Reports of this and other engineering Trade Unions ; from the references in Engineering and other employers' periodicals. For the lock-out of 1897, see also the Times and Labour Gazette for that year, and also an anonymous volume, The Engineering Strike, 1897. See also for some of the points at issue, Industrial Democracy, by S. and B. Webb, 1897 ; An Introduction to Trade Unionism, by G. D. H. Cole, 1917, and Tkf Works Manager To-day, by Sidney Webb, 1918.


486 Thirty Years' Growth

Unions in the engineering industry, which were contented to hold their own against their greater rival, and to see their membership progress with the growth of the industry itself.

The elaborate constitution of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, which we described in a preceding chapter, has been, during the past thirty years, repeatedly tinkered with by delegate meetings, but without being substantially changed. There has been a perpetual balance and deadlock of opinion, which has led to successive modifications and reactions. Alongside the skilled engineering craftsmen, of different specialities in technique, there has grown up a vast number of unapprenticed and semi-skilled men, whom the Union has failed to exclude, not only from the work- shops but also from the jobs formerly monopolised by the legitimate craftsmen. Should these interlopers be admitted to membership ? At one delegate meeting (1912) the rules were altered so as to admit (" Class F ") not only all varieties of skilled engineering craftsmen, but also practically any one working hi an engineering shop. This was counteracted by the tacit refusal of most branches to carry out the decision of their own delegates ; and " Class F," which never obtained as many as 2000 members, was abolished by the next delegate meeting (1915.) The method of remuneration has been another bone of contention. Especially since the dis- astrous conflict of 1897, the employers have more and more insisted on the adoption of systems of " payment by results " instead of the weekly tune rates, to which the engineering operatives, like those of most of the building trades, de- votedly cling. What is to be the Union policy with regard to these varieties of piecework and " premium bonus " systems ? Failing to discover any device by which (as among the cotton operatives, the boot and shoe makers, and the Birmingham brassworkers) " payment by results " can be effectively safeguarded by being subjected to collec- tive bargaining, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers has wavered, in its decisions and in the policy of its various


Rival Unions 487

districts, between \a) refusing to allow any other system than timework ; (b) limiting systems of payment by results to " those shops in which they have already been intro- duced " ; (c) insisting, as a condition of permitting pay- ment by results, on the " Principle of Mutuality," which amounts to no more than the claim that the workman shall not have the piecework rates or " bonus times " arbitrarily imposed upon him, but shall be permitted individually to bargain with the foreman or rate-fixer for better terms. The result is a chaos of inconsistent customs and practices varying from shop to shop ; and withal, a tendency to a continuous decline in piecework rates (mitigated only by the greater or less extent to which collective " shop bargain- ing " prevails, and by its efficiency) which leads, in sullen resentment, to " ca' canny," or slow working. The third bone of contention has been how to deal with the com- peting Trade Unions, which are either societies of varieties of skilled engineers who prefer to remain unabsorbed in the A.S.E., or societies of new classes of operatives such as machine workers, workers in brass and copper, electrical craftsmen, and others, with whom the A.S.E. found itself disputing the control of the industry. Should these much smaller organisations be (a) ignored and their members treated as non-unionists ; or (b) admitted to joint delibera- tion and action in trade matters with the view to formulat- ing a common policy ; or (c) dealt with by amalgamation on a still broader basis than that of the A.S.E. ? It would be useless to trace the results of the ebb and flow of these contrary views, which were, in the autumn of 1919, for the time being, partly reconciled by an agreement by which six of the competing Unions x are in 1920, with the A.S.E.,

1 The Unions which, along with the A.S.E., ratified the agreement were the Steam Engine Makers' Society, the United Machine Workers' Association, the United Kingdom Society of Amalgamated Smiths and Strikers, the Associated Brassfounders and Coppersmiths' Society the North of England Brass Turners' Society, and the London United Metal Turners, Fitters and Finishers, having an aggregate membership of 70,000.

The societies which failed to secure ratification on the members vote, in some cases merely by the failure to obtain a sufficiently large poll, were


488 Thirty Years' Growth

to be merged in the Amalgamated Engineering Union with a membership of 400,000 and accumulated funds amounting to nearly four millions sterling. It remains to be seen whether this wider amalgamation will bring to engineering Trade Unionism the formulation of a systematic policy, national organisation, and competent leadership.

Underlying all these issues, and aggravating all the dis- putes to which they give rise, is the fundamental divergence between those who insist on an extreme local autonomy the district being free to strike, and free to refuse to settle a local strike, and those who maintain the importance of a national unity in trade policy, and the necessity, with centralised funds, of centralised control. Still more keen is the controversy between those who wish to maintain the present craftsmen's organisation, and those who seek to enlarge it into an organisation comprising all the workers in the industry, whether skilled or unskilled. During the past decade the discontent against the Central Executive, especially on the Clyde, has led to a so-called " rank and file " movement ; the development of the shop steward from a mere " card inspector " and membership recruiting officer into an aggressive strike leader ; and the joining together of the shop stewards (as at Glasgow, Sheffield, and Coventry) into such new forms of organisation as the " Clyde Workers' Committee," actively promoting their own local trade policies irrespective of the views of the Union as a whole.


the Amalgamated Toolmakers' Society, the Electrical Trades Union, the United Brass Founders and Finishers' Association, the Amalgamated Instrument Makers' Society, the United Pattern Makers' Association, the Associated Smiths and Strikers, the National Brass-workers and Metal Mechanics, the Association of Engineering and Shipbuilding Draughtsmen, and the Scale and Beam Makers' Society, with something like 100,000 members in the aggregate. Probably some of these will take another vote in the near future.

The old-established Friendly Society of Ironfounders (35,000 members) continues quite apart, though joining freely in engineering trade move- ments. An unusually protracted national strike in 1919, which is likely to end in a compromise, may possibly lead to proposals for closer union.


The Shop Steward 489

The " Shop Stewards' Movement," which assumed some importance in the engineering industry in 1915-19, was a new development of an old institution in Trade Unionism we have referred elsewhere to the " Father of the Chapel " among the compositors, and to the checkweighman among the coal-miners which acquired a special importance owing to the growing lack of correspondence between the membership of the Trade Union Branch or District Council and the grouping of the workmen in the different establish- ments, and also from the fact that the workmen in each establishment found themselves belonging to different Trade Unions. " The shop steward," it has been pointed out, " was originally a minor official appointed from the men in a particular workshop and charged with the duty of seeing that all the Trade Union contributions were paid. He had other small duties. But gradually, as the branch got more and more out of touch with the men in the shop, these men came to look to the official who was on the spot to represent their grievances. During the war the develop- ment of the shop steward movement was very rapid, par- ticularly in the engineering industry. In some big industrial concerns, composed of a large number of workshops, the committees of stewards from the various shops very largely took over the whole conduct of negotiations and arrange- ment of shop conditions. Further, a national organisation of shop stewards was formed, at first mainly for propa- gandist purposes. The existing unions have considered some of the activities of shop stewards to be unofficial, and there has been a good deal of dissension within the unions on this score. Attempts have been made to reach an agreement by which Shop Stewards' Committees shall be fully recognised at once by the unions and by the manage- ments. So far there has been no final settlement. An agreement was made in the early summer of 1919 between the Engineering Employers' Federation and the Unions; how this will work in practice is not yet certain."

1 Trade Unionism : a New Model, by R. Page Arnot, 1919 : and

R2


490 Thirty Years' Growth

It must, in fact, be said that although the Engineerinj Trade Unions have during the past thirty years not take] much part in general Trade Union issues, they have (ii contrast with some other sections) contributed freely ii both men and ideas. We have already dwelt upon tin activities of Mr. John Burns and Mr. Tom Mann. We shal mention the political progress of Mr. George Barnes, wh< is also of the A.S.E. ; whilst the Friendly Society of Iron founders has given Mr. Arthur Henderson to the Movement And, in the long run possibly more important even thai men, the ideas emanating from the engineering workshop; have had a more than proportionate share in the fermem of these years. The vacancy in the office of General Secre tary, occasioned by the election to the House of Commons of Mr. Robert Young, was filled in the autumn of 1910 by the election of Mr. Tom Mann ; and this election, to- gether with the great amalgamation of competing Unions brought about at the same time, may perhaps open up a new era in engineering Trade Unionism.

In contrast with the failure of Trade Unionism in the engineering trades either to develop a systematic organisa- tion or to cope with the changes in processes and methods of remuneration, the two powerful Unions of boilermakers and shipwrights have gone from strength to strength, doubling their numbers, absorbing practically all the re- maining local societies in their industry, and closely com- bining with each other in policy and other activities, con- cluding, indeed, in the autumn of 1919 an agreement tc submit to their respective memberships a proposal for a

various pamphlets printed at Glasgow, etc. Some " extremist " thinkers among workmen have put their hopes of achieving the " Industrial Democracy " that they desire upon a development of the Shop Stewards Movement, which should become, together with a " Works Committee/ the instrument of transferring the management of each undertaking from its present capitalist owners and directors to the elected representa- tives of the persons employed. See The Workers' Committee, an Outline of its Principles and Structures, by J. T. Murphy (1918), and Compromise or Independence, an Examination of the Whitley Report (1918), by the same, both published by the Sheffield Workers' Committee.


The Steel Smelters 491

formal amalgamation which may be joined by the strong society of Associated Blacksmiths. This would mean the consolidation, in one powerful Union of 170,000 members, of practically all the skilled craftsmen working in the construction of the hulls of ships, of boilers and tanks, and of steel bridge-work of all sorts. Concentrated largely in the ports of the north-east coast and those of the Clyde, with strong contingents in the relatively small number of other shipbuilding centres, the boilermakers and shipwrights have held their own in face of all the changes in their in- dustry, and have known how to maintain a fairly uniform national policy.

Passing from engineering and shipbuilding to the smelt- ing of the iron and steel from the ore, the one marked advance in organisation is that of the British Steel Smelters, which, established in 1886, and in 1892 having still only 2600 members, had by 1918, under the prudent leadership of Mr. John Hodge, drawn to itself over 40,000. Tfie British steel smelters have the credit of equipping them- selves with the most efficient office in the Trade Union world, with a real statistical department and a trained staff, in- cluding, for all their legal business, especially that connected with compensation for accidents, a qualified professional solicitor. Already before the outbreak of war a far-seeing policy of amalgamation had been virtually decided on ; and in 1915 a scheme was prepared for the merging of all the six important Unions hi the industry of obtaining the metal from the ore, including the operatives in the tinplate and rolling mills. The plan for surmounting the legal and other difficulties of amalgamation, of which we may ascribe the authorship to Mr. John Hodge, Mr. Pugh, and Mr. Percy Cole, the able officials of the British Steel Smelters' Union, was one of extreme ingenuity as involving no more than a bare majority of the members voting, which deserves the attention of other societies as a " New Model." Three only out of the six societies (the British Steel Smelters' Association, the Associated Iron and Steel Workers


49 2 Thirty Years' Growth

of Great Britain, and the National Steel Workers' Associa tion) were able to go forward in IQI7, 1 when a new society the British Iron, Steel, and Kindred Trades Association was formed. The four societies then created the Iron anc Steel Trades Confederation, to which they formally cedec powers and functions affecting the members of more thai one of the constituent bodies, and therefore all general negotiations with the employers. The three old societies continued formally in existence, but they bound themselves not to enrol any new members, who were all to be taker by the new society, to which all the existing members wen to be continuously urged to transfer themselves voluntarily, This process has already gone so far that the new society has swallowed up the British Steel Smelters' Society, which has been wound up and completely merged in the new body into which the empty shells of the other two old bodies will presently fall. The Iron and Steel Trades Confedera- tion will then be composed of one society only, and maj be kept alive only to serve the same transitional purpose for other incoming societies.


THE COMPOSITORS

The printing trades have remained, during the past thirty years, curiously stationary so far as Trade Unionism is con- cerned, the London Society of Compositors, the Typographical Association, the Scottish Typographical Association, and the Dublin Typographical Society having, in the aggregate, in- creased their membership by three-fifths and steadily in- creased their rates of pay and strategic strength against their own employers, but commanding little influence ir the Trade Union Movement as a whole, and in many smal towns still leaving a considerable portion of the trade out-

1 The Amalgamated Society of Steel and Ironworkers and the Tin anc Sheet Millmen's Association failed to secure their members' ratificatioi by vote, whilst the National Association of Blastfurnacemen withheld it! adhesion. These may be expected to adhere in due course.


The Shoemakers 493

side their ranks. The less-skilled workers in the paper- making and printing establishments have greatly improved their organisation ; and the National Union of Printing and Paper Workers and the Operative Printers Assistants' Society both of them including women as well as men have become large and effective Trade Unions. All the societies are united in the powerful Printing and Kindred Trades Federation, to which the National Union of Journalists, now a large society, has recently affiliated.


BOOT AND SHOEMAKING

Among the other constituents of the Trade Union world in which a relative decline in influence is to be noted, is that of the boot and shoemakers. Thirty years ago the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives had achieved a position of great influence in the trade. It had joined with the Employers' Associations hi building up, as de- scribed in our Industrial Democracy, an elaborate system of Local Boards of Conciliation and Arbitration, united hi a National Conference of dignity and influence, with resort to Lord James of Hereford as umpire, by means of which stoppages of work were prevented, and, more im- portant still, the illegitimate use of boy labour was restrained and standard piecework rates were arrived at by collective bargaining, and authoritatively imposed on the whole trade. In 1894 the whole machinery was broken up, at the instance of the very employers who had agreed to it, and had co- operated for years in its working, because they found that, under the rules and at the piecework rates prescribed, the men were " making too much." .

After a prolonged stoppage in 1894 the dispute was patched up by the intervention of the Labour Department of the Board of Trade ; and the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, with 80,000 members, has, on the whole, held its own with the employers, with less elaborate formal relations ; but the work of the Union is impaired


494 Thirty Years' Growth

by the weakness of the organisation in the smaller workshops and the less important local centres of the trade.

On the other side, we have the rise to influence, not only in the Trade Union counsels but also in those of the nation, of the Women Workers, the General Labourers, the " black- coated proletariat " of shop assistants, clerks, teachers, technicians, and officials, the miners and the railwaymen, which has been the outstanding feature of the past thirty years.


WOMEN WORKERS

In no section of the industrial community has the advance of Trade Unionism during the last thirty years been more marked than among the women workers. For the first half of this period, indeed though the aggregate women membership of Trade Unions approximately doubled this meant only a rise from about 100,000 in 1890 to about 200,000 in 1907, mostly in the textile industries ; and the number of women Trade Unionists outside those industries was in the latter year still under 30,000. But the long- continued patient work of the Women's Trade Union League was having its effect ; and the idea of Trade Unionism was being established among the women workers in many different industries. Much is to be ascribed to the efforts during these years of Sir Charles and Lady Dilke, who were unwearied in their assistance. In 1909, largely at the instance of Sir Charles Dilke and the women's leaders, especially Miss Mary Macarthur, Miss Gertrude Tuckwell, and Miss Susan Lawrence, Mr. Winston Churchill, as Presi- dent of the Board of Trade, carried through Parliament the Trade Boards Bill, which enabled a legal minimum wage to be prescribed by joint boards in four specially low-paid industries, in which mainly women were employed. This measure not only considerably improved the position of the sweated workers in the chain and nail trades, the slop tailoring trade, paper box making and machine lace-


Women 495

making, but as had been predicted on one side and denied on the other greatly stimulated independent organisation among the women whose industrial status was raised. The extension of the Trade Boards and of the legal minimum wage in 1913 to half a dozen other trades had like effects, and the further extension of 1918 is already promising in the same direction. Trade Union membership was further greatly increased during 1912-14 as a result of the National Insurance Act, which brought many thousand recruits to the Approved Society sections of the Unions. It was, however, the Great War, with its unprecedented demand for women workers, and their admission, in " dilution " of or in substitution for men, to all sorts of occupations and processes into which they had not previously penetrated, at earnings which they had never before been permitted to receive, that brought the women into Trade Unionism by the hundred thousand. The National Federation of Women Workers the largest exclusively feminine Union rose from 11,000 in 1914 to over 60,000 in 1919. A small number of new Trade Unions exclusively for women were established in particular sec- tions, such as the interesting little society of Women Acety- lene Welders. The bulk of the women, however, continued to be organised in Trade Unions admitting both sexes. Besides the various Textile Unions, there are now thousands of women in the National Union of Railwaymen, the Railway Clerks' Association, Boot and Shoe Operatives, and the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation. Most of the general labour Unions, and others like the National Union of Printing and Paper Workers, the National Union of Shop Assistants, Warehousemen and Clerks, the Amalgamated Union of Co-operative and Commercial Employees and Allied Workers, had for a couple of decades been enrolling women members ; and the female membership of these societies now grew by leaps and bounds. But the greater part of the field of women's employment is still uncovered. In 1920, though it may be estimated that the total women


496 Thirty Years' Growth

membership of Trade Unions is nearly three-quarters of a million, this still represents less than 30 per cent of the adult women wage-earners.

The outstanding feature in women's Trade Unionism during the past decade has been its advance, not merely in numbers and achievements, but also in status and influence. This has come with accelerating speed. To the first Treasury Conference in 1915, at which the Government sought the help of the Trade Unions in the winning of the war, it apparently did not occur to any official to invite the National Federation of Women Workers ; but in all subsequent pro- ceedings of the same nature Miss Mary Macarthur and Miss Susan Lawrence, on behalf of the women Trade Unionists in this and other societies, occupied a leading position. Whether before the Munitions Act Tribunals, the Committee on Production, or the Special Arbitration Tribunal set up by the Government to deal with the conditions of employment of women munition-workers, the women's case, whether put by the representatives of the Women's Unions, or by those of the principal Unions of general workers that included women, was so ably conducted as to secure for the women workers, almost for the first time, something like the same measure of justice as that which the men had wrested from the employers for themselves. The result was not only a marked rise in the standard of remuneration for women, the opening up to them of many fields of work from which they had hitherto been excluded, and a general improve- ment in their conditions of employment, but also a rapid development of Trade Unionism among them nine-tenths of the women Trade Unionists being in societies enrolling both. men and women and the winning, for women's Trade Unions, of the respect of the Trade Union world. For the first time a woman was elected in 1919 by the Trades Union Congress to its Parliamentary Committee, Miss Margaret Bondfield, of the National Federation of Women Workers, receiving over three million votes. On the reconstitution in 1918 of the Labour Party, in which women had always


The General Workers 497

been accorded equal rights, provision was made so that there should always be at least four women elected to the Executive Committee. A Standing Joint Committee of Women's Industrial Organisations, established in 1916, now initiates and co-ordinates the action of the principal women's Trade Unions, the Women's Co-operative Guild (which organ- ises the women of the Co-operative movement), the Railway Women's Guild, composed of the wives of railwaymen, and the Women's Labour League, now the women's section of the Labour Party itself.


THE GENERAL WORKERS

In 1888 the leaders of the skilled craftsmen and better- paid workmen were inclined to believe that effective or durable Trade Unionism among the general labourers and unskilled or nondescript workmen was as impracticable as it had hitherto proved to be among the mass of women wage-earners. The outburst of Trade Unionism among the dockers and gasworkers in 1888-89 was commonly expected to be as transient as analogous movements had been in 1834 and 1871. In 1920 we find the organisations of this despised section, some of them of over thirty years' standing, account- ing for no less than 30 per cent of the whole Trade Union membership, and their leaders notably Mr. Clynes, Mr. Thome, and Mr. Robert Williams exercising at least then- full share of influence in the counsels of the Trade Union Movement as a whole. For a few years after 1889, indeed, the aggregate membership of the newly-formed labourers' Unions declined, and some of the weaker ones collapsed, or became merged in the larger societies. But the Gasworkers' and General Labourers' Union (established 1889), which changed its name in 1918 to the National Union of General Workers ; and the Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Workers' Union (established 1887) maintained themselves in existence ; and already in 1907 there were as many as 150,000 organised labourers in half-a-dozen well-established


498 Thirty Years' Growth

societies. The outburst of Trade Unionism among the farm labourers in 1890 gradually faded away. But in 1906 a new society, the National Agricultural Labourers and Rural Workers' Trade Union, was formed, which at once made headway in Norfolk and the adjacent counties ; to be followed in 1913 by the energetic Scottish Farm Servants' Trade Union. Organisation was, between 1904 and 1911, steadily extending in all directions, when the passing of the 'National Insurance Act, which practically compelled every wage-earner to join an " Approved Society " of some kind, led to a dramatic expansion of Trade Union membership, from which the various Unions of general workers, as they now prefer to be styled, obtained their share of advantage. The Workers' Union, in particular, which had been estab- lished in 1898, for the enrolment of members among the nondescript and semi-skilled workers of all sorts not catered for by the craft Unions, had, after twelve years' existence, only 5000 members in in branches in 1910, but grew during 1911-13 to 91,000 members in 567 branches. In three years more it stood at 197,000 members in 750 branches, and by the end of 1919 its membership had risen to about 500,000 in nearly 2000 branches, comprising almost every kind and grade of worker, of any age and either sex, from clay- workers and tin miners to corporation employees and sanitary inspectors, from domestic servants and waiters to farm labourers and carmen, and every kind of nondescript worker in the factory, the yard, or on the road. The organising of the rural labourers has been shared by nearly all the principal Unions of General Workers. The passing of the Corn Production Act in 1917, with its incidental establishment of Joint Boards in every county of the United Kingdom, empowered to fix a legal minimum wage for a prescribed normal working day, had the result of greatly extending Trade Union membership among all sections of agricultural labourers, who are now (1920), for the first time in history, more or less organised in every county of Great Britain partly in the very successful Agricultural


Transport 499

Labourers' Union, which had, at the end of 1919, 180,000 members in no fewer than 2700 branches ; partly in the Workers' Union, which has a large number of agricultural branches ; partly in the National Union of General Workers, the Dock, Wharf and Riverside Labourers' Union, and the National Amalgamated Union of Labour ; in ah 1 the Scottish counties, in the powerful Scottish Farm Servants' Union ; whilst in Ireland the agricultural wage-earners have been enrolled in the Transport and General Workers' Union. The total number of agricultural labourers in Trade Unions in 1920 probably reaches more than three hundred thousand, being about one-third of the total number of men employed in agriculture at wages.

Throughout the years of war the membership of the various Unions classified under the head of Transport and General Labour (including the dockers and seamen), which in 1892 was only 154,000, continued to increase by leaps and bounds until, in 1920, their aggregate membership considerably exceeds that of the entire Trade Union world of 1890, and does not fall far short of a couple of millions.

Of recent years there has been a steady pressure towards amalgamation and consolidation of forces. Many small and local Unions have been merged, and several of the larger bodies seem to be on the point of union. Meanwhile the movement towards closer federation is strong. In 1908 all the big general Labour Unions became associated hi the General Labourers' National Council, a useful consultative body, having for its principal function the prevention of overlapping and conflict among the different Unions. It was successful in arranging for freedom of transfer and mutual recognition of each other's membership among its constituent Unions, and in promoting a certain amount of demarcation of spheres, and even of amalgamation. This Council in May 1917 developed into a National Federation of General Workers, which includes eleven important general Unions of General Workers, having an aggregate member- ship of over 800,000.' This important federation took a


5oo Thirty Years' Growth

significant step towards unification in November 1919, in appointing ten District Committees, consisting of two representatives of each of the affiliated societies, charged to consult with regard to any local trade dispute involving more than one society.

Recent years have seen the rise of a new grouping. The several Unions of seamen, lightermen, dock and wharf labourers, coal-porters and carmen have asserted them- selves as Transport Workers, seeking not merely to take common action in matters of wages and hours, but also to formulate regulations for the government of the whole industry of transport (apart from that of railways), which is one more example of the tendency to create " industrial " federations on a national basis. The organisation for the purpose is the National Transport Workers' Federation, comprising three dozen of the Unions having among their members men engaged in waterside transport work, in- cluding seamen, dockers, and carters. It was formed in November 1910 at the instance of the Dockers' Union, and came at once into prominence during the London strike of 1911, which it handled with great vigour. 1 This was the first great fight in the Port of London since the upheaval of 1889. The National Union of Sailors and Firemen, which had in vain appealed to the Shipping Federation to unite in constituting a Conciliation Board, in June 1911 struck for a uniform scale at all ports and various minor ameliorations of their conditions. Largely as a result of the excitement caused by the seamen's strike, the dockers in July came out for a rise from 6d. to 8d. per hour, with is. per hour for overtime. The stevedores, the gasworkers, the carmen,

1 The London dock labourers found themselves in 1911, with an increased cost of living and the virtual abandonment of attempts to improve their method of employment, little better off than in 1889. See Casual Labour at the Docks, by H. A. Mess, 1916 ; and, for the position at other ports, Le Travail casuel dans les ports anglais, by J. Malegue, 1913 ; The Liverpool Docks Problem, 1912, and The First Year's Working of the Liverpool Dock Scheme, 1914, both by R. Williams (of the Labour Exchange) ; and " Towards the Solution of the Casual Labour Problem," by F. Keeling, in Economic Journal, March 1913.


The Dock Strike 501

the coal-porters, the tug-enginemen, the grain porters, and various other bodies of men engaged in or about the port, put forward their own claims. Amid great excitement the whole port was stopped, great meetings on Tower Hill were held daily, and processions of strikers, said to have been as many as 100,000 in number, paraded through the City. The unrest spread to most other ports, and there were some local disturbances. The Port of London Authority, under Lord Devonport, refused all parley, and the Government for some time practically supported this great corporate employer, which had failed (and has to this day failed) to comply with the section of the Act of Parliament by which it was constituted directing it to institute a scheme for more civilised conditions of employment for its labourers. The War Office, at the request of Mr. Winston Churchill, who was then at the Home Office, accumulated troops in London, and actually threatened to put 25,000 soldiers to break the strike by doing the dockers' work a step which would undoubtedly have led to bloody conflict in the streets. Finally, however, the Cabinet gave way, and persuaded Lord Devonport and his colleagues, together with shipowners, wharfingers, and granary proprietors, to meet the representa- tives of the Unions with a view to agreement. For three whole days they sat and argued, ultimately arriving at an agreement under which the men returned to work on the immediate concession of about half their demand and the remission of the other half to arbitration. This was under- taken by Sir Albert Rollit, M.P., at the instance of the London Chamber of Commerce, his award eventually con- ceding to the men substantially their whole claim ; summed up in 8d. per hour for the dockers, with is. per hour for overtime, other trades, and the men at other ports, obtain- ing, hi one or other form, analogous advantages. 1 In May 1912 the dispute flared up again in the Thames and Medway,

1 History of the London Transport Workers' Strike, by Ben Tillett. 19 n The Great Strike Movement of ign and its Lessons, by H. W. Lee, 1911 ; The Times for June-August 1911 1 Labour Gazette, 1911-12.


5O2 Thirty Years' Growth

when a combined strike and lock-out, in which 80,000 men were involved, stopped the work of the port for six weeks. Sympathetic strikes in other ports led to some 20,000 men being idle for a few days. The men asserted that the employers had not in all cases fulfilled the agreement of the previous year, and were discriminating against Trade Unionists. The employers seem to have been concerned, in the main, to avoid recognition of the Transport Workers' Federation, and to check its growing authority. In spite of the vigorous support of the Daily Herald ; of pecuniary help, not only from Australia and the United States, but also from the German Trade Unions ; and of the mediation of the Government, the strike failed owing to the men breaking away, and to the stubborn obstinacy of Lord Devonport, as Chairman of the Port of London Authority, who insisted on a resumption of work upon the employers' assurance that they would respect all agreements and consider any grievances put forward by the representatives of any section. Notwithstanding the failure of this some- what premature effort of the Transport Workers' Federation, its formation, together with that of the National Federation of General Workers, have gone far to transform the position. For a couple of decades the efforts of the General Labourers' Unions took the form of innumerable local and sectional demands, not merely for higher rates of pay, though ad- vances of several shillings per week have continually been secured, but for mutual agreement of piecework rates, a reduction of working hours, insistence on compensation for accidents, the provision of better accommodation or greater amenity in work, and extra allowances for tasks of peculiar strain or discomfort. The efforts of the federations have raised these local and sectional arrangements to the level of national questions ; and the agreements now concluded with the employers' national representatives amount to an increasingly effective control over the industry.


The Shop Assistants 503


THE " BLACK-COATED PROLETARIAT "

If Trade Unionism has, in the past thirty years, success- fully progressed downward to the women and the unskilled labourers, its advance, in a sense upwards, among the various sections of the " black-coated proletariat/' has been no less remarkable. In 1892 there were only the smallest signs of Trade Union organisation among the clerks and shop assistants, the various sections of Post Office and other Government employees, the municipal officers, and the life assurance agents. Among wage-earners in these various occupations, numbering in the United Kingdom possibly several millions badly paid, working under unsatisfactory conditions, and sometimes subject t actual tyranny there were, thirty years ago, a few dozen small and struggling Trade Unions, with only a few tens of thousands of aggregate membership. In 1920 these have developed into powerful amalgamations in most of the several sections, nearly all fully recognised by their employers, whether private or public, with whom they enter into collective agreements; and enrolling a total membership falling not far short of three-quarters of a million.

We may note first the army of shop assistants, ware- housemen, and other employees in the distributive trades, wholesale and retail. 1 The National Amalgamated Union of Shop Assistants, Warehousemen, and Clerks, established in 1891, made at first slow progress, and counted in 1912, after a couple of decades of growth, fewer than 65,000 members. Partly as a result of the National Insurance Act, which practically compelled all employees under 160 to join some organisation, the Union went ahead by leaps and bounds, multiplying its branches and swelling its num- bers, until it counts now over 100,000 members. Meanwhile

1 The Working Life of Shop Assistants, by Joseph Hallsworth and R. J, Davis, 1913.


504 Thirty Years' Growth

the Amalgamated Union of Co-operative Employees (also established in 1891) in 1918 adding to its title also " Com- mercial Employees and Allied Workers " has benefited by a similar expansion, counting, in 1920, also about 100,000 members. This society started on the basis of enrolling all employees of the Co-operative Societies, whatever their crafts, and no other persons, a constitution now disapproved of by the Trades Union Congress. It is, however, not now confined to persons employed by co-operative societies ; and whilst it includes a number of carmen, tailors, bakers, bootmakers, and others in co-operative employment who should more appropriately belong to other Unions, the negotiations that have been for some time in progress for the merging of both organisations in a single great Union of persons employed in the distributive trades, and the transfer of those belonging to specific crafts to their own societies, may probably presently be successful.

Of clerks, the most effective organisation is that of the clerical service of the railway companies, the Railway Clerks' Association, which takes in also stationmasters, inspectors, and superintendents (who are all eligible also for the National Union of Railwaymen, which some of them have joined). Established in 1897, it continued for a decade insignificant in magnitude, and had not by 1910 enrolled as many as 10,000 members. After the railway strike of 1911 it began to forge ahead, passing from 30,000 in 1914 to 42,000 in 1915 a total doubled by 1920, and with increas- ing strength it obtained gradually increasing recognition from the railway companies, successfully maintaining its right to enrol, not only clerks in the General Managers' offices, but also inspectors and stationmasters. As its membership grew, it was able successfully to contest the elections for representatives on the committees of the various super- annuation funds instituted by the companies, and thereby to demonstrate its right to speak for the whole body of railway clerks. Whilst acting in friendly association with the National Union of Railwaymen, the Railway Clerks"


The Clerks 505

Association has latterly drawn to itself an ever-increasing proportion of the inspectors and stationmasters ; and in 1920, when it can count on a membership of nearly 90,000, it is claiming to speak for all grades of the Railway Clerical Admin- istrative and Supervisory Staff. Since 1913, at least, it has been asserting a claim, as soon as the railways are national- ised, to some participation in their management ; and at the end of 1919, it is understood, some promise was made by the Minister of Transport that, in any Railway Board or National Advisory Committee that may be constituted, the Railway Clerks' Association would, with the National Union of Railwaymen and the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, be accorded its due share of representation .

The great army of clerks in commercial offices has made less progress in organisation than the shop assistants and the railway clerks. For years, indeed, it seemed as if commercial clerks would not form a Trade Union ; and the National Union of Clerks (established 1890) made little headway. In 1912 it had still under 9000 members. In the past seven years it has bounded up to 55,000 members. 1 There is also a small Irish Clerical Workers' Union, princi- pally in Dublin, resulting from a secession from the National Union. Most remarkable of all has been the formation, during the war, of a Bank Officers' Guild and an Irish Bank Officials' Association, having definitely Trade Union objects (though not yet seeking to join the Trades Union Congress), both of them being independent of the Bankers' Institute, which retains the character of a scientific and educational society. There is now even a Guild of Law Court Officials, having definitely Trade Union objects.

The great body of teachers of all kinds and grades, numbering altogether about 300,000 men and women in the. United Kingdom, have, during the past thirty years, become strongly and very elaborately organised in many

1 A separate Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries, long small in membership, has also risen to 4500 members.


506 Thirty Years' Growth

different societies. 1 What is significant is the extent to which many of these professional associations have latterly adopted the purposes, and even the characteristic methods, of Trade Unionism. The largest of these bodies, the National Union of Teachers, established in 1890, has now over 102,000 members, and exercises great influence upon the conditions of employment of the teachers in elementary schools. During the past few years it has supported various district or county strikes for better salary-scales. The teachers in secondary schools are organised in four societies, for headmasters, headmistresses, assistant masters, and assistant mistresses respectively, united in a Federal Council of Secondary School Associations, which, though it has not yet fomented or supported a strike, has of late organised effective pressure to obtain greater security of tenure for assistants, better salary-scales, and a universal superannuation scheme.

Equally significant is the recent development of organisa- tion among the industrial technicians, whether engineers, electricians, chemists, or merely foremen and managers ; among the workers in scientific laboratories, whether for research, medical, teaching, or administrative purposes ; and among the junior lecturers and assistants at University institutions. These organisations overlap in their spheres, if not also in their memberships, and are not yet stabilised, but most of them are united in the National Federation of Professional Workers of even wider scope. What is im- portant is the growing divergence between what are essen- tially Trade Unions of the brain-working professionals and the purely " scientific societies " to which such persons have, until recent years, restricted their tendency to professional association. Some of the new bodies (such as the Society of Technical Engineers) have actually registered themselves as Trade Unions, a step taken also by the Medico-Political

1 See English Teachers and their Professional Organisations, by Mrs. Sidney Webb, published as supplements to The New Statesman of Sep- tember 25 and October 2, 1915.


The Civil Service 507

Union, a vigorous association of medical practitioners; whilst the newly formed Actors' Association, like the National Union of Journalists, has applied for affiliation to the Trades Union Congress.

The life assurance agents principally those employed in " industrial " insurance number 100,000, and they have become organised in a score of societies, restricted to the staffs of particular companies. These organisations vary hi their nature and in their degree of independence, from mere " welfare societies," dominated by the management, up to aggressive Trade Unions the strongest being the National Association of Prudential Assurance Agents. They are mostly united in two different federations. Another, and perhaps wholesomer, basis of organisation is adopted by the National Union of Life Assurance Agents, which has now some thousands of members.

But the greatest development of Trade Unionism among the " black-coated proletariat " has been among the em- ployees of the National and Local Government. This has been entirely a growth of the past thirty years. Beginning among the manual working staff of the Postmaster-General, and among the artisans and labourers of the Government dockyards, arsenals, and other manufacturing departments, there are now a hundred and seventy separate Trade Unions of State employees, from the crews of the Customs launches and the boy clerks, up to the Admiralty Constructive Engineers and the Superintendents of Mercantile Marine Offices. Of recent years, organisation has spread to the higher grades of the Civil Service, even to the " Class I." clerks ; and practically no one below the rank of an Under- secretary of State is held to be outside the scope of the Society of Civil Servants. All the various societies are grouped in federations, from the " Waterguard Federation " and the Prison Officers' Federation of the United Kingdom ; through the United Government Workers' Federation and the Federal Council of Government Employees, combining the various kinds of manual working operatives ; up to the


508 Thirty Years' Growth

Customs and Excise Federation, the Civil Service Federa- tion, the Civil Service Alliance, and even the " National Federation of Professional Workers," which includes also teachers. The strongest of all these bodies is probably that of the various employees of the Postmaster-General, whose fight to secure " recognition " and the opportunity for " Collective Bargaining " has extended over a couple of decades. There are about fifty separate Unions of Post Office employees, mostly small and sectional bodies ; but the three principal societies (the Postal and Telegraph Clerks' Association, the Postmen's Federation, and the Fawcett Association) were amalgamated in 1919 into one powerful Union of Post Office Workers, with 90,000 members with eleven salaried officers, and affiliated both to the Trades Union Congress and the Labour Party, which can now meet the managing officials of the Post Office on some- thing like equal terms.

The employees of the Local Authorities thirty years ago entirely without organisation are still not so well combined as those of the National Government. A score of different societies, from such grades as school-keepers, police and prison officers and asylum attendants, up to municipal clerks, share the work with the National Union of Corporation Workers and the Municipal Employees' Asso- ciation. A large proportion of the wage-earners employed by Local Authorities are to be found in the Unions of General Workers. The National Association of Local Government Officers and Clerks is a large and powerful body, composed mainly of the clerical and supervisory grades.

Trade Unionism in the public service received a great fillip after 1906, when Mr. Herbert Samuel at the Post Office, together with some other Ministers, " recognised " the Unions of their employees, considered their corporate representations, and agreed to meet their officials. It was still further promoted when, in 1912, the Government con- sented to the establishment of an independent Arbitration


The Police Union


509


Tribunal for determining the terms of employment in the Civil Service for all grades and sections under 500 a year. Before this tribunal, whose awards were definitively authori- tative, the representatives of any association could appear as plaintiffs, those of the Treasury appearing always as defendants. Finally, after the promulgation in 1917 of the " Whitley Report," which the Government, in impressing on other employers, found itself constrained to adopt in its own establishments, there was established during 1919 an elaborate series of joint councils (including even the civil departments of the War Office and the Admiralty) for particular branches of establishments; for whole depart- ments, and for whole grades of the service throughout all departments, in which equal numbers of persons nominated by the employees' associations, and of superior officers chosen by the Government, representing the management, meet periodically to discuss on equal terms questions of office organisation, professional training, conditions of service, methods of promotion, and what not. 1

1 From 1913 onward a persistent attempt to establish a Trade Union was made by many of the Police and Prison Officers, which was resisted by the Home Secretary, as responsible for the Metropolitan Police, and by all the Local Authorities. In 1913 the Police and Prison Officers' Union was formed by ex-Inspector Symes, and in 1917 it was reorganised, without securing either recognition or sanction. Cases of " victimisation " having occurred, there was a sudden strike on August 29, 1918, which was partici- pated in by nearly the whole of the police in many London divisions. This took the world (and also the criminal population) by surprise ; but through good-humoured handling by the Prime Minister (who received the Execu- tive Committee of the Union and told them that " the Union could not be recognised during the war "), the Government persuaded the men promptly to resume their duties, with a cessation of " victimisation " for joining the Union and a substantial increase of pay. When hostilities ceased, the Union expected some measure of official sanction, but none was accorded, and grievances remained unredressed. On July 31, 1919, a second strike was suddenly called, which resulted in failure, only a couple of thousand men coming out in London, and a few hundred in Liverpool, Birkenhead, and elsewhere, together with a small number of prison warders. At Liverpool and Birkenhead there was serious looting of shops and public- houses by turbulent crowds. The authorities stood firm, the Home Secretary refusing all sanction for the establishment of a Trade Union in the police force and prison staff, and summarily dismissing all the strikers, at the same time announcing large concessions in the way of wages, pro- motion, and pensions, and conceding, not a Trade Union, but the establish-


5io Thirty Years' Growth


THE MINERS

The outstanding feature of the Trade Union world be- tween 1890 and 1920 has been the growing predominance, in its counsels and in its collective activity, of the organised forces of the coal-miners. Right down to 1888, as we have seen, the coal -miners of England, Scotland, and Wales, though sporadically forming local associations and now and again engaging in fierce conflicts with their employers, first in this coalfield and then in that, had failed to maintain any organisation of national scope. Though their repre- sentatives participated from time to time in the general activities of the Trade Union Movement, and sat in the Trades Union Congress ; though with the guidance of W. P. Roberts in the 'forties, and under the successive leadership of Alexander Macdonald and Thomas Burt in the 'sixties and 'seventies, they exercised intermittently a considerable influence on its Parliamentary action the miners, for the most part, kept to themselves, framed their own policy, and fought their own battles, in which, owing to an apparently incurable " localism," their success was not commensurate with their strength. The change came with the growing dissatisfaction with the policy of the Sliding Scale. This device for making the rate of wages vary in proportion to the selling price of coal, the adoption of which between 1874 and 1880 against the wish of Alexander Macdonald, and contrary to the advice of such friends as Professor Beesly and Lloyd Jones we have already described, pro- duced in the 'eighties an ever-increasing discontent. In 1881 the miners of Yorkshire merged their two Unions of South and West Yorkshire into the Yorkshire Miners'

ment of an elective organisation of the police force, by grades, entitled to make formal representations and complaints. This concession was embodied in the Police Act, 1919, which explicitly prohibited to the police either membership of, or affiliation to, any Trade Union or political organ- isation. The dismissed policemen were not reinstated, but the Govern- ment informally assisted some of them to obtain other employment.


The Rise of the Miners 511

Association, which began its successful career by terminating the local Sliding Scale agreement, and resolutely refused all future attempts to make wages depend on selling prices. The Lancashire and Cheshire Miners' Federation, a less well- organised body, presently followed its example. In 1885 a Midland Federation was formed by a number of smaller local associations for the purpose both of abolishing the Sliding Scale and of promoting the movement for an Eight Hours Day by legislative enactment. Three years later, at a conference at Manchester, the associations of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cheshire, the Midlands, and Fifeshire, with a nascent local organisation in South Wales, established the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. 1 The aggregate mem- bership of all these bodies was amazingly small at the start only 36,000 but the new Federation had, from the first, a definite policy and great driving force. Outside it there remained the solid and numerically strong Durham Miners' Association and the Northumberland Miners' Mutual Confident Association, which (together with a surviving remnant of the Amalgamated Association in South Stafford- shire, and the purely nominal Sliding Scale Associations which then characterised most of the South Wales coalfield) still clung together as the National Union. It was the

1 For the history of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain and the contemporary District Unions, we have drawn on the voluminous printed minutes of proceedings and reports which are seldom seen outside the Miners' Offices ; the various publications of the Labour Department of the Board of Trade (now the Ministry of Labour) and the Home Office ; The British Coal Trade, by H. Stanley Jevons (1915) > The British Coal Industry, by Gilbert Stone (1919) ; Labour Strife in the South Wales Coalfield, igio-n, by D. Evans (1911); The Adjustment of Wages, by Sir W. J. Ashley ; Miners' Wages and the Sliding Scale, by W. Smart (1894) ; Miners and the Eight Hours Movement, by M. Percy ; History oj the Durham Miners' Association, by J. Wilson (1907) ; A Great Labour Leader [Thomas Burt], by Aaron Watson (1908); Memoirs of a Miners' Leader, by J. Wilson (1910) ; Industrial Unionism and the Mining Industry, by George Harvey (1917) ; A Plan for the Democratic Control of the Mining Industry, by the Industrial Committee of the South Wales Socialist Society (1919) ; the Reports and evidence of the Coal Industry Commission, 1919, and the voluminous newspaper discussion to which it gave rise, together with Facts from the Coal Commission and Further Facts from the Coal Commission, both by R. Page Arnot (1919)'


512 Thirty Years' Growth

National Union which played the leading part in securing reforms in the Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1887, which firmly established the checkweigher in practically every colliery of any importance. But this was its last con- structive effort. Its subsequent history is little more than the long-drawn-out resistance of the able and respected leaders of the Northumberland and Durham miners to the new ideas of Labour policy which were, as we have de- scribed, becoming dominant in the Trades Union Congress, and which were from the first adopted, if not by all the leaders, at least by the successive delegate conferences of the Miners' Federation.

The establishment of the Federation coincided with a period of rapid expansion in the coal-mining industry. The number of persons employed rose considerably year after year, and Trade Unionism spread rapidly among them. An effective local organisation was built up in district after district, everywhere based on the autonomy in local con- cerns of the " lodge " or branch, consisting of the workers at a given colliery, and governed by mass meetings of the members, who elect a committee, which usually meets at least weekly. But although the National Union declined steadily in influence, it took twenty years to bring all the district associations into the Miners' Federation, the aggre- gate membership of which did not reach 200,000 until 1893, and seven years later was still only 363,000. Even so, the miners were, as we described them in 1892, in some ways the most effectively organised of the industrial groups into which we divided the Trade Union world of that date. With the adhesion of Northumberland and Durham hi 1908, when the National Union came finally to an end, the mem- bership of the Federation rose to nearly 600,000, whilst the next twelve years' growth of the industry, and the inclusion of a large proportion of the sectional unions among different grades of mine- workers, 1 have brought it in 1920 to nearly 900,000.

1 The enginemen, boilermeu and firemen, colliery mechanics, cokemen,


The Miners' Strike 513

Meanwhile issue was joined by the mine-owners, who insisted everywhere in 1893 on considerable reductions in the wage-rates, on the plea that selling prices had fallen. The great strike that followed involved 400,000 men, and lasted from July to November. In the end the meii had to submit to reductions, though they gained the important point of the practical though not explicit recognition of a minimum below which there was to be no fall. The next great achievement of the Federation was the carrying into law of the Eight Hours Bill, which, mainly owing to the opposition of the leaders of the Northumberland and Dur- ham Miners, was not accomplished until 1908 ; and their influence in improving the Mines Regulation Act of 1911. Their third success, the outcome of a decade of successful organisation and intellectual leadership by Mr. Robert Smillie, who since 1912 has been annually elected to the presidency, was attained only at the cost of the greatest industrial struggle that Great Britain had yet experienced.

The national strike of miners in 1912, when practically every mine was stopped, and nearly a million miners sus- pended work for more than a month, arose out of the failure of the colliery companies to make adequate provision for repeated cases of individual hardship and injustice. The piece-work rates of the hewers or getters of coal might be satisfactorily adjusted to the agreed day- wage standard of the district, though the arrangements for this adjustment vary from district to district, and even from mine to mine, and are very far from complete or satisfactory. But what was to happen when, from circumstances beyond his own control, the miner found himself unable to get enough coal to produce a subsistence wage ? If he is assigned an " abnormal place " where the seam is thin or crushed

under-managers, deputies, overmen and other officials, colliery clerks and various kinds of surface-workers about the mines have all their own Unions, which have greatly developed of recent years, and are in many districts not very willing to join the county miners' associations, though they often act in conjunction with these. Their own federations are referred to on p. 550.

S


514 Thirty Years' Growth

into small coal (for which, in South Wales, the hewer is not paid at all) ; or where exceptional timbering is required to prevent dangerous falls ; or where there is much " stone " or water : or if, in " normal places," the colliery manage- ment does not keep him regularly supplied with " trams " or " tubs " into which to load the coal ; or with a sufficient provision of timber for props and sleepers ; or of rails no amount of skill, strength, or assiduity will prevent his earnings from falling away, it may be to next to nothing. What had long been customary was, in some coalfields, the casting of lots for " places," and thus a periodical exchange of opportunities ; and in others the granting of an allowance, or " consideration," to hewers who com- plained of insufficient earnings. These allowances were granted irregularly, without the protection of Collective Bargaining, with insufficient provision for ensuring the avoidance of injustice ; and it is not now denied that, in some collieries, particularly in South Wales, the owners resorted to the simple expedient of restricting the manager to a fixed maximum sum each " measuring-up day," irre- spective of the number and extent of the men's reasonable claims. These sums, moreover, were much reduced in times of bad trade, when profits were at a minimum, especially in collieries which were actually working at a loss. The agitation for securing a prescribed minimum of daily earnings for all the piece-workers continued for a whole decade without much result, producing not a few local stoppages, especially in South Wales. These flared up, in the latter part of 1910, in the Aberdare and Rhondda valleys, into an almost continuous series of disputes. The Miners' Federation found itself compelled in July 1911 to take the matter up as a national question ; and a ballot of its whole membership decided for a national strike if the universal adoption of the principle of a prescribed daily minimum, not merely for hewers but for all grades, was not conceded. The owners quibbled and eventually refused ; and after a further ballot a national strike was decided on,


The Minimum Wage 515

which the Government negotiations failed to avert, and which, after long and repeated notice, began at the end of February 1912, and rapidly extended to practically every colliery in the kingdom. As neither the employers nor the workmen would give way, the Government then announced its intention of introducing a Bill to provide for the payment, to all underground workers in the mine, not of the prescribed minimum rates which the several districts had formulated, nor yet of the overriding national minima of 53. for a man and 2s. for a boy which were being demanded, but of district minima, to be prescribed in each coalfield by a Joint Board of employers and workmen, presided over by an impartial chairman. These provisions were bitterly opposed, not only by the coal-owners, who objected to any legal minimum, but also by the workmen's representatives in the House of Commons, who demanded a prescribed national minimum ; but they were carried into law by substantial majorities. The Federation Executive was perplexed as to the line to take, as half the membership wanted to carry on the struggle ; but it was eventually decided to give the Act and the Joint Boards a chance, and the strike was declared at an end. The district minima and the rules applicable thereto had, in most cases, to be decided by the impartial chairmen ; and they varied considerably from district to district,, being usually a little less than the workmen had claimed. But when the working of the system was understood, and it was got smoothly into operation, it was recognised that the Miners' Federation had achieved a very substantial victory. The miners had brought to their aid, in enforcing the pay- ment of a periodically prescribed Minimum Day Wage to all underground workers, the strong arm of the law not, it is true, as under the Mines Regulation Acts and the Factory and Workshop Acts, the criminal law, enforced by Government inspectors and prosecutions, but the civil law of contract, which they could themselves enforce by actions in the County Court. What the Federation extorted from the Government and the Legislature was " an extraordinary


516 Thirty Years' Growth

piece of hastily prepared legislation rushed through Parlia- ment in the shadow of an unprecedented national calamity." l It has been found by experience that this Act, which is nominally only temporary, does secure to the hewers a substantial minimum of day wages, however unremunera- tive their conditions of work ; and the fixing of rates by the Joint Boards has, on the whole, considerably increased the wages of the various grades of the less skilled workers. But more important than these immediate results was the demonstration and the consolidation of the national strength of the Miners' Federation itself ; and the respect which its great power henceforth secured for it, alike in the Trade Union Movement, with the employers, and at the hands of the Government and the House of Commons.

The miners' organisations were fully occupied for a year or two in putting into operation the Act of 1912, and in enforcing the determinations of the Joint Boards. But in 1913 the delegate conference made a new move in authoris- ing the Executive Committee to enter into relations with other Trade Unions with a view to joint action for mutual assistance. A formal alliance had been made between the Miners' Federation, the National Union of Railwaymen, and the Transport Workers' Federation commonly referred to as the Triple Alliance when everything was suddenly changed by the breaking out of the Great War. The 1500 colliery companies and individual colliery owners, most of whom are united in the Mining Association of Great Britain, as well as in district associations, have, throughout, steadfastly refused to meet the Miners' Federation for the negotiation of any national agreement, or the concession of national advances ; although there has long been elaborate machinery for negotiation in each district.

During the four and a quarter years that the world conflict lasted (1914-18), the miners, like the rest of the British working class, patriotically subordinated their interests to those of the nation as a whole. They volun-

  • The British Coal Trade (by H. Stanley Jevons, 1915), p. 599.


The Six Hours Day 517

teered for military service in such numbers that they had to be forbidden to leave the mines, and numbers of them were sent back from the armies in order to maintain the output of coal. Where, as in Durham, they had agreements securing them advances of wages in proportion to the rise in the selling price, they forewent these advances ; and they contented themselves everywhere with less substantial percentages of rise in rates, and with the two successive war bonuses of eighteen pence a day each much below the rise in the cost of living which the Government accorded to them in 1917 and 1918. With the cessation of hostilities at the end of 1918, as the cost of living continued to advance, the Miners' Federation (which had elected for its new secretary a young South Wales miner, Mr. Frank Hodges, who had educated himself at Labour Colleges ; and had also converted its presidency into a full-time salaried post, and for the first time acquired an office in London) again took up the forward movement which it had been concerting five years before ; and in February 1919, after balloting its whole membership, and giving elaborate notice, it demanded from the employers a general advance of wages of 30 per cent, the reduction of the hours of labour by an average of one-fourth (the nominal Eight Hours Day to be made a nominal Six Hours Day), and most momentous of all the elimination of the profit-making capitalist from the industry by the Nationalisation of the Mines, for which the Trades Union Congress had been vainly asking for over twenty years. As the railwaymen and the transport workers were at the same time in negotiation for improve- ments in their condition, there seemed, in March 1919, every prospect of the outbreak of a general strike on a scale even greater than that of 1912, the " Triple Alliance " uniting a membership of more than a million and a half, and wielding in combination the adult male labour of something like one-sixth of the whole nation. The Govern- ment, which was still, under war powers, directing both the mines and the railways, responded by the offer of


518 Thirty Years' Growth

a Statutory Commission, under a Judge of the High Court, with practically unlimited powers of investigation and recommendation ; at the same time giving the Federation publicly to understand that, whilst a strike would be sup- pressed with all the powers of the State, the recommenda- tions of the Commission would be accepted by the Cabinet. The conference of the Miners' Federation spent many hours in deliberation. A large section of the delegates was for an immediate strike. The men had, indeed, an extraordinarily advantageous strategic position. The nation's stocks of coal were at a minimum, London having only three days' supply in hand. Ultimately the advice of the leaders prevailed ; and it was decided to postpone the withdrawal of labour for three weeks, and to take part in the Statutory Commission, on the express condition that this body pre- sented an Interim Report within that time ; and most revolutionary of all that the Federation should be allowed to nominate to the Commission, not only three of its own members to balance the three coal-owners who had been informally designated by the Mining Association of Great Britain, but also three out of the six professedly disinterested members, so as to balance the three capitalists whom the Government had already chosen as representing the prin- cipal industries dependent on the supply of coal at a moderate price. To these terms the Prime Minister acceded. The Miners' Federation, setting a new precedent of far-reaching effect, thereupon nominated, along with its President, Vice- president, and Secretary, not three other workmen, but three economists and statisticians belonging to the Fabian Society, known to them by their lectures and writings.

The proceedings of this Commission, which sat daily in public in the King's Robing-Room at the House of Lords, created an immense sensation. Instead of the Trade Union, it was the management of the industry that was put upon its trial. The large profits of the industry under war conditions were revealed, and especially the enormous gains of the most advantageous mines ; and although the Govern-


The Royal Commission 519

ment itself had benefited through the Excess Profits' Duty by 50, 60, and eventually 80 per cent of these gains, it became apparent to every one that, but for this abstrac- tion, the price of coal might have been reduced and the miners' conditions improved to an extent never before suspected. It was seen, too, that it was the separate ownership of the mines which stood in the way of the national sharing of the advantages of the best among them. The chaotic state of the industry, with 1500 separately working joint-stock companies operating at very different costs with no co-ordination of production, and with extremely wasteful arrangements for transport and retail distribution was vividly presented. At the same time the unsatisfactory conditions under which the miners lived were impressively demonstrated, the scandalously bad housing of the mining community in Lanarkshire and else- where making a national sensation. Prompt to the appointed day the Commission presented three Reports. The three mine-owners proposed no improvement in the organisation of the industry, and offered an advance of eighteen pence a day and a reduction of hours by one per day, being only half what was demanded. The six repre- sentatives of the miners presented a long and reasoned justification of the men's case ; arguing that, with a uni- fication of the industry in national ownership, with the adoption in all the mines of the mechanical improvements already in use in the best-managed among them, with a more carefully concerted transport system, and with a municipal organisation of retail distribution, it was practic- able to concede the men's full claim of 30 per cent advance and a two hours' shortening of the working day without any increase in the price of coal to the consumer. The Chair- man of the Commission presented a third report, inter- mediate in its tenour, in which he was joined by the three disinterested capitalist members, proposing an immediate advance of two shillings per day, or 20 per cent, and an immediate reduction of one hour per day, with a promise


520 Thirty Years' Growth

of a further reduction by an hour in 1920, if the condition of the industry warranted it. With regard to nationalisa- tion, this Report declared that, as there had not been sufficient time to investigate the proposal, the Commission would continue its sittings, and promptly present a further report ; but that it was plain, even on the evidence so far submitted, that the present system stood condemned, and that some other system must, by national purchase of the mines, be substituted for it either State administration, or some plan by which the mines could be placed under a joint control in which the miners would share. This impressive declaration by the judicial Chairman, supported by the three capitalist members who were not mine-owners, made a great public sensation. The Cabinet immediately accepted the Chair- man's Report, pledging itself to carry it out " in the letter and in the spirit." The Miners' Federation hesitated, but ultimately, in consideration of the offer of an immediate further examination of nationalisation, in the light of Mr. Justice Sankey's significant findings, decided to ballot its members, who, to the great relief of the public, by large majorities agreed to accept the Government proposal.

The Coal Industry Commission accordingly continued its sittings, now concentrating upon the issue of Nationalisa- tion and the participation of the miners in control. The dramatic feature of the inquiry was the summoning of a succession of peers and other magnates owning mining royalties to the witness-chair, there to explain to the Com- mission and the public, under the sharp cross-examination of the Miners' Federation officials, how they or their ancestors had become possessed of these property rights, how much they yielded in each case, and what social service the recipients performed for their huge incomes. Much evidence was taken for and against State administra- tion. Within a couple of months of almost incessant daily sittings this indefatigable Commission presented its further Report, again hopelessly divided. On the question of ownership of minerals, indeed, the whole thirteen Com-


A Share in Control 521

missioners were unanimous a momentous decision in recommending that the royalty owners should be at once expropriated in favour of the State. All thirteen Com- missioners were unanimous, too, in recommending the admission of the workmen to some degree of participation in the management by Pit and District Committees. But there the Commissioners' agreement ended. What was significant was that not the miners' representatives only, but eight out of the thirteen (including the Chairman) reported in favour of expropriating all the existing colliery companies and other coal-owners. The Chairman, sup- ported (hi general terms and subject to additional sugges- tion) by the six miners' representatives, proposed an elaborate scheme of Nationalisation, with administration under a Minister of Mines by joint District Councils and Pit Committees, in which the men would be largely repre- sented. The other expropriating Commissioner preferred to vest the mines in a series of District Coal Corporations of capitalist shareholders, limited as to dividend, and working under public control, with a restricted participa- tion of the men in the administration. Five Commissioners, including all three coal -owners, whilst agreeing to the Nationalisation of Minerals, refused to contemplate any substantial change in the working of the mines, least of all any effective sharing of the workmen in the administra- tion , though even this capitalist minority gave lip-homage to the principle by recommending the formation of purely Advisory Pit and District Committees.

The Government, which had continued in administrative md financial control of all the collieries of the United Kingdom, whilst agreeing to adopt, in the spirit and in the etter, the terms of Mr. Justice Sankey's first Report, took 10 steps to bring it into effect, and left the local mine-owners md miners' Unions to adjust for themselves the hours and lew rates of pay which it involved. Suddenly, a few weeks Before the new arrangements were to come into force, the "oal Controller issued an order that no increase of rates was to

S2


522 Thirty Years 9 Growth

exceed 10 per cent a patent blunder, as it was the average reduction of output that Mr. Justice Sankey had estimated at 10 per cent, and it was the actual reduction in each district that had to be compensated for. The Yorkshire Miners' Association had almost completed its arrangements with the Yorkshire mine-owners for a higher percentage of increase when the Government prohibition was received. The result was an angry strike which stopped the whole Yorkshire coalfield for several weeks, and spread to Notting- hamshire. In the end the Government had to withdraw its mistaken prohibition ; and the increase of rates, in Yorkshire as elsewhere, was, as the miners had asked, made as nearly as possible proportionate to the expected local reduction in output caused by the reduction of hours. The hasty action on both sides and the misunderstandings due to imperfect knowledge, or imperfect expression, lost the nation some four million tons of coal, and cost the Yorkshire Miners' Association about 356,000.

In October 1919 Mr. Lloyd George announced that whilst the Government would propose the nationalisation of mining royalties, and some undefined " trustification " of the mines by districts, there would be no adoption of Mr. Justice Sankey's Report. The Miners' Federation refused to accept anything in the nature of capitalist " trustifica- tion," and called in vain on the Government to fulfil its pledge to carry out the Report. In December 1919 the Federation, in conjunction with the Labour Party, the Parliamentary Committe'e of the Trades Union Congress and the Co-operative Union, began a campaign of propa- ganda in favour of the Nationalisation of the Coal Supply the effect of which, industrially and politically, has yet to become manifest. We have to break off the story in the middle of a critical period.

THE RAILWAYMEN

Another great industry, that of the operating staff o the railway system scarcely mentioned in the first edition


Rise of the Railwaymen 523

of our History has come forcibly to the front. Right down to the end of the nineteenth century, indeed, the railway guards and signalmen, engine-drivers and firemen, shunters and porters, mechanics and labourers though they numbered something like 5 per cent of all the male manual- working wage-earners played hardly any part in the Trade Union Movement. Scattered in small numbers all over the country, and divided among themselves by differences of grade, conditions, and pay, they long seemed incapable of organisation as a vocation. For a whole generation after the establishment of railways no one appears to have thought Trade Unionism any more permissible among their employees than among the soldiers or the police. In 1865 an attempt to establish " The Railway Working Men's Provident Benefit Society " which soon became virtually a Trade Union by Charles Bassett Vincent, a clerk in the Railway Clearing House, was ruthlessly crushed by summary dismissals. In the same year an Association of Engine- drivers and Firemen on the North-Eastern Railway actually started a strike, but perished of the attempt. Not until the end of 1871 was a lasting Trade Union established, and then only by the assistance of Michael Bass, M.P., a large railway shareholder, by whose long-continued and entirely disinterested financial and other help the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants struggled into being, with Frederick Evans as its first effective secretary. Other societies followed, of local or sectional character ; but even in 1892, after twenty years of organisation, and various abortive strikes, there were fewer than 50,000 railwaymen in any sort of Trade Union, or less than one in seven of the persons employed. 1

1 The other railwaymen's Unions are the Belfast and Dublin Loco- motive Engine-drivers' and Firemen's Trade Union, founded in 1872, and still existing (1920) with a few hundred members; the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, founded in 1880, a powerful sectional society with 33,000 members, which long maintained a jealous rivalry with the Amalgamated ; the Railway Clerks' Association, founded in 1897, remaining very small for a whole decade, absorbing in 1911 the Railway Telegraph Clerks' Association, founded 1897, with 85,000


524 Thirty Years' Growth

The objects of such railwaymen's societies as existed were for many years confined to the protection of members from " victimisation " or other tyranny ; to the provision of friendly benefits ; and to spasmodic attempts to get accidents prevented or compensated for, and hours of labour reduced. Wages questions took up little of the attention of the railway Unions of these years ; but strikes on particular railways sometimes of particular grades or at particular centres only of a single railway now and then occurred ; usually in resentment of some act of tyranny, or against some specially oppressive hours of labour, and often without the prior approval of the Executive Committee. In 1890 the Amalgamated Society for the first time launched an aggressive policy, mainly as regards the hours of labour, which were indeed scandalous. 1 A prolonged strike for a shorter working day on the Scottish lines at Christmas 1890 ended in failure, and the merging of the remnant of

members; the Irish Railway Workers' Trade Union, founded in 1910, tiny and insignificant ; the National Union of Railway Clerks, formed in 1913, a tiny local body, arising out of the suspension of the Sheffield Branch of the Railway Clerks' Association, temporary only.

We may mention the Scottish Society of Railway Servants, founded in the eighteen-eighties, merged in the Amalgamated Society in 1892 ; the United Signalmen and Pointsmen, founded in 1880, merged in the N.U.R. in 1913 ; the General Railway Workers' Union, founded in 1889, merged in the N.U.R., 1913.

For the development of Trade Unionism in the railway world, and the various controversies, we have drawn mainly on the numerous reports and other publications of the Unions themselves; the Railway Review and the Railway Clerk (the pleading for the Companies being found in the Railway News, subsequently incorporated in the Railway Gazette) ; Trade Unionism on the Railways, its History and Problems, by G. D. H. Cole and R. Page Arnot (1917) ; the Souvenir History, published by the Amalga- mated Society of Railway Servants (1910) ; Men and Rails, by Rowland Kenney (1913) ; Der Arbeitskampf der englischen Eisenbahner im Jahre ign, by C. Leubuscher, 1913; the various publications on the legal proceedings, for which see the next chapter ; the Reports of the Board of Trade on Railway Accidents, hours of labour, etc., of the Select Com- mittee of 1892, and the Special Committee of Inquiry of 1911 ; An Intro- duction to Trade Unionism, by G. D. H. Cole (1918) ; From Engine-cleaner to Privy Councillor [J. H. Thomas], by J. F. Moir Bussy (1917).

1 Slavery on Scottish Railways (1888) ; The Scottish Railway Strike, by James Mavor (1891).


"All Grades Movement " 525

the Scottish Society of Railway Servants in the larger Union. But it aroused public attention and led to an effective exposure by a Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1891-92. As a result the Board of Trade was given certain statutory powers in 1893 to remedy this tyranny powers of which, unfortunately, little use was made. Not for nine years afterwards did the Board of Trade even call upon the railway companies for a return showing in how many cases men were kept on duty in excess of twelve hours at a stretch. Four-fifths of the railwaymen were still outside the ranks of Trade Unionism and could therefore be both oppressed by their employers and flouted by the Government Department. Their very right to combine was denied. Sir George Findlay, the General Manager of the London and North- Western Railway, voiced the common opinion of the Companies when he declared that " you might as well have a Trade Union or an ' Amalga- mated Society ' in the Army, where discipline has to be kept at a very high standard, as have it on railways."

In December 1896, indeed, a determined attempt was made to root out Trade Unionism in Sir George Findlay's own railway company by the dismissal of men discovered to be Trade Unionists. Through the activity of the Society these victims found influential friends, who by public and private pressure compelled their reinstatement. The excite- ment caused by this incident had some share in swelling the membership of the Amalgamated Society, which doubled its numbers during the year 1897 ; and made its first big stride in the " All Grades Movement " in that year. Previous movements had been local and sectional, and nearly always in the interests of particular grades. For the first time all the railway companies were approached simultaneously, with a request for improvements in all grades from one end of the service to the other a reduction of the time of duty, so as to bring the working day down to ten, and for some grades eight hours ; extra payments for overtime, and a uniform advance of 2s. per week for all grades except those


526 Thirty Years' Growth

for whom an eight hours day was sought. The Companies refused even to consider this very moderate request, and nearly a decade was to pass a decade of slow building up of the organisation, first under Mr Richard Bell and Mr J. E. Williams, and then under Mr. J H. Thomas before the Trade Unions of railwaymen were able to compel a hearing for their case. 1

Meanwhile the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, and with it the whole Trade Union Movement, suffered in the law courts a temporary set-back. An im- pulsive strike on the Taff Vale Railway in South Wales, accompanied by extensive and successful picketing, was not countenanced by the Executive, but was eventually en- dorsed by its decision to take up the men's case ; and the Railway Company sued the Society for the loss occasioned by what were alleged to be the unlawful acts of its officers. To the surprise of the lawyers, as well as of the public, the judges held that in spite of what had seemed the explicit provisions of the Trade Union Acts of 1871-76 a Trade Union could be made answerable in damages for all the acts of its officials, central or local, as if it were a corporate body, whilst still being denied the privileges of a corporate body. The strike and legal proceedings cost the Society from first to last nearly 50,000, whilst the danger to the corporate funds of all Trade Unions that the decision revealed put a damper on even the best justified strikes until, under per- sistent Trade Union pressure, strengthened by the entry into the House of Commons of a reinforced Labour Party, the Trade Disputes Act of 1906 restored the law to its state prior to the judicial decisions of 1902.

The railwaymen could then renew their " All Grades Movement " which the Companies in January 1907 again declined to consider, steadfastly refusing any recognition of the men's Trade Unions, and callously denying their

1 The North Eastern Railway Company was so far an exception that, already in 1890, it was willing to receive representations from the Trade Union.


Conciliation Boards 527

grievances. 1 Ballots of the membership of the Amalga- mated Society and the General Union decided on a strike by 80,026 to 1857 votes, and in November 1907 a national stoppage was at hand when Mr. Lloyd George intervened as President of the Board of Trade, compelled the Com- panies to listen to reason, and persuaded both parties to accept an elaborate scheme of Local and Central Conciliation Boards, composed of equal numbers representing manage- ment and men, with an impartial chairman and authority to decide on wages and hours. These Conciliation Boards, unsatisfactory as they proved, represented a real triumph. For the first time the autocracy of the railway management was broken. There was, it is true, still no express recogni- tion of the Trade Unions, but the men's representatives were to be freely elected on each railway by all the employees grouped according to their grades ; and these elected representatives met the management on professedly equal terms. The elections showed how thoroughly justified was the claim of the Railwaymen's Trade Unions that they were voicing the wishes of practically the whole body of railway- men. In spite of strenuous efforts by the management on most of the lines, and of the unfortunate jealousies among the different societies, in nearly all cases the nominees of one or other of the Unions were elected, often by large majorities. For the next few years the Amalgamated Society and the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and

1 A notable feature was a statistical census of the wages of the rail- waymen, compiled by the Amalgamated Society through its membership, for the presentation of which Mr. Richard Bell, the Secretary, obtained the services of a Cambridge graduate, Mr. W. T. Layton. This " Green Book " revealed that 38 per cent received 203. per week or under, and 49.8 per cent between 213. and 303. ; with atrocious hours. Attempts to discredit these statistics were made by the Companies, it being in particular constantly suggested that nearly all the 100,000 paid under /i per week were boys. It took the Board of Trade four years to compile and publish an official wage-census for October 1907, which eventually revealed that 96,000 adult railwaymen were receiving 193. per week or less (Board of Trade Report, February 1912), an extraordinarily exact confirmation of the much-abused census taken by the Union. See Men and Rails, by Rowland Kenncy, 1913.


528 Thirty Years' Growth

Firemen were busy in fighting the cases of the various grades through the Conciliation Boards, and in securing thereby many small increases of wages and reductions of hours. But matters did not go smoothly. The Companies, for the most part, pursued a policy of obstruction and postpone- ment, delaying the awards, quibbling about their application, and in some cases deliberately evading their terms, notably by inventing new grades to which men could -be appointed at lower rates of pay than those prescribed. The " im- partial " chairmen, moreover, differed among themselves in the assumptions on which they proceeded, and some of the awards caused great resentment. Meanwhile the cost of living was steadily rising, and railwaymen as a whole were falling further behind other organised workers. Pro- gress was delayed in 1909-10 by a new set-back which the Amalgamated Society suffered in the law courts, in the prolonged litigation carried by one of its members, with capitalist assistance, right up to the House of Lords, by which the participation of any Trade Union in political activity was declared invalid a piece of " judge-made law " to which we shall recur, and for which the Government and Parliament at first refused all redress. Suddenly, in August 1911, the pot boiled over. There was a spirit of revolt in the Labour world. In June and July the seamen and the dockers had struck, and stopped the port of London. There was an outburst of " unauthorised " railway strikes at Manchester, Liverpool, and some other big towns, and a general demand for a national strike. The Executives of the four principal railwaymen's Unions, for once acting closely in concert, gave the Companies twenty-four hours to decide whether they would consent to meet the men's representatives, or face a national stoppage. Once more the Government intervened, Mr. Asquith offering a Royal Commission of indefinite duration and issue, merely to pro- pose amendments in the scheme of Conciliation Boards, and at the same time definitely informing the men a fact which they judiciously refrained from publishing that the Govern-


The Railway Strike 529

ment would not hesitate to use the troops to prevent the commerce of the country from being interfered with. 1 The Unions refused the illusory offer, and a national strike began, which, although far from universal, was sufficient to disorganise the whole railway service as many as 200,000 men stopping work and was rapidly bringing industry to a standstill. At the instance of Mr. Winston Churchill, who was then Home Secretary, an overpowering display was made with the troops, which were sent to Manchester and other places, without requisition by the civil authorities, at the mere request of the Companies. In fact, a policy .of repression had been decided on, and blood- shed was near at hand. In vain did the Union leaders ask Mr. Asquith, as Prime Minister, to take steps to obtain a meeting between the Companies' managers and the Union representatives. Wiser counsels seem to have prevailed in the Cabinet, which peremptorily instructed the Companies to let their General Managers meet the men's representatives face to face at the Board of Trade. For just upon twelve hours these managers, thus coerced, negotiated with four representatives of the Unions, together with Mr. Henderson and Mr. J. R. MacDonald of the Parliamentary Labour Party. At last an agreement was made the first ever concluded between the Railway Companies as a whole and the Trade Unions of their employees for an ending of the strike, on terms of complete reinstatement of the strikers ; an immediate consideration by the Conciliation Boards of all grievances ; and a prompt investigation by a bipartite Royal Commission of the dissatisfaction with these Boards, and the best way of amending the scheme. 2 When the

1 This intimation undoubtedly meant that the Government had decided, as the Times expressly said, to use the Royal Engineers to run trains a decision to be compared with that at once announced in the national railway strike of 1919, that no use would be made of the troops actually to run trains, nor would the Post Office officials be asked to do railwaymen's work, nor persons on State Unemployment Benefit be called upon to accept employment on the railways. The change in attitude of the Government in eight years is significant.

2 The committee consisted, for the first time, of equal numbers of persons appointed as being representative of employers and workmen


530 Thirty Years' Growth

Commission reported it was ultimately termed a Special Committee of Inquiry the Railwaymen's Union once more asked the Companies to meet them for negotiation, which the Companies again refused to do. On the Unions resolv- ing to ballot their members as to a national strike, the House of Commons set a new precedent by passing, at the instance of the Government, a resolution formally recommending a joint meeting, whereupon the Companies gave way. At the meeting that ensued a new scheme of Conciliation Boards was jointly agreed to, amending the 1907 scheme generally on the line of the Special Committee's report, but intro- ducing most of the other modifications that the Unions thought necessary. The machinery was made more rapid in action, and the scope of the Boards was extended. Most important of all, the men's side of each Board was allowed to choose as secretary a person not in the employ of the Company ; and it accordingly became possible for a Trade Union official to take up this work, and that not only for a single grade but, by acting for several Boards, simultane- ously for all grades. This was not " recognition " in form, but at any rate the Trade Union official was let in. During the next two years, in spite of incredible obstructions, quibblings, and evasions by the Companies, a number of small improvements in the terms of service were obtained from the Boards for all the grades on practically all the lines. A result of this joint working of even greater importance was the merging, in 1913, after prolonged negotiations, of three out of the four principal societies of manual railway workers 1 the Amalgamated, the General Union, and the

respectively two on each side none of them directly concerned with the industry, with an " impartial chairman," all five being selected by the Government. For the Companies, Sir T. Ratcliffe Ellis and Mr. C. G. Beale ; for the workmen, Mr. Arthur Henderson, M.P., and Mr. John Burnett ; the Chairman was Sir David Harrel, K.C.B., an official of the Irish Government.

1 The Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, having now 51,000 members, unfortunately stood aloof; and the annals of railway Trade Unionism were, down to 1918, largely made up of the wrangling between this society and the National Union of Railwaymen.


The N.U.R. 531

United Pointsmen and Signalmen into a new Trade Union upon a carefully revised basis, under the title of the National Union of Railwaymen.

The " New Model " for Trade Union structure thus deliberately adopted merits attention. In contrast with what we have called the " New Model," in 1851 of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, that of 1913 represents an attempt to include, in a single " amalgamated " Union, all the various " crafts " and grades of workers engaged in a single industry throughout the whole kingdom. The declared object of the National Union of Railwaymen is " to secure the complete organisation of all workers employed on or in connection with any railway in the United Kingdom." It thus definitely negatives both " sectionalism " and " localism " in favour of " Industrial Unionism." Indeed, it may be suggested that the new constitution passes, by definition, even beyond the " In- dustrial Unionism," to which the most advanced section of Trade Unionists were aspiring, into what has been termed " Employmental Unionism," in that it seeks to enrol in one Union, not merely all sections of railway workers, but actually all who are employed by any railway undertaking thus including, not only the engineering and wood-working mechanics in the railway engineering workshops, 1 but also

1 The mechanics and labourers in the railway companies' engineering and repairing shops, though many of them have always been members of the various engineering and other craft Unions, long remained relatively unorganised. Many of the less skilled were enrolled by the General Railway Workers' Union in 1889-1913 ; and when this was merged in the National Union of Railwaymen, with its broadened constitution, many more of the mechanics and labourers in the railway workshops were recruited, and the N.U.R. sought to obtain for them the advances and other benefits for which it was pressing. The railway companies disputed the right of the N.U.R. to speak for the " shopmen," and the claim pro- voked the resentment of the craft Unions, which were now paying increased attention to the organisation of men of their crafts in the railway work- shops. Repeated attempts have been made to arrive at some " line of demarcation " or other compromise, by which this rivalry between Unions could be brought to an end ; but hitherto without success. The quarrel is inflamed by a conflict of Trade Union doctrine. The engineers, boiler- makers, carpenters, and other trades assert that organisation should be


532 Thirty Years' Growth

the cooks, waiters, and housemaids at the fifty-five railway hotels ; the sailors and firemen on board the railway com- panies' fleets of steamers, and (though no trouble has actually arisen about them) the compositors, lithographers, and bookbinders whom the railway printing works employ in the production of tickets, time-tables, office stationery, and advertisement posters ; even the men whom one, at least, of the largest companies keeps in constant employment at the manufacture of crutches and wooden legs for the disabled members of its staff. This all-inclusiveness has, since 1913, brought the National Union of Railwaymen into conflict with many other Trade Unions ; and the question of the proper lines of demarcation has so far remained unsettled. The principal new feature in con- stitutional structure was the establishment of a distinct legislature the Annual General Meeting consisting, in addition to the President and General Secretary, of sixty representatives elected by the membership in geographical constituencies of approximately equal size. Subordinate to the Annual General Meeting (which can be summoned specially when required) is the Executive Committee oi the President, General Secretary, and twenty-four othei members, the latter being severally elected by the device of the Single Transferable Vote by each of four prescribed departments of members in each of six gigantic geographical constituencies ; one-third of such representatives retiring annually, and after each triennial term of service, becoming ineligible for three years, whilst the Branches to which the} belong also become unable to nominate representatives foi a like term. The Executive Committee, which, like the Annual General Meeting, consists of working railwaymen paid only for their days of service, meets quarterly and


by craft, whatever may be the industry in which the craftsman is working The advocates of the " New Model " of the N.U.R. assert the superiority of organisation by industry, including in each industry all the craft actually concerned. See Trade Unionism on the Railways, its History ant Problems, by G. D. H. Cole and R. Page Arnot, 1917.


A New Advance 533

appoints four sectional sub-committees, which must also meet at least quarterly. Noteworthy, too, is the District Council, which constitutionally only a voluntary federation of geographically adjacent Branches for propagandist and purely consultative purposes has, with an unofficial National Federation of District Councils, developed into an active " caucus " of the more energetic members for dis- cussing and promoting " forward movements " in the Annual General Meeting, and " organising " the elections to the Executive Committee.

With such a constitution, and the administration of extensive friendly benefits in a society now approaching half a million members, it is inevitable that the Executive Committee should wield extensive powers. It initiates and conducts all trade movements, and can therefore call a national strike, even without a ballot vote ; and whilst it may take a ballot vote at any time on any question, the rules expressly provide that it is not to be bound by the members' decision. Originally the Executive Committee had power also " to settle " any dispute ; but this was withdrawn by resolutions of the Annual General Meetings of 1915 and 1916, which required all settlements to be reported to itself for ratification. In practice very large powers, both of office management and of negotiation, are necessarily exercised by the six salaried officers, the President, the General Secretary, and the four Assistant Secretaries, each of whom is responsible for a separate branch of the Union's work. They have, however, not been able to pre- vent a series of " unauthorised " strikes, local or sectional in character.

At the beginning of 1914 everything pointed to a further forward movement by the N.U.R. Its Annual General Meeting cordially accepted the Miners' proposal to unite with them and the Transport Workers in the so-called Triple Alliance. Moreover, its desires now began to go beyond improvements in wages and hours. Its representatives had, for twenty years, sometimes moved and always supported


534 Thirty Years 9 Growth

the resolutions of the Trades Union Congress in favour of the Nationalisation of Railways. In 1913 the Railway Clerks' Association had gone a step further, and had asked also for participation in control. In 1914 the resolution intended to be submitted on behalf of the N.U.R. declared that " no system of State Ownership of the railways will be acceptable to organised railwaymen which does not guarantee to them their full political and social rights, allow them a due measure of control and responsibility in the safe and efficient working of the railway system, and assure to them a fair and equitable participation in the increased benefits likely to accrue from a more economical and scientific administra- tion/' Here we have the first expressions of the desire for participation in the management of the railways. 1 From that time forward the demand has become ever more explicit and determined. Meanwhile, however, the first step was plainly the drastic amendment of the scheme of Conciliation Boards ; and proposals were under considera- tion when war broke out. In marked contrast with their previous action, the Railway Companies were actually meeting the Union representatives in a joint committee of seven a side. The growth in membership of the National Union of Railwaymen at that date to over 300,000, and its entry into the " Triple Alliance " of miners, railwaymen, and transport workers, had, in fact, at last compelled the Companies, in fact, to concede " recognition," although they denied at the time that they were so doing. During the war the actual alteration of the scheme was to remain in abeyance, but the Executive Committee came in 1915 to a provisional agreement with the Companies as to certain amendments, which the Annual General Meeting of that year considered inadequate and refused to sanction. Mean- while, in view of the rising cost of living, successive war

1 The Presidential Address at the Annual Conference of the Railway Clerks' Association in 1913 had suggested that the representatives of the railway workers should constitute one-third of a National Railway Board a proposal that did not content the larger Union.


The Eight Hours' Day 535

bonuses, uniform throughout the Kingdom for all grades of the traffic staff, were obtained from the President of the Board of Trade the cost, in effect, falling on the Govern- ment under its arrangement for guaranteeing to the share- holders the net revenue of 1913 amounting altogether to 335. per week for men, i6s. 6d. per week for women and boys, and 8s. 3d. per week for girls, thus more than doubling the average pre-war wages. The Government, moreover, promised sympathetic consideration of the men's demand for an Eight Hours' Day immediately on the termination of the war.

When the Armistice in November 1918 brought hostilities to an end, negotiations were at once begun for a settlement of the outstanding questions. The National Union of Railwaymen, in more friendly conjunction with the Associ- ated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, whilst gaining advances fully equivalent to the increase in the cost of living, had secured in principle not only recogni- tion, but also the valuable right of entering into negotiation with the united management of all the railways, instead of always being referred to the several companies ; and even more important, it had obtained, in the uniform war bonuses, the basis of national rates of wages for the several grades, instead of rates and classes of workers varying from company to company. It was now to secure, without an effort, the Eight Hours' Day, to come into operation on February i, 1919, which the Government, not even consulting the Rail- way Companies, singly or collectively, in December 1918, conceded in principle without reduction of wages, whilst the necessary reclassification of workers and adjustment of times and wages on a national system became the subject of prolonged and difficult negotiations between the Railway Executive Committee and the two principal Unions.

The negotiations for " standardisation " which neces- sarily involved the amalgamation of the uniform war bonus with the varying basic rate, were dragged out by the Government from February to the end of August, to the


536 Thirty Years' Growth

growing irritation of the railwaymen. What occurred, as Ministers subsequently confessed, or rather boasted, was that, beginning actually in February, the Government made extensive secret preparations to break the strike which it was foreseen would occur when the Government's decisions were made known. The railwaymen themselves confidently expected, seeing that the cost of living had not fallen, but was officially certified, in September 1919, at 115 per cent above that of July 1914, that their rates would be " standardised upwards," so as both to adopt the scales of the best com- panies for all the staff, and to include the whole of the war bonus. But this automatic inclusion of the war bonus in the Standard Rate, which some trades had already secured, was exactly what the leading industrial employers were, for their own trades, anxious to prevent. They counted, indeed, on bringing about throughout British industry, during 1919 or 1920, irrespective of any change in the cost of living, a general reduction of the " swollen " wages of war-time ; and there was a prevalent feeling among them, which is known to have been shared by some, at least, of the Ministers, and quite frankly expressed, that a big "fight with the Trade Unions " was inevitable, and that it would be " better to get it over " before industry had generally restarted under peace conditions. How far Sir Auckland Geddes, who as President of the Board of Trade was responsible for the negotiations, and his brother, Sir Eric Geddes, who as Minister of Transport took over the work, shared this view, and allowed it to inspire their official action, has not been revealed. The historian can only note that the Government proceedings appear consistent with this hypothesis. The Government deliberately separated from the mass of rail- waymen the locomotive drivers and firemen, whose services were regarded as specially indispensable, and whose allegiance was divided between the two rival Unions. In August acceptable terms were proposed for these two classes, which conceded not only the absorption of the whole war bonus in the new scale of wages, but also certain further


The " Definitive " Offer 537

increases of pay, coming near to the Union's full claims. Such a concession, it was subsequently noted, was admirably calculated, in the event of a strike, to detach the drivers and firemen from their fellow-members ; to divide the two Unions, and to arouse expectations in the other grades which would make it practically certain that they would indignantly refuse the offer that was to be made in a few weeks. When the " definite " decision of the Government was sent to the Union, in a letter in which Sir Auckland Geddes with his own hand altered the word to " definitive," as if in order to ensure an explosion, it was found that by the new scale, beginning on January i, 1920, every grade was to suffer a reduction off existing earnings, varying from only a shilling or two per week in some cases up to as much as sixteen shillings per week the new standard rate of the porter, for instance, being fixed at 403., as compared with the 515. or 533. that he was actually receiving, or with the 6os. per week for which the Union had asked. No explana- tion was given by the brothers Geddes that what was in- tended was that there should be on January I, 1920, no reduction whatever in the men's earnings, and that the Government's policy was (as subsequently stated by Mr. Lloyd George, but only on the very morning of the strike, which was the first revelation of it) that there should never be any reduction at all unless the cost of living fell for over three months below no per cent in excess of pre-war prices, and that (as was announced only in the Government adver- tisements on the eighth day of the strike) the future " sliding scale," which had never been definitely formulated, would be allowed to work upwards as well as downwards. Unless the intention of the " definitive " offer was then and there to provoke an indignant strike, why was no hint of this " policy for 1920 " included ; why was it left to be only incidentally revealed, in such a way as not to be easily understood, in the final personal discussion with the Prime Minister ; and, seeing that the Minister of Food himself had publicly announced that what was probable, from January


Thirty Years 9 Growth

1920, was not a fall but a further rise in the cost of living, why was the alarming suggestion of a reduction to 403. per week ever made at all ? It is almost impossible to avoid the inference that the Government, which certainly decided the date and the issues, decided also the strike itself, with a view to " beating the Union/' in order to get a free hand for railway reorganisation without the necessity of consult- ing the operatives ; in order, probably, to fit in with the general capitalist project of a scaling down of the " swollen " war-wages ; and, as some say, in order to supply Mr. Lloyd George with a useful " election stunt/' with which, in the eyes of the middle class, irretrievably to damage the Labour Party. Whether intentionally on the part of the Ministers, or by reason of an amazing maladroitness in their negotiations, what had been foreseen and expected by the Government, and for six months secretly prepared for, actually came to pass. On Wednesday, September 24, the Executive Council of the National Union of Railwaymen issued orders for a national strike to begin at midnight on Friday, September 26, unless countermanded by telegraph. So little had the Union intended or contemplated such action that absolutely no notice of the crisis had been given to the Miners' Federa- tion or the Transport Workers' Federation, who were the railwaymen's colleagues in the Triple Alliance ; and the Union had only some 3000 available in cash. Efforts were made by the men to avert the stoppage, which it was recognised would be a national calamity. The Executive Council sought and obtained long interviews with the Prime Minister himself on Thursday, and even on the Friday morning ; and the verbatim reports of these discus- sions reveal (a) that the Government showed no inclination to meet the men's case Sir Eric Geddes peremptorily inter- vening at one point even to prevent a criticism of the " definitive " new scale being adduced ; (b) that the Govern- ment did not even then set forth what subsequently turned out to have been the proposal that the Ministry of Transport had really Intended to make (unless, indeed, we are to


The Great Strike 539

assume that the " definitive " offer was silently changed in the course of the strike). Again, it can only be inferred that Mr. Lloyd George either did not wish to prevent the strike or else was quite exceptionally below his usual level of lucidity in explanation of any scheme that he wished to have accepted. What the Prime Minister did was immediately to denounce to the public the National Union of Railway- men as engaged in an anarchist conspiracy 1

The nine days' stoppage that ensued was, in many respects, the most remarkable industrial conflict that we have yet seen. Half a million railwaymen left their work at midnight on the 26th of September, the 4ssociated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen at once joining loyally with the N.U.R.; and very nearly every member of either Union coming out. The men on the Irish railways were directed to remain at work. Never before had there been so nearly a complete stoppage of the railway service from one end of Great Britain to the other. It is to be noted that the third Union', the Railway Clerks' Association (which had come to include the Clerical, Administrative, and Supervisory Staffs), directed its members to remain absolutely neutral, and not to do any of the strikers' work. The various Unions of Post Office employees sought and obtained an official decision that they were not to be called upon to do any service hitherto done by men on strike. The Government, which sent soldiers to guard some of the railway stations, 1 hastened to announce publicly in signifi- cant contrast with its decision of 1912 that in no case would the troops be employed to run trams. For the first time the Government found itself liable to pay unemploy- ment benefit to all other workers who were stopped as a result of the strike ; and for the enormous extension of the State Unemployment Benefit that was expected to be re- quired, arrangements were promulgated under which the

1 It was reported that in some cases the soldiers fraternised with the pickets and were promptly withdrawn to barracks ; and the Cabinet was certainly warned, by high military authority, against attempting to use the troops.


54 Thirty Years' Growth

Benefit w.ould be issued by each employer to his own wage earners, when these were thrown idle by the strike ; and tha whilst such persons might be called upon to take tern porary employment in handling food supplies, they wouL not be required to accept service on the railways themselves There was, in spite of wild newspaper exaggerations practically no disorder and no attempt to injure property Except in a very few cases, in which local mishandling c the situation by the authorities led to resentment an< misunderstanding, the Executive * Council's order that th horses were not to be allowed to suffer was cordially acte< on by the men. , The Government was allowed, withou attempt at obstruction, to bring at once into operation th elaborate arrangements it had long been preparing, fo ensuring the regular supply of London and other larg towns with milk and other foodstuffs by means of an ex tensive motor-lorry service. Volunteers for railway wori were called for, and with the aid of the small remnant c non-unionists a tiny trickle of trains was set going, whicl provided for the local passenger service in London and som other cities ; and gradually accomplished one or two long distance trains per day, which carried the mails and wer crowded with venturous passengers. What stopped almos completely was the mineral and heavy goods traffic, an< by the end of the week so many industries had come to th end of their fuel, and so many coalpits were short of waggon and of room at the pithead, that, whilst nearly 400,00" workmen in collieries and factories were already idle, th next week would have seen literally millions unemployed Meanwhile, in spite of press reports to the contrary, th Union Executives knew that, whilst a few men returned t< work, each day more joined the strikers, so that there wer actually a greater number signing the book at the end thaj at the beginning of the struggle. But the National Unio] of Railwaymen found considerable difficulty in realisui; from its investments, and in making locally available at couple of thousand centres, sufficient cash to pay immedi


Co-operative Help 541

ately the half a million pounds of strike pay that was required ; and only the prompt and cordial assistance of the Co-operative Wholesale Society's printing department, which got out the necessary supply of cheques in mar- vellously quick time, and of the Co-operative Wholesale Society's Bank, which made the N.U.R. cheques payable at the several Co-operative Societies themselves, averted a breakdown. Food was in some cases refused to the strikers by shopkeepers ; and it may be that it was only the prompt assistance of the Co-operative Societies, which agreed to honour vouchers issued by the local strike committees, that prevented the Government from putting in operation a project of starving out the railwaymen's families by with- drawing their ration cards or withholding the food supplies under Government control. One blow below the belt the Government did strike in arbitrarily commanding the withholding from the strikers of a whole week's pay which they had earned by their service prior to the stoppage, and which it was the custom of the companies always to keep in hand for a week by way of security against theft or embezzlement. This had never been done in any previous railway strike. Whether or not the railwaymen had broken any legal contract of service by giving only three days' notice of their strike, is not clear the point appears never to have been raised or decided, but in any case the companies had only a right to sue each man for any damages that might be shown to be caused by such a breach of contract ; and the Government had plainly no legal warrant for becoming the judge in its own cause, and itself arbitrarily assessing the damages due from each man at precisely one week's earnings. This action, coupled with the evasive and ever-changing terms of the Government's wage pro- posals, and the campaign of abuse that the Government organised throughout the press personally directed by Sir William Sutherland, one of the Prime Minister's secre- taries had a great influence in rallying the Trade Union world in support of the railwaymen.


54 2 Thirty Years' Growth

The " publicity campaign/' by which, for the first tim< in an industrial struggle, a persistent organised appeal wai made by both sides to public opinion, was, indeed, the mos- remarkable feature of the struggle. At the outset th< Government, in spite of the outspoken advocacy of th< Daily Herald, had it all its own way. The public, seriously inconvenienced by the stoppage, was told by nearly everj newspaper in the Kingdom daily supplied by a Govern ment office with a lengthy bulletin of " Strike News " thai the strike was the result of an " anarchist " conspirac} among the railwaymen ; that the Union had wantonlj broken off negotiations without cause because it positivel} wished to " hold up " the whole community ; that the Government had not really intended any reduction of wages at all, and that the figure of 405. had reference only to the contingency of the cost of living reverting to what it wa< before the war ; that, in fact, the Government were posi- tively doubling the railwaymen's wages, and that the men realising this, and discovering how they had been deceived by their Executive Council, were resuming their duties at al points. To counteract this Government propaganda, the Daily Herald made the most enterprising arrangements foi getting its issue distributed all over England, and more than doubled its circulation, whilst the National Union of Rail- waymen employed its own Publicity Department, utilising for this purpose the Labour Research Department. 1 A number of competent writers, cartoonists, and statisticians belonging to the Labour Party placed their services in this way at the Research Department's disposal, so that the Executive Council was able, within a couple of days, to pour forth a stream of articles, letters, speeches, and cartoons, for which the newspapers generally accorded space. 2 Every move of the Government, and every statement that it issued,

1 For an account of this Department see pp. 571-2.

  • A notable feature was a revolt of the compositors and printers'

assistants, who threatened to strike and stop the newspapers altogether unless the railwaymen were allowed to present their case and unless abusive posters were abandoned.


The Power of Publicity 543

was immediately countered by an appropriate answer. When Mr. Lloyd George supplied a message denouncing the strikers which appeared on the film in every cinema, Mr. J. H. Thomas was himself filmed in the act of delivering a cogent reply. But the Union's Publicity Department found the space given by the newspapers inadequate, and started placing full-page advertisements in the Times and other newspapers, in which the Government's equivocations and evasibns as to the wages offered were effectively exposed. The Government followed suit, and presently the two advertisements appeared on successive pages, with the unforeseen result that the Government's statement of its proposals to the men was detected in changing from day to day as the strike continued, growing progressively more favourable to the men, but professing still to be the " defini- tive " decision of Sir Auckland Geddes which had provoked the strike. The outcome of a week's skilfully organised " publicity " was a steady shifting of public opinion, and even a distinct change in the newspaper editorials. By the end of the week the men's case was winning.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the principal Trade Unions indirectly affected by the railway stoppage, notably the various sections of Transport Workers, together with officials or representatives of the Miners, the Parliamentary Committee, and the Labour Party, had been meeting in anxious conclave summoned, it should be stated, by the Executive of the National Transport Workers' Federation with a view to restraining their own members from im- petuous action in support of the railwaymen, and to bringing pressure to bear on both parties to secure a settlement. At first the prospect seemed hopeless. The Government took up an attitude of defiance. Mr. Lloyd George declared that he would not enter into any negotiations with the railway- men's Unions until the men had unconditionally returned to their duty. A national appeal was made to all the Local Authorities not to strengthen the police force by special constables, as is the constitutional procedure, but to in-


544 Thirty Years' Growth

stitute a " Citizen Guard/' in order to repel the forces oj disorder ; a wild use of a term of bad omen, which was calculated, if not intended, to bring the " class war " intc the streets. It was known that measures of arbitrary con fiscation of the Union funds were seriously under considera tion, together with discriminatory issues of food supplies On the other side, the feeling of the Trade Unionists wa; rising to anger. The position could not well have beei more serious. But the " eleven " afterwards the " four teen " Trade Union mediators were patient and persistent They had long interviews with the railwaymen's Executive They had long discussions with the Prime Minister, th< Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Minister of Transport They cleared up misunderstandings. They eliminated pro vocative expressions. They brought the Government t< admit that there was no present chance of reducing wages They got the railwaymen to see that merely to postpone thi issue was to strengthen their grip upon what they wer< actually receiving. Notwithstanding the Government': defiant words, the Trade Union mediators got the railway men's Executive Council into prolonged and repeated dis cussions at 10 Downing Street with the Prime Minister an< his colleagues. 1 At last, on Sunday morning, October 3 Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Thomas were closeted togethe for the final stage ; the news was immediately flashed al over the kingdom that the strike was settled, and in th evening Mr. Thomas announced to a mass meeting of rail waymen in the Albert Hall the terms of settlement. Thes included an immediate resumption of work without victimisa tion or recrimination ; payment of the impounded arrear of wages ; " stabilisation " of existing earnings of all rate (except where improved) until September 30, 1920 ; negotia tions as to " standardisation " and settlement of wage scale to be begun again, and a settlement to be come to befor

1 Railway Dispute, 1919 : Report to the Labour Movement of Grec Britain by the Committee appointed at the Caxton Hall Conference (Nations Transport Workers' Federation).


The Settlement 545

December 31, 1919 ; and the lowest adult railwayman to be raised forthwith to 515. per week as a minimum. Before the end of 1919 it was announced that the Government had agreed to concede, for the future, that all questions relating to the conditions of service should be dealt with, not by the railway companies but by a Central Board of ten mem- bers (with power to increase by a further one on each side), five nominees of the National Union of Railwaymen and the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Fire- men, and five representatives of the railway management. In case of disagreement, reference will be made to an Appeal Board of twelve members, four nominated by these Trade Unions, four representing the management, and four the general public, with a chairman nominated by the Govern- ment. What is specially significant is that it is recognised that " the public " does not consist merely of the upper and middle, or of the capitalist and professional classes. Of the four representatives of the public, two are to be nomi- nated, respectively, by the Associated Chambers of Com- merce and the Federation of British Industries, and two, respectively, by the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress and the Co-operative Union, who are thus taken to represent the four-fifths of the population (and therefore of the railway users) who are manual working wage-earners. At the same time it was conceded that the Advisory Committee for Railway Management, which replaces under the Minister of Transport the Railway Executive Committee, is to include, from the start, three representatives of the railwaymen's Unions, all the members having equal and identical functions and rights.

We do not yet know what agreement will be reached about " standardisation " or the future scale of wages, but the Ministry of Transport is not likely to try another fall with the railwaymen's Trade Unions. The strike has had, indeed, results of the first importance. The Government has learnt that Trade Unionism is not easily beaten, even when all the resources of the State are put forth against it,

T


546 Thirty Years' Growth

and when public opinion is incensed. The great capitalis organisations have seen the warning against their project of a general reduction of wages ; and this is postponed, a least, for a year. On the other hand, the railwaymen' Unions have realised the magnitude of the struggle hit which they so precipitately entered, or into which they wer so artfully inveigled. The need for, and the potency oJ skilled publicity work, and the possibilities of a highl organised and adequately supported Labour Researci Department, are commonly recognised. Finally, it is seei that national industrial conflicts of such a magnitude ar matters of wider concern to the Trade Union world thai any one Union can appreciate ; and an attempt was made to be subsequently described, if not to continue in exist enc the group of " Fourteen Mediators," at least to get estab lished some authoritative standing Council, by which th approach of an impending industrial crisis of national scop could be closely watched, so that all the necessary step may be taken in time to deal with the situation in the bes possible way. The Trade Union world realised its nee< for what was called a General Staff.


AMALGAMATIONS AND FEDERATIONS

Whilst the numerical strength and industrial and politica influence of the several Trade Unions have thus steadih increased during the past thirty years, it is less easy t( characterise the changes in the relations of Trade Union: with each other.

The multiplicity of separate organisations in which th< six or seven million Trade Unionists are grouped, and th( complication and diversity of the relations among the various societies, continue to-day, as they did thirty years ago, tc baffle classification, and almost to defy analysis. It remains as impossible as it was in 1890 to state precisely how manj distinct Trade Unions are in existence, because the endless variety of their federal organisations makes it uncertain which


Consolidation 547

of the local or sectional Unions are to be counted as inde- pendent societies. We estimate, however, that upon any computation the number of financially distinct organisa- tions, which we may put at about noo, remains approxi- mately what it was thirty years ago. The tendency to amalgamation, that is to say, has just about kept pace, arithmetically, with the starting of new organisations, whilst the average membership of each unit has more than quad- rupled.

Such a statement fails, however, to do justice to the change that has come over the Trade Union world. Thirty years ago it was, on the whole, a congeries of numerically small units, only two or three of which counted as many as 50,000 members. To-day there are nearly a dozen which severally manage memberships of a quarter of a million, and probably fifty which deal with more than 50,000 each. A few other national societies of smaller membership are of some importance. Scattered up and down the United Kingdom a thousand other local or sectional societies exist, with memberships from a few dozen to a few thousand, but these play no part and exercise no influence in the movement as a whole. Probably five-sixths of all the Trade Union membership, and practically all its effective force, are to be found among the hundred principal societies to which the Ministry of Labour has long confined its detailed statistics. 1

The movement for the amalgamation of competing societies has, during the past decade, been specially energetic and persistent. This has arisen, partly spontaneously, from the obvious disadvantages attendant both on rivalry

1 British Trade Unionism has often been contrasted, to its disadvan- tage, with the more scientifically classified German Trade Unionism before the Great War. It was, for instance, often pointed out that the three millions of German Trade Unionists were grouped in no more than 48 Unions. This, however, ignored the numerous competing Hirsch-Duncker and Christian Unions, which were far more destructive of unity than are the crowd of minor societies in Great Britain and Ireland. At present (1920) the 48 largest Trade Unions of this country concentrate a larger membership than the much-praised 48 Trade Unions of Germany did in 1914-


548 Thirty Years' Growth

between Trade Unions seeking to enrol the same classes c members throughout the kingdom such as that betwee: the various societies of railway employees and on th division of workmen of the same craft among a number c independent local societies, such as the Coopers, the Chipper and Drillers, and the Painters and other branches of th Building Trades. But during the past decade the move ment has been reinforced by the desire for an organisatio: based on the whole of an industry, such as engineering housebuilding, mining, or the railway service, in which a' the co-operating crafts and grades of workers would b associated in a single Industrial Union ; in contrast wit] the earlier conception of the separate organisation of eacl craft throughout the whole kingdom ; such as that of th carpenters, the enginemen, the engineering mechanics, th clerks, and by analogy the general labourers, in whatsoeve industry they may be working. The case for the Industria Union in such an industry as mining, for example, merel 1 from the standpoint of Collective Bargaining, and for th sake of getting effective Common Rules, has always been ; strong one ; but the movement for the substitution o " Industrial " for " Craft " Unionism has been strengthene< since about 1911 by the aspirations of those who saw ii Trade Unionism something more than an organisation fo raising wages and shortening the working day. If thi wage-earners were ever to obtain, through their own volun tary associations, the control of their own working lives and to obtain a steadily increasing participation in th direction of industry ; if a Vocational Democracy were t< be superimposed on a Democracy based on geographica constituencies ; it seemed as if this could be done only b] Trade Unions co-extensive with each separate industry The influence of the movement known as " Guild Socialism ' has accordingly been exercised, on the whole, in favour o Industrial Unionism, not so much for the sake of its im mediate advantages in improving the conditions of the wage-contract, as because it was only in this form thai


The Industrial Union 549

Trade Unionism could become the vehicle of aspirations to the control of each industry by the whole mass of the workers employed therein.

Except in the way of industrial federations, to be here- after referred to, it is only in mining and the railway service that any great progress has been made in this direction. The Miners' Federation of Great Britain, established, as* we have seen, only in 1888, with no more than 36,000 members, has attracted to itself, year by year, an almost continuous stream of local or sectional organisations among the 1,200,000 workers in and about the coal and iron-stone mines ; successively absorbing into one or other of its local units or affiliating directly to itself, not only all the district associations, old or new, of coal-hewers and other under- ground workers, but also some of the separate organisations of enginemen and firemen, mine mechanics, deputies and overmen, colliery clerks, cokemen, and others employed in or about the mines, until its aggregate membership in 1920 is somewhere about 900,000. And though the Miners' Federa- tion is still only a Federation of fully autonomous district associations some of these, too, being themselves federa- tions of the organisations of lesser localities ; and although it still depends for its funds almost entirely upon specific levies upon its constituents, it has found means, by its frequently meeting delegate conferences, controlling the strong Executive Committee which they elect, to centralise very effectively the general policy of the whole mining industry, notably with regard to the hours of labour, the conditions of safety, the percentage of general advances of wages and the amount of the national war bonuses, and last, though not least, on the burning issue of nationalisation of the mines and the participation of the miners in their administration. But although the Miners' Federation em- bodies in its constitution the principles of federalism and an extreme local autonomy, it takes no account of sectional differences, and makes no provision for the representation at its delegate conferences, or upon its Executive Committee,


550 Thirty Years' Growth

of any distinct grades or sections. Perhaps, for this reason, the Federation does not yet speak directly for all the organised manual working wage-earners in the industry. There are at least forty separate Trade Unions of engine- men, boilermen and firemen, colliery mechanics, cokemen, under-managers, deputies, overmen and other officials, colliery clerks, and surface-workers of various kinds, not yet affiliated to the Miners' Federation, either locally or nationally ; these have formed National Federations, parallel with the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, of enginemen, deputies, colliery mechanics and under-managers respectively ; and in February 1917 seventeen of the societies drew together to form the National Council of Colliery Workers other than Miners, for the purpose of maintaining their separate influence.

In the railway service, as we have already described, the merging in the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, first of the Scottish Society in 1892, and then of the General Railway Workers' Union, and the United Signalmen and Pointsmen's Society in 1913, made possible the establishment of the National Union of Railwaymen on the basis of an organisation co-extensive with the industry, with the embodiment in the constitution of sectional representation. The four " departments " into which the members are divided vote separately in the elections. Under these provisions the National Union of Railwaymen, though hampered by the continuance of the separate Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, has been able to make effective not only its claims for higher re- muneration, but also its demands for a normal Eight Hours Day, a national system of classification, and national wage scales for the several grades ; though still not its aspirations (expressed since 1914) to participation in management, or those (expressed for over a decade) to the elimination from industry of the capitalist profitmaker by the scheme of Railway Nationalisation.

In other industries, too, the concentration of Trade


Amalgamation 551

Union forces during the past decade has increasingly taken the form of an amalgamation of rival sectional organisations, sometimes in response to a demand from the rank and file. Thus the Ship Constructors' and Shipwrights' Association, established in 1888, has successfully absorbed not only the very old Shipwrights' Provident Union of London, but also all the remaining local Trade Unions of shipwrights that long lingered in Liverpool, Dublin, etc. The National Amalga- mated Furnishing Trades Association has taken over a number of small societies of French polishers, gilders, and upholsterers. The United Garment Workers' Trade Union was formed in 1915 by the amalgamation of a number of societies in the various sections of the tailoring trade ; and in 1919 it was agreed that this, together with the Scottish Society of Tailors and Tailoresses, should be merged in the old Amalgamated Society of Tailors and Tailoresses, which would then include practically all the organised workers in the making of men's and women's clothing in Great Britain. Many small Unions of machine workers, minor craftsmen, and general labourers have been absorbed in one or other of the half-a-dozen large Labour Unions. The Amalgamated Card and Blowing-Room Operatives have taken over various small sectional societies in the Cotton trade. In Sheffield thirteen small Unions, catering for different sections of the gold and silver workers, joined together in 1910 in the Gold, Silver, and Kindred Trades Society, which in 1913 absorbed several more societies in this industry. In the autumn of 1919, as we have already mentioned, six of the sectional societies in the engineering industry decided to merge themselves, with the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, in a new and more gigantic amalgamation with 400,000 members ; the United Pattern Makers' Society, the Elec- trical Trades Union, and many small and specialised societies of mechanics in iron still standing aloof. In the same month three of the principal Unions of postal and telegraph employees, united in a single Union of Post Office Workers, with 90,000 members. Other amalgamations among small


552 Thirty Years' Growth

or local societies took place among the Basket-makers, the Block Printers, the Leather-workers, the Dyers, the various sections in the Pottery Trade, etc.

Such amalgamation is greatly obstructed by legal requirements. Down to 1917 the law demanded that each society desiring to unite should ratify the decision by a two-thirds majority not merely of those voting, but of the entire membership. Such a poll is almost impossible of attainment by Trade Unions, whose members cannot usually be individually communicated with, owing not only to their frequent changes of residence and the absence of many of them abroad, but also to the lack, in most cases, of any complete register of addresses. In 1917 the Government at last permitted the passage of an Amending Act for which Trade Unionists had often pressed ; but even then insisted on any amalgamation being carried, at a 50 per cent poll of the whole membership, by at least 20 per cent majority, conditions which make amalgamation everywhere difficult, and in some Unions (such as those of seamen) quite im- possible. In several cases Unions in which the general opinion has been in favour of amalgamation have failed to get the necessary vote. We have already described the ingenious device by which the British Steel Smelters' Society and the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation sur- mounted this difficulty.

Meanwhile, of federations as distinct from amalgamations the Trade Union world has a variety more bewildering than ever, some of which have already been referred to. We have to note that the Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades Federation, the establishment of which in 1889 we described in Industrial Democracy, has continued in existence, doing useful work from time to time in connection with demarca- tion disputes and other subjects of inter-union controversy, especially on the North-East Coast, notably contributing also in 1905 to the successful claim of the Clyde trades to weekly instead of fortnightly pays, which the employers had stubbornly resisted for a whole decade, but continuing


Federation


553


to be weakened by the abstention, except for a few years, of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, which, however, now frequently consents to act in conjunction with it in general trade questions.

What is significant is the change in type and purpose of these multifarious industrial federations, which have now come to form an important element in the Trade Union world. 1 Federation, in fact, has undergone a subtle change of character. Instead of loose alliances for mutual support in disputes, or for the adjustment of mutual differences as to " demarcation " and transfer of members, the federations of all the craft or sectional Unions engaged in particular industries notably those of the Building Trades, the Transport Workers, and, though not yet to the same extent, the Printing Trades and the Woollen Workers, like the older organisation of the Cotton Operatives have become increasingly, themselves negotiating bodies, recognised by the equally organised employers, and concerting with these what are, in effect, national regulations governing their industries throughout the whole kingdom. The later development of the Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades Federation has been in the same direction. In the case of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain the development has gone still further ; and this great organisation, whilst retaining the federal form, and, even now, not completely admitted to " recognition " by the Mining Association of Great Britain, unquestioningly acts for the whole industry in national issues, as if it were an " amalgamated " Union. Whether or not we are to see all the rival and sectional Unions in each industry amalgamating into a single " In- dustrial Union," as many Trade Unionists desire, it must be recognised that the development, during the past decade, of active negotiating federations for the several industries goes far to supply the most urgent need. In short, although financially distinct Trade Unions remain, on the whole, as numerous as ever, the number of separate negotiating

1 See An Introduction to Trade Unionism, by G. D. H. Cole, 1917.

T2


554 Thirty Years' Growth

bodies, so far as concerns matters relating to an industry as a whole, becomes steadily smaller.

We pass now to federal bodies of a different character.


THE GENERAL FEDERATION OF TRADE UNIONS

In 1899, arising out of the losses caused by the costly engineering dispute of 1897-98, the Trades Union Congress established a General Federation of Trade Unions, largely at the instance of Robert Knight, the able secretary of the Boilermakers, designed exclusively as a mutual reinsurance agency against the heavy financial burden to which, in the form of Strike Pay, or Dispute or Contingent Benefit, labour disputes subject every active trade society. 1 By means of a small contribution from a large aggregate membership (is. or 2s. per year per member), the General Federation is able to recoup to its constituent societies 2s. 6d. or 55. per week per member affected towards their several expenditures upon disputes. Beginning with 44 societies, having a total membership of 343,000, it steadily increased the number of its adherents until, in 1913, it had affiliated as many as 150 societies, having at that date 884,291 members. Since that time the number of societies has dropped to 141 in 1919 ; but their increase in membership had raised the aggregate affiliation to 1,215,107, the largest ever recorded. The General Federation, whilst suffering for the past seven years from an arrest of growth, has to its credit twenty years' success in surmounting the difficulties which have destroyed every previous attempt of the kind, and its prudent manage- ment is shown by the fact that it was able, from its normal revenue, to discharge all its obligations down to 1905, and to accumulate a reserve of 119,656. In that year the members rashly insisted on a reduction of the contribution by one- third, not foreseeing the outburst of disputes in 1908-9,

1 See the History of the British Trades Union Congress (by W. J. Davis), vol. ii. (1916), p. 156; and the successive Annual Reports of the General Federation of Trade Unions from 1900 onward.


The General Federation 555

which caused the Federation to pay out for 638 disputes no less than 122,778, and necessitated in 1913 the doubling of the contribution. Since that date, in spite of payments to societies averaging 1500 every week of the year, the Federa- tion has not only met its engagements, but also built up a reserve exceeding a quarter of a million sterling. In 1911 it formed an Approved Society under the National Insurance Act, with the object of relieving the separate Trade Unions, and notably the thousand small ones, from the onerous task of separately administering the Act, and to ensure that their members did not go off to the Industrial Insurance Companies, an effort which has failed to attract more than a few thousand members. An extension of the effort to the provision of death benefits, by the formation of a Friendly Society section in 1913, has proved scarcely more successful.

It must be recognised that during the past six or seven years the Federation has lost favour with important sections of the Trade Union world. It was probably inevitable that its inclusion of small sectional societies should eventually bring it into conflict with the larger Unions by whom such societies are often regarded as illegitimate competitors. Grounds of this kind may be assigned for the secession of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and the Amalgamated Society of Tailors in 1915 ; and for the powerful hostility shown since 1913 by the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. But this feeling has been accentuated by a growing resentment of the part played by the General Federation not unconnected with the forceful personality of the General Secretary first in international relations, and secondly in the representation of Trade Union opinion to the Government and to the public.

The General Federation, from its very establishment, affiliated itself to the International Trade Union Federation, which aimed at the collection and publication of statistics of Trade Unionism all over the world by an International Trade Union Secretariat, and at the mutual interchange of Trade Union information. For the first fifteen years of its


556 Thirty Years 3 Growth

existence this action of the General Federation was not objected to, although the fact that it represented only 25 to 30 per cent of British Trade Unionism impaired the value of its statistical contributions. The Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress, which might well have under- taken the task, long ignored its international interests ; but during the Great War increasingly resented the appear- ance of the General Federation as the representative of British Trade Unionism, and especially the almost continuous negotiations between its secretary, Mr. Appleton, and Mr. Gompers, the Secretary of the American Federation of Labor, and with M. Jouhaux, the Secretary of the Confedera- tion Generate du Travail of France, along lines not consistent with those of the Labour Party and the Trades Union Congress. When, in 1918, attempts were made to reconstitute the International Federation of Trade Unions, the Parlia- mentary Committee claimed at first to be itself the repre- sentative of Great Britain ; but presently compromised on a joint and equal representation by the two bodies.

But more serious than the question of international representation was the resentment at the ever-widening range of subjects at home on which Mr. Appleton, the Management Committee, and the Conferences of the General Federation claimed to voice the feelings of Organised Labour. It was urged that the Federation was formed exclusively for the purpose of mutually reinsuring Strike Benefit, and that it had accordingly no mandate, and did nothing but weaken the Trade Union forces, both in the narrow field of the conditions of the wage contract, and on the broader issues of Labour's political aspirations, whenever it entered into rivalry witft the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress on the one hand, or with the Labour Party on the other. It looks as if the General Federation must in future either restrict itself to the limited range of its original purpose, or else run the risk of being financially weakened by the secession of influential Trade Unions, which will not permanently remain affiliated to all three


Trades Councils 557

national bodies, when finding these speaking on the same subjects with different voices.


TRADES COUNCILS

Of another form of loose federation of the branches of all the Trade Unions within a given area we have already described the origin and the development in the local Trades Councils. These have gone on increasing in number, much more than in strength, until in 1920 we estimate that more than 500 are in existence, with an aggregate affiliated membership running into several millions of Trade Unionists. The character of their active membership, their functions, and their proceedings have remained much as we described them thirty years ago ; but they have, on the whole, in- creased in strength and local influence, as well as in numbers and membership. They were, as we shall presently mention, somewhat arbitrarily excluded in 1895 from the Trades Union Congress, of which they were actually the originators ; and although they have since joined in various provincial federations of Trades Councils, 1 these have never acquired any great strength, and do little more than arrange for co-operation in local demonstrations. An attempt to form a National Federation of Trades Councils did not succeed. On the other hand, as we shall describe in Chapter XI., the Trades Councils were, from its establishment in 1900, admitted, equally with Trade Unions, as constituents of the Labour Representation Committee (now the Labour Party), and whether as Trades Councils, or (notably with the smaller ones) in their new form of " Trades Councils and Local Labour Parties," they are coming slowly to form its geo- graphical basis. It is more and more on the political side that they are in some degree succeeding in uniting the energies of the Trade Unions of a particular town. This is especially the case so far as municipal politics are concerned.

1 Such as those for Kent, Lancashire and Cheshire, North Wales, the South-Western Counties, and Yorkshire.


558 Thirty Years 9 Growth

They have, for instance, been the main force in securing the general adoption of the Fair Wages Clause, and in furthering the election of Labour Candidates to local govern- ing bodies. But they are rigidly excluded from all partici- pation in the government or trade policy of the Unions ; and, so far as Trade Unionism itself is concerned, their direct influence on questions of national scope is not great. Consisting, as in the main they do, of the delegates elected by branches of national societies, they are hampered by the narrow limits of the branch autonomy. For in trade matters the branch can bring to the Council no power which it does not itself possess, whilst towards any action involving expense by the Council it can, in many Unions, contribute only the voluntary extra-subscriptions of its members. During the present century, however, many Unions have started paying from central funds the affiliation fees of their branches to Trades Councils. Down to the end of the Nineteenth Century, however, the resources of the Councils accordingly seldom sufficed for more than the hire of a room to meet in, 1 the necessary postage and stationery, and the payment of a few pounds a year for the " loss of time " of their principal officers. In no case except London does a Trades Council as such, even in 1920, pay a " full-time " salary, so as to command the whole time of a single salaried official, though the Trades Councils of cities like Glasgow, Manchester, and Bradford have salaried secretaries who have other duties ; and where the Trades Council is combined with the Local Labour Party it is more and more coming to have the services of a Registration Officer or Election Agent, whose salary is usually provided as part of the election expenses of the Labour candidate.

For a long time it could hardly be said that the Trades Councils enjoyed even the moral support of the great

1 At Nottingham, Leicester, Brighton, Hanley, Manchester, Worcester, and some other towns, the Trades Council has at times been allowed the use of a room in the Town Hall, or other municipal building. The Local Government Board in 1908 suggested to Local Authorities that this assistance should be generally afforded to them.


Supporters of Trades Councils 559

Unions. The central executives of the national societies were apt to view with suspicion and jealousy the existence of governing bodies in which they were not directly repre- sented. The local branches, if not actually forbidden, were not encouraged to adhere to what might conceivably become a rival authority. The strong county Unions frequently stood aloof unless they were allowed an overwhelming representation. One of the notable changes of the present century has been the diminution of this jealousy of the Trades Councils. We know of no case in which branches are now forbidden to join a Trades Council. In most cases, although permission may have to be obtained from the Executive Council or Committee, it is nowadays readily granted, and with the recognition of the need for political action, between 1901 and 1913, came positive encourage- ment to the branches to affiliate to the Trades Councils of their localities. 1

It remains, however, true in 1920 as in 1890 that the Trades Councils do not include the national leaders of the Trade Union world. The salaried officials of the old- established societies seldom take part in their proceedings. The London Trades Council, for instance, the classic meeting- place of the Junta, has long since ceased to be able to count among its delegates the General Secretaries of the Engineers, Bricklayers, Railwaymen, Steel-smelters, or of any other of the great Societies having their head offices in London. The powerful coterie of cotton officials forms no part of the Manchester Trades Council. Of the boilermakers, neither the General Secretary nor any one of the nine District

1 One of the most active supporters of the Trades Council Movement is the National Union of Railwaymen, which has been largely responsible for the valuable help rendered by the Trades Councils in the organisation of agricultural labourers. The Amalgamated Union of Co-operative Employees, that of Operative Bakers of Great Britain and Ireland, and the Municipal Employees' Association are also outstanding supporters of the Trades Councils, whilst the Oldham Operative Cotton-spinners, and the Operative Lace Makers of Nottingham make branch affiliation com- pulsory. In many of the principal Unions branch affiliation fees are contributed wholly, or in large proportion, from Central Funds.


560 Thirty Years* Growth

Delegates is usually to be found on a Trades Council. The Miners' Agents are notorious for abstention from the Councils in their localities. This, however, is due nowadays, what- ever may once have been the reason, principally to the enormous additions to the work of all the salaried officials of the Trade Union world, which make it impossible for the majority of them to attend Trades Council meetings. The Trades Councils now serve as a useful training-ground, wider than that of the Trade Union Branch, for those whom we have elsewhere described as the non-commissioned officers of the Movement, from whose ranks nearly all the Trade Union leaders emerge.

Apart from their constant activity in municipal politics, and their energetic support of the Labour Party in all elections, the Trades Councils have, in the present century, considerably increased in usefulness. They have given valuable assistance in Trade Union propaganda, alike within their own districts and in the adjacent rural districts. No small part of the increase in Trade Union membership, notably among nondescript workers in the towns, and the agricultural labourers in the country, is to be ascribed to the constant work and support of some of the more active among them. They have done much to appease quarrels among the local branches of different Unions, and they are occasionally able to intervene successfully as arbitrators. 1 Even without formal arbitration they bring warring parties together. They nominate working-class representatives to many local committees and conferences, and serve, in this way, as useful links with public administration. Some of them have, of recent years, done a great deal to promote the better education of the artisan class. They affiliate to the Workers' Educational Association or the Labour College, and support its classes ; they arrange public meetings and

1 The Manchester Trades Council, and especially its Chairman, Mr. Purcell, of the Amalgamated Furnishing Trades Association, successfully brought to a compromise the very serious strike of the Amalgamated Union of Co-operative Employees against the Lancashire and Yorkshire Co-operative Societies in 1919.


Trades Union Congress 561

obtain outside speakers ; they affiliate to the Labour Research Department, which has a special " Trades Councils and Local Labour Parties Section " ; they subscribe to the travelling library of book-boxes. maintained by the Fabian Society ; they frequently issue their own monthly bulletin of Trade Union and Labour news, or journal of local govern- ment information, or at least their annual Y ear-Book ; and they act as distributing centres for the nationally published pamphlets and leaflets sometimes even for the more popular books on Labour questions. 1 They have come, in several centres, to form, by Joint Councils, an indispensable connecting link between the Trade Union and Co-operative Movements, and they serve, more than any other agency, as the cement between the local branches of these two movements and the Labour Party itself. To what extent they are destined, in their character of constituent members of the Labour Part}/, sometimes actually combined with Local Labour Parties (in the latter cases with the inclusion, since 1918, of a section of individual members, Trade Unionists or others, " workers by hand or by brain "), to develop an effective political organisation, drawing together the whole of the supporters of the Labour Party in each Parliamentary constituency, remains yet to be demonstrated.

THE TRADES UNION CONGRESS

But the most extensive federation of the Trade Union world is to-day, as it has always been, the Trades Union Congress, which could count in September 1919 an affiliated membership of more than five and a quarter millions, a number never paralleled in this or any other country. We have described in previous chapters the origin and develop- ment of this federal body, its uses in drawing together the scattered Trade Union forces, and its failure either to help

1 The Gateshead Trades Council and Local Labour Party holds an " Information Bureau meeting " once a week, devoted to answering Inquiries and affording information on Local Government affairs.


562 Thirty Years' Growth

in the solution of the problems of industrial organisation or to give an intellectual lead to the rank and file. 1

We drew attention in the first edition of this book in 1894 to the weakness of the organisation of this imposing annual Congress ; and, from 1895 onward, certain changes have been successively made in its constitution and pro- cedure, not always, as we think, for the better. At the Norwich Congress in 1894 the Parliamentary Committee, which the Congress annually elects as its executive, was charged by a resolution proposed by W. J. Davis to consider the amendment of the Standing Orders, and to make the amended orders applicable to the next Congress. On the authority of this ambiguous resolution, which seems to have had in view only the establishment of Grand Committees to deal with the multiplicity of resolutions on the annual agenda, the Parliamentary Committee, of which the Chair- man was then John Burns, M.P., decided forthwith to expel all the Trades Councils from the Congress, to make obligatory the " vote by card " according, not to the number of dele- gates, but to the aggregate membership of each Union, and to confine the delegates rigidly to the contemporary salaried officers and the members of Trade Unions actually working at their crafts thereby excluding not only the veteran Henry Broadhurst, M.P., with John Burns himself, but also Keir Hardie, Tom Mann, and other leaders of the new move- ment that was seeking to make Trade Unionism a political force. Who, exactly, was responsible for this coup d'etat was not officially revealed. It was said, with some authority, that James Mawdsley, the rough and forceful secretary of the Cotton-spinners, was at the bottom of the move, and that he made use of the personal rivalry between Henry Broadhurst and John Burns to get them both, and also the

1 The Trades Union Congress has, since 1873, published a long and detailed Annual Report ; and the Parliamentary Committee has, for some years past, issued a Quarterly Circular to its constituent bodies. Besides these, there should be consulted the History of the British Trades Union Congress, by W. J. Davis, of which two volumes have been issued (1910 and 1916) ; Henry Broadhurst, the Story of his Life, by himself, 1901.


Stagnation in Congress 563

rebellious element from the Trades Councils, which all three disliked, excluded from future Congresses. 1 The Congress at Cardiff in 1895 was very angry, and, in effect, rebuked the Parliamentary Committee, but allowed the new Standing Orders to be confirmed on the newly adopted " card vote/' In so far as the intention was to keep the new ideas out of Congress, the result was plainly a failure, as within four years (to be described in Chapter XI.) there was a majority in Congress for the creation of the independent organisation entitled the Labour Representation Committee, which became in due course the present Labour Party. The effect was merely to weaken the intellectual influence on the Trade Union world of the Congress and its Parliamentary Committee.

With this exception of the exclusion of the Trades Councils, and of the outstanding personalities whom they occasionally sent as delegates, the visitor to the Trades Union Congress in 1919 would have found very little differ- ence between it and the Congresses of thirty years before, except for an increase in the size of the gathering and in the number of members represented ; and, as must be added, an all-round improvement in the education and manners, especially of the younger delegates. As an institution it can hardly be said to have shown, between 1890 and 1917 at least, any development at all.

It must be admitted that, with all its shortcomings, the Congress, which has now for over fifty years continued to meet annually in some industrial centre, serves many useful purposes. It is, to begin with, an outward and visible sign of that persistent sentiment of solidarity which has through- out the whole of the past century distinguished the working class. Composed of delegates from all the great national and county Unions and an increasing number of local societies, and largely attended by the salaried officials, the Congress, unlike the Trades Councils, is really representative

1 See the significant comments in History of the British Trades Union Congress, by W. J. Davis, vol. ii., 1916, pp. 102-8.


564 Thirty Years' Growth

(except for the absence of most of the political side of its organisation) of all the elements of the Trade Union world. Hence its discussions reveal, both to the Trade Union Civil Service and to party politicians, the movement of opinion among all sections of Trade Unionists, and, through them, of the great body of the wage-earners. Moreover, the week's meeting gives a unique opportunity for friendly intercourse between the representatives of the different trades, and thus leads frequently to joint action or wider federations. Nevertheless the Congress remains, as we have described it in its early years, rather a parade of the Trade Union forces than a genuine Parliament of Labour. 1

All the incidental circumstances tend to accentuate the parade features of Congress at the expense of its legislative capacity. The Mayor and Corporation of the city in which it is held are frequently permitted to give a public welcome to the delegates, and to hold a sumptuous reception in their honour. The Strangers' Gallery is full of interested observers, Distinguished foreigners, representatives of Government departments, " fraternal delegates " from America and the Continent, and from the Co-operative Union and the National Union of Teachers, inquisitive politicians, and popularity-

1 In the early period of its history the middle-class friends of Trade Unionism read papers and took part in debates. But for many years no one has been allowed to participate in its proceedings in any capacity except duly elected delegates who have worked at the trade they repre- sent, or are actually salaried officials of affiliated Trade Unions. In 1892 and 1893 admission was further limited to those societies which contri- buted a specified amount per thousand members to the funds of the Congress. The Parliamentary Committee consists of seventeen members, elected by ballot of the whole of the delegates on the fifth day of the Con- gress. The successful candidates are usually the salaried officers of the great societies, the Standing Orders expressly providing that no trade shall have more than one representative except the miners, who may now have two. The Secretary receives, even in 1920, only ^500 a year, and the post has nearly always been filled by an officer enjoying emoluments for other duties. For the last forty years the holder has almost constantly been a member of Parliament, with prior obligations to his constituents, which are not always consistent with the directions of his fellow Trade Unionists ; and with onerous Parliamentary duties, which often hamper his secretarial work. For many years he had to provide whatever clerical assistance he required ; but in 1896 a clerk, and in 1917 an Assistant Secretary, were added to the staff.


Congress Business 565

hunting ministers sit through every day's proceedings. The press-table is crowded with reporters from all the principal newspapers of the kingdom, whilst the local organs vie with each other in bringing out special editions containing verbatim reports of each day's discussions. But what more than anything else makes the Congress a holiday demonstration instead of a responsible deliberative assembly is its total lack of legislative power. The delegates are well aware that Congress resolutions on " subjects " have no binding effect on their constituents, and therefore do not take the trouble to put them in practicable form, or even to make them consistent one with another. From the outset the proceedings are unbusiness-like. Much of the first day is consumed in pure routine and a lengthy inaugural address from the President, who has been since 1900 always the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of the preceding year. The rest of the agenda consists of resolu- tions sent in by the various Unions and brought higgledy- piggledy before the Congress in an order determined by the chances of the ballot. These resolutions are subjected to no selection or revision beyond an attempt by sub- committees to merge in one the several proposals on each subject. The delegates have at their disposal about twenty- five hours to discuss every imaginable subject, ranging from the nationalisation of the means of production down to the prohibition of one carter driving two vehicles at a time. To enable even a minority of those present to speak for or against the proposals, each speaker is limited to five, or perhaps to three minutes, a rule which is more or less rigidly enforced. But, in spite of this vigorous application of the closure, the President is seldom able to get the business through, and has frequently as much as he can. do to maintain order. The Standing Orders Com- mittee is entirely taken up with its mechanical business, and is not authorised, any more than is the Parliamentary Committee itself, to formulate a programme for the con- sideration of the delegates. Nor does the Congress receive


566 Thirty Years' Growth

much guidance from experienced officials of the old-estab- lished Unions. Whether from a good-natured desire to let the private members have their turn at figuring in the newspapers, or from a somewhat cynical appreciation of the fruitlessness of Congress discussions, many of them habitually lie low, and seldom speak except to defend themselves against attacks. Moreover, they are busily engaged, both in and out of Congress hours, in arranging for the election of themselves or their friends on the Parlia- mentary Committee, which has hitherto always been governed by mutual " bargaining " for votes. 1 When the four days' talk draws near to an end, many of the resolutions on the agenda are still undisposed of. On the Saturday morning, when most of the delegates have started for home, a thin meeting hurries rapidly through the re- mainder of the proposals, speeches are reduced to sixty seconds each, and the Congress adopts a score of important resolutions in a couple of hours. From first to last there is no sign of a " Front Bench " of responsible leaders. As a business meeting the whole function of the Congress is discharged in the election of the Parliamentary Committee, to which the representation of the Trade Union world for the ensuing year is entrusted.

In the first edition of this book, in 1894, we gave a description of the work of the Parliamentary Committee which it is interesting to recall :

The duties of the Parliamentary Committee have never been expressly defined by Congress, and it will easily be understood that resolutions of the kind we have described afford but little guidance for practical work. But there is a general understand- ing that the Committee is to watch over the political interests

1 Each Union casts votes in proportion to its affiliated membership, but can divide them as it pleases among the candidates. Between 1906 and 1915 the delegates were divided into ten groups of allied industries, and each group chose its own member. At the 1919 Congress a resolution was carried directing that the election should henceforth be by the trans- ferable vote ; and it remains to be seen whether this will upset the "dickering for votes."


The Parliamentary Committee 567

of its constituents, in much the same way as the Parliamentary Committee of a town council or a railway company. It is obvious that, in the case of the Trade Union world, such a mandate covers a wide field. The right of Free Association, won by Allan, Applegarth, Odger, and their allies, is now a past issue, but the Trade Union interest in legislation has, with the advance of Democracy, extended to larger and more complicated problems. The complete democratisation of the political machin- ery, the duty of the Government to be a model employer, the further regulation of private enterprise through perfected factory legislation, the public administration of monopolies, are all questions in which the Trade Union world of to-day considers itself keenly interested. To these distinctly labour issues must be added such interests of the non-propertied class as the in- cidence of taxation, the public provision for education and recreation, and the maintenance of the sick and the aged. We have here an amount of Parliamentary business far in excess of that falling upon the Parliamentary Committee of any ordinary town council or railway company. To examine all bills, public or private, introduced into Parliament that may possibly affect any of the foregoing Trade Union interests ; to keep a constant watch on the administration of the public departments ; to scrutinise the Budget, the Education Code, and the Orders of the Local Government Board ; to bring pressure to bear on the Ministry of the day, so as to mould the Queen's Speech into a Labour Programme ; to promote independent Bills on all the subjects upon which the Government refuses to legislate ; and, lastly, to organise that persistent " lobbying " of Ministers and private members which finally clinches a popular demand all this constitutes a task which would tax the energies of half a dozen highly trained Parliamentary agents devoting their whole time to their clients. This is the work which the Trade Union Congress delegates to a committee of busy officials, all absorbed in the multifarious details of their own societies, and served only by a Secretary who is paid for a small part of his time, and who accordingly combines the office with other duties. 1

1 The situation was for years further complicated by the fact that C. Fen wick, M.P., who in 1890 succeeded Henry Broadhurst in the office, was one of the Parliamentary representatives of the Durham miners, a majority of whom were not in accordance with the decision of the Congress on the crucial question. of an Eight Hours' Bill. It was in vain that Fenwick, with most engaging candour, explained to each successive


568 Thirty Years' Growth

The whole organisation is so absurdly inadequate to the task, that the Committee can hardly be blamed for giving up any attempt to keep pace with the work. The members leave their provincial headquarters fifteen or twenty times a year to spend a few hours in the little offices at 19 Buckingham Street, Strand, in deliberating upon such business as their Secretary brings before them. Preoccupied with the affairs of their socie- ties, and unversed in general politics, they either confine their attention to the interests of their own trades, or look upon the fortnightly trip to London as a pleasant recreation from hard official duties. In the intervals between the meetings the Secre- tary struggles with the business as best he can, with such clerical help as he can afford to pay for out of his meagre allowance. Absorbed in his own Parliamentary duties, for the performance of which his constituents pay him a salary, he can devote to the general interests of the Trade Union world only the leavings of his time and attention. It is therefore not surprising to learn that the agenda laid before the Parliamentary Committee, in- stead of covering the extensive field indicated by the resolutions of the Congress, is habitually reduced to the barest minimum. The work annually accomplished by the Committee during the last few years has, in fact, been limited to a few deputations to the Government, two or three circulars to the Unions, a little consultation with friendly politicians, and the drafting of an elaborate report to Congress, describing, not their doings, but the legislation and other Parliamentary proceedings of the session. The result is that the executive committee of the United Textile Factory Workers' Association and the Miners' Federation exercised a far more potent influence in the lobby than the Committee representing the whole Trade Union world ; whilst such expert manipulators as Mr. John Burns, Mr. Havelock


Congress that his pledge to his constituents, no less than his own opinions, would compel him actively to oppose all regulation of the hours of adult male labour. The Congress nevertheless elected him for four successive years as Secretary to the Parliamentary Committee, replacing him only in 1894 by an officer who was prepared to support the policy of the Congress. This is only another example of the extraordinary constancy (referred to at p. 471) with which a working-class organisation adheres to a man who has once been elected an officer a constancy due, as we think, partly to a generous objection to " do a man out of his job," and partly to a deep-rooted belief that any given piece of work can be done as well by one man as another. Much the same situation has recurred frequently in the record of the Parliamentary Committee.


Lack of Staff 569

Wilson, or Mr. George Howell, can point to more reforms effected in a single session than the Parliamentary Committee has lately accomplished during a whole Parliament.

It is therefore not surprising that there exists in the Trade Union world a growing feeling of irritation against the Parlia- mentary Committee. In each successive Congress the Committee, instead of taking the lead, finds itself placed on its defence. But it is obvious that Congress itself is to blame. The members of the Committee, including the Secretary, are men of quite as sterling character and capacity as a board of railway directors or a committee of town councillors. But whereas a railway company or a town council places at the disposal of its Parlia- mentary Committee the whole energies of a specially trained town clerk or solicitor, and allows him, moreover, to call to his aid as many expert advisers as he thinks fit, the Trades Union Congress expects the Parliamentary affairs of a million and a half members to be transacted by a staff inferior to that of a third-rate Trade Union. At one period, it is true, the leaders of the Trade Union world as a whole successfully conducted a long and arduous Parliamentary campaign. We have described in a previous chapter the momentous legislative revolution in the status of Trade Unionism which was effected between 1867 and 1875. But the Conference of Amalgamated Trades, and its successors the Parliamentary Committee, had in these years at their command the freely given services of such a galaxy of legal and Parliamentary talent as Mr. Frederic Harrison, Pro- fessor E. S. Beesly, Mr. Henry Crompton, Mr. Thomas (now Judge) Hughes, Messrs. Godfrey and Vernon Lushington, and Mr. (now Justice) R. S. Wright. The objection felt by the present generation of Trade Unionists to be beholden to middle- class friends is not without a certain validity. But if the Trade Union Congress wants its Parliamentary business done it must, at any rate, provide such a salary as will secure the full services of the ablest man in the movement, equip his office with an adequate number of clerks, and authorise the Parliamentary Committee to retain such expert professional assistance as may from time to time be required.

Such was the position as we saw it in 1894. The Trades Union Congress did not in any important respect improve its organisation, nor equip its Parliamentary Committee with any adequate staff. Its failure to cope with the Parlia-


57 Thirty Years' Growth

mentary business in which the Trade Union world was interested became more and more manifest ; and the discontent was increased by the disinclination felt by many of the leading members of the Committee for the larger aspirations and more independent attitude in politics that marked the active spirits of the rank and file of Trade Union membership. All this co-operated to produce the vote of the 1899 Congress in favour of some definite step to increase the number of Labour Members in the House of Commons, out of which sprang the independent organisation subse- quently known as the Labour Party, which we shall describe in Chapter XI. But although the Trades Union Congress thus created, at the very end of the nineteenth century, a separate political organisation for the Trade Union world, into which the steadily increasing political activity of the Trade Unions has since flowed, the Congress and its Parlia- mentary Committee made no change in their own work. There has accordingly continued to be the same stream, year after year, of miscellaneous resolutions before Congress, 99 per cent of them dealing with political issues, involving either legislation or a change of Government policy, resolu- tions which have continued to be presented and discussed without any regard to their place in any consistent programme for the Trade Union world as a whole. The Parliamentary Committee has continued to regard itself almost entirely as a Parliamentary Committee, just as if the Trade Unions had not united in a distinct political organisation and had not created their own Parliamentary Labour Party. The futile annual deputations to Ministers have continued to present to them the crude resolutions of the Trades Union Congress, without regard to the contemporary situation in the House of Commons, or the action taken by the Parlia- mentary Labour Party, and without taking into account in what relation they stand to the political programme of the Trade Union world as formulated, year by year, in the Conferences of the Labour Party. Meanwhile the essentially industrial work of the national organisation of Trade Unions


Lack of Policy 571

has continued to be neglected. Both the Trades Union Congress and the Parliamentary Committee have shown the greatest disinclination to tackle such essentially Trade Union problems as -those presented by the existence in the same trade of competing Trade Unions ; x by the formation of separate Unions on overlapping and mutually inconsistent bases ; by the growing rivalry between the warring con- ceptions of organisation by craft and organisation *by industry ; by the increasing failure of the membership of each branch to correspond with the staffs of the separate gigantic establishments characteristic of the present day ; by the " rank and file movement," demanding a greater direct control of workshop conditions than can easily be made compatible with the centralisation of policy in the national executives ; by the development of the " Shop Stewards' " organisation ; by the spread in different industries of systems of " payment by results," unsafeguarded by the necessary adaptations of the Standard Rate and Collective Bargaining ; by the tendency of the employers to make deductions from the Standard Rate when it suits them to take on individuals or new classes of workers whom they declare to be inferior, whether women or boys, old men or partially incapacitated workers of any sort ; and by the introduction of " Scientific Management." 2

1 One such case may be mentioned. In 1898 a small Trade Union of old standing (Co-operative Smiths' Society, Gateshead) formally complained that the Amalgamated Society of Engineers had allowed its members to take the places of men who had struck. The Parliamentary Committee, acting under Standing Order No. 20, appointed three of its members as arbitrators, who, after elaborate inquiry, found the charge proved, and requested the A.S.E. to withdraw its members from the place in dispute. The A.S.E. refused to accept the award, and withdrew from the Congress (Annual Report of Trades Union Congress, 1899 ; History of British Trade* Union Congress, by W. J. Davis, vol. ii., 1916, pp. 161-62, 165-67).

Another case, in 1902, was adjudicated on in a similar way, where the United Kingdom Amalgamated Smiths and Strikers complained of the Associated Blacksmiths' Society, which was found to blame (ibid. p. 208).

2 In view of the failure of the Trades Union Congress to equip its Parliamentary Committee with any staff that would enable it to deal with these problems, the Fabian Society started in 1912 the Fabian Research Department, to investigate and supply information upon these and other questions. This organisation has now become the Labour




572 Thirty Years' Growth

During the whole of this century, in fact, the Parlia- mentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress, and the Congress itself, have failed to grapple with the work that calls out to be done by some national organisation of the Trade Union world. After allowing to be created, on the one hand, the General Federation of Trade Unions, abandoning to it the whole function of insurance, together with the representation of British Trade Unionism in the International Federation of Trade Unions, and, on the other, the Labour Party, with its inevitable absorption of the political activity of the Trade Union world, the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress has failed to recognise, and to concentrate upon, the sphere that it had left to itself, namely, to become the national organ for the improvement and development of British Trade Unionism in its industrial aspect. Whilst the Trades Union Congress has continued anxiously and nervously to abstain from any attempt to demarcate the spheres of rival Unions or to improve their mutual relations, action which would have brought the Parliamentary Com- mittee dangerously into conflict with one or other of its constituents, and has confined its attention as much as ever to the statutory and governmental reforms which its various sections desired, it has been progressively over- shadowed, on the political side, by the rise of the Labour Party, to be described in a subsequent chapter.

Research Department, an independent federal combination of Trade Unions, Co-operative and Socialist societies, and other Labour bodies (including the Labour Party, the English, Scottish, and Irish Trades Union Congresses, the Co-operative Union, the Daily Herald, most of the big Trade Unions, and some hundreds of Trade Councils, Local Labour Parties, etc.), with individual students and investigators. It has its offices at 34 Eccleston Square, London, S.W.i, next door to those of the Trades Union Congress and the Labour Party ; issues to its members a monthly bulletin of information, and has published many useful books, pamphlets, and monographs. It answers a stream of questions from Trade Unions all over the country on every conceivable point of theory or practice ; it supplies particulars of rates of pay, hours of labour, and conditions of employment in other trades ; and it is frequently employed in helping to prepare cases for submission to Joint Boards or Arbitration Tribunals. Its influential conduct of the " publicity " of the National Union of Railwaymen in the 1919 strike has already been described.


A General Staff 573

Towards the end of 1919 the discontent of the Trade Union world with the position and attitude of the Parlia- mentary Committee came to a head. The sudden railway strike, described in this chapter, revealed the lack of any organ of co-ordination in industrial movements which inevitably affected the whole Trade Union Movement. The Parliamentary Committee itself laid before a special Trades Union Congress in December 1919 a report declaring that " the need has long been recognised for the development of more adequate machinery for the co-ordination of Labour activities, both for the movement as a whole, and especially for its industrial side. Again and again the lack of co- ordination has resulted, not only in the overlapping of administrative work, but also in unnecessary internal and other disputes, involving vast financial and moral damage to the whole Labour Movement. To do away with some of this overlapping and to provide means of co-ordinating the work of certain sections was the object with which the Triple Industrial Alliance was founded by the Miners, Railwaymen, and Transport Workers, and the same object is behind the numerous steps towards closer unity which have been taken in various industries and groups. The Negotiating Committee, hastily improvised to deal with the situation created by the railway strike this autumn, was generally felt to have fulfilled, however imperfectly, a 'vital need of Labour ; but it is clear that it ought not to have been necessary to create a new and temporary body to do this work ; the necessary machinery should have been already in existence in the form of a really eifective central co-ordinating body for the movement as a whole.

" It appears to us that the body which is required should and must be developed out of the existing organisation of the Trades Union Congress and out of its closer co-operation with other sections of the working-class movement. At present, the Standing Orders do not permit the Parlia- mentary Committee to undertake the work which is required. Indeed, its functions, as they are now defined, are in great


574 Thirty Years' Growth

measure a survival from a previous period, when the chief duties of the Congress were political, and there existed no separate political organisation to express the policy and objects of Labour. We accordingly suggest that the whole functions and organisation of the Parliamentary Committee demand revision, with a view to developing out of it a real co-ordinating body for the industrial side of the whole Trade Union Movement. It is also necessary to take into account the relation of the reorganised Central Industrial Committee to the other sections of the movement, and especially to the Labour Party and to the Co-operative Movement.

" If a better central organisation could be developed both on the industrial side and by the closer joint working with the other wings of the working-class movement, a vast development of the very necessary work of publicity, information, and research would at once become possible. The research, publicity, and legal departments now working for the movement require co-ordination and extension equally with its industrial and political organisation. The research, publicity, and legal work now done by the Trades Union Congress, the Labour Party, and the Labour Research Department must be co-ordinated and greatly enlarged in close connection with the development of the executive machinery of the movement."

The proposal did not secure the approval of the Miners' Federation, but the special Congress, by a very large majority, passed the following resolution :

" That in view of the imperative need and demand for a central co-ordinating body representative of the whole Trade Union Movement and capable of efficiently dealing with industrial questions of national importance, the Parlia- mentary Committee be instructed to revise the Standing Orders of Congress in such manner as is necessary to secure the following changes in the functions and duties of the Executive body elected by Congress :

" (i) To substitute for the Parliamentary Committee a


The Officers 575

Trades Union Congress General Council, to be elected annually by Congress.

" (2) To prepare a scheme determining the composition and methods of election of the General Council.

" (3) To make arrangements for the development of administrative departments in the offices of the General Council, in the direction of securing the necessary officials, staff, and equipment to secure an efficient Trade Union centre.

" Further, in order to avoid overlapping in the activity of working-class organisations, the Parliamentary Committee be instructed to consult with the Labour Party and the Co-operative Movement, with a view to devising a scheme for the setting up of departments under joint control, responsible for effective national and international service in the following and any other necessary directions :

" (a) Research : To secure general and statistical in- formation on all questions affecting the worker as producer and consumer by the co-ordination and development of existing agencies.

" (b) Legal advice on all questions affecting the collective welfare of the members of working-class organ- isations.

" (c) Publicity, including preparation of suitable litera- ture dealing with questions affecting the eco- nomic, social, and political welfare of the people ; with machinery for inaugurating special publicity campaigns to meet emergencies of an industrial or political character."

THE OFFICERS OF THE TRADE UNION MOVEMENT

If we survey the growth of the British Trade Union Movement during the past thirty years, what is conspicuous is that, whilst the Movement has marvellously increased in mass and momentum, it has been marked on the whole by


576 Thirty Years' Growth

inadequacy of leadership alike within each Union and in the Movement itself, and by a lack of that unity and per- sistency of purpose which wise leadership alone can give. Hence, in our opinion, the organised workers, whilst steadily advancing, have not secured anything like the results, either in the industrial or in the political field, that the individual sacrifices and efforts in their cause might have brought about. This deficiency in the brain- work of suc- cessful organisation is very marked in the various sections of the building trades, with their chaos of separate societies, and in the engineering industry, with its persistence of competing Unions formed on inconsistent bases, its lack of uniformity in Standard Rates, and its failure to devise any plan of safeguarding Collective Bargaining in the various systems of " Payment by Results." But it has been equally apparent in the incapacity of the Trade Union Movement as a whole to establish any central authority to prevent overlapping organisations and demarcation disputes, and to co-ordinate the efforts of the various sections of workers towards a higher standard of life and greater control over the conditions of their working lives. The British workmen, it must be said, have not become aware of the absolute need for what we may call Labour Statesmanship. They have not yet learnt how, either in their separate Trade Unions or in the Labour Movement as a whole, to attract and train, to select and retain in office, to accord freedom of initiative to and yet to control, a sufficient staff of qualified officials capable not merely of individual leadership, but also of well devised " team play " in the long-drawn-out struggle of the wage-earning class for its " place in the sun." To this constant falling short of the reasonably expected achieve- ments is, we think, due the perpetual see-saw in Trade Union policy : the Trade Unionists of one decade relying principally on political action, to the neglect of the industrial weapon, whilst those of a succeeding decade, temporarily disillusioned with political action, rush wildly into strikes and neglect the ballot-box. This change of feeling is due


The Branches 577

each time to the failure of the results to come up to expecta- tion. We shall understand some of the reasons for this shortcoming if we examine how the Trade Union Movement is, in fact, officered.

The affairs, industrial and political, of the six million Trade Unionists, enrolled in possibly as many as fifty thousand local branches or lodges (including a thousand independent small local societies), are administered by perhaps 100,000 annually elected branch officials and shop stewards. These may be regarded as the non-commissioned officers of the Movement ; and it is fundamentally on their sobriety and personal integrity, combined with an intimate knowledge of their several crafts and a steadiness of judge- ment, that the successful conduct of the branch business depends. They continue to work at their trades, and receive only a few pounds a year for all their onerous and sometimes dangerous work. It is these non-commissioned officers of the Trade Union army who keep the Trade Union organisation alive. But they have neither the training, nor the leisure, nor even the opportunity, so long as they remain non-commissioned officers, working at their trades, to formulate a detailed policy, or to supply the day-by-day executive leadership to the particular Trade Union, or to the Trade Union Movement. For the work of translating into action, industrial or political, the desires or convictions of the whole body of the members, the Trade Union world necessarily depends, in the mam, on its salaried officers, who devote the whole of their time to the service of the Movement, in one or other capacity. Such a whole-time salaried staff was slow to be formed. In 1850 it did not exist at all. It probably did not in 1860 number as many as a hundred throughout the whole kingdom. In 1892, in the first edition of this book, we put it approximately at 600. In 1920, with a fourfold growth in membership, and (under the National Insurance Act) a vast increase in the office and financial business of the Trade Unions, we estimate the total number of the salaried officers of all the Trade Unions

U


578 Thirty Years' Growth

and their federations (not including mere shorthand typists and office-boys) at three or four thousand, of whom perhaps one-tenth, in or out of Parliament, are engaged exclusively on election and other political v/ork. But even on the industrial side, Trade Union officials differ considerably ir the work they have to do, and the differences in functior result in marked varieties of type.

We have first the salaried officials of the skilled trades They are broadly distinguished from the officers of the Labourers' Unions by the fact that they are invariably men who have worked at the crafts they represent, and whc have usually served their society as branch secretaries, We may distinguish among them two leading types, the Administrator of Friendly Benefits, and the Trade Official.

To the type of Administrator of Friendly Benefits, the school of William Allan, belong most of the General and Assistant Secretaries at the head offices of the great Trade Friendly Societies organisations in which the mass of routine financial, and other office business has become so great thai only the ablest men succeed in rising above it. Owing to the continued increase in membership of the principal Unions. to their tendency to amalgamate into larger and largei aggregations, to the constant extension of friendly benefits, and since 1911 to the enormous addition to the work made by the National Insurance Act, the administrative staffs oJ the Unions have had to be doubled and quadrupled. Bu1 the Trade Union official of this type, however great may be his nominal position, has, during the past thirty years, come to exercise less and less influence on the Trade Union world. Rigidly confined to his office, he becomes in mosl cases a painstaking clerk, and rises at the best to the level of the shrewd manager of an insurance company. He passes his life in investigating the claims of his members to the various benefits, and in upholding, at all hazard of un- popularity, a sound financial system of adequate contribu- tions and moderate benefits. Questions of trade policy interest him principally so far as they tend to swell 01


The Trade Official 579

diminish the number of his members in receipt of " Out of Work Pay." He is therefore apt to be more intent on getting unemployed members off the books than on raising the Standard Rate of wages or decreasing the length of the Normal Day. For the same reason he proves a tenacious champion of his members' rights in all quarrels about overlap and demarcation of work ; and it may happen that he finds himself more often engaged in disputes with rival Unions than with employers. He represents the most conservative element in Trade Union life. On all occasions he sits tight, and votes solid for what he conceives to be the official or moderate party.

More influential in Trade Union politics is the salaried oificer of the other type. The Trade Official, as we have called him, is largely the result of the prevalence, in certain industries, of a complicated system of " Payment by Results." We have already described how the cotton lists on the one hand and the checkweigher clause on the other called into existence a specially trained class, which has since been augmented by the adoption of piecework lists in boot and shoemaking and other industries. The officers of this type are professionals in the art of Collective Bargaining. They spend .their lives in intricate calculations on technical details, and in conducting delicate negotiations with the employers or their professional agents. It matters little whether they are the general secretaries of essentially trade societies, such as the federal Unions of Cotton-spinners and Cotton-weavers, or the exclusively trade delegates of societies with friendly benefits, such as the Steel-smelters, the Boilermakers, and the Boot and Shoe Operatives. In either case their attention is almost entirely devoted to the earnings of their members. Alert and open-minded, they ire keen observers of market prices, employers' profits, the

ourse of international trade, and everything which may

affect the gross product of their industry. They are more acutely conscious of incompetency, whether in employer or employed, than they can always express. Supporters of


580 Thirty Years' Growth

improved processes, new machinery, and " speeding up,' they would rather see an antiquated mill closed or ar incompetent member discharged than reduce the Standard Rate. Nor do they confine themselves exclusively to the money wages of their clients. Among them are to be found the best advocates of legislative regulation of the conditions of employment, and whilst they have during the present century fallen somewhat into the background when wider political issues have come to the fore, th( elaboration of the Labour Code during the past fifty yean has been due, in the main, to their detailed knowledge anc untiring pertinacity.

The Trade Official, however, has the defects of his qualities. The energetic workman, who at about thirty years of age leaves the factory, the forge, or the mine, tc spend his days pitting his brains against those of shrewc employers and sharp-witted solicitors, has necessarily tc concentrate all his energies upon the limited range of his new work. As a Branch Secretary, he may have taken a keen interest in the grievances and demands of other trades besides his own. Soon he finds his duties incompatible with any such wide outlook. The feeling of class solidarity so vivid in the manual working wage-earner, tends gradual!} to be replaced by a narrow trade interest. The Districl Delegate of the Boilermakers finds it as much as he can dc to master the innumerable and constantly changing details of every variety of iron-ship, boiler, and bridge building hi every port, and even at every yard. The Investigator oi the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives is often hard put to it to estimate accurately the labour in each oi the thousand changing styles of boots, whilst at the same time keeping pace with ever-increasing complexity both oJ machinery and division of labour. The Cotton Official, with his bewildering lists, throws his whole mind into coping with the infinite variety of calculations involved in new patterns, increased speed, and every alteration of count and draw and warp and weft. The Miners' Agents can


The Labour Organiser 581

seldom travel beyond the analogous problems of their own industry. Such a Trade Official, if he has any leisure and energy left at the end of his exhausting day's work, broods over larger problems, still special to his own industry. The Secretary of a Cotton Union finds it necessary to puzzle his head over the employers' contention that Bimetallism, or a new Indian Factory Act, deserves the operatives' support ; or to think out some way of defeating the evasions of the law against over-steaming or of the " particulars clause." The whole staff of the Boilermakers will be absorbed in considering the effect of the different systems of apprentice- ship in the shipyards, or the proper method of meeting the ruinously violent fluctuations in shipbuilding. The Miners will be thinking only of the technical improvement of the conditions of safety of the mine, or of the way to protect the interests of the hewer in an " abnormal place." And the modern Knight of St. Crispin racks his brains about none of these things, but is wholly concerned with the evil of home work, and whether the inspection of small work- shops would be more rigidly carried out under the Home Office or under the Town Council. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Trade Officials are characterised by an intense and somewhat narrow sectionalism. The very know- ledge of, and absorption in, the technical details of one particular trade, which makes them such expert specialists, prevents them developing the higher qualities necessary for the political leadership of the Trade Union world.

In another class stand the organisers and secretaries of what used to be called the Labourers' Unions, and are now styled Unions of General Workers a less stable class, numbering in 1892 about two hundred, and in 1920 possibly ten times as many. In contrast with the practice of the old- established societies these officers have at no time been always selected from the ranks of the workers whose affairs they administer. 1 In " revivalist " times the cause of the

1 For instance, Henry Taylor, the coadjutor of Joseph Arch in organ- ising the agricultural labourers in 1872, was a carpenter ; Tom Mann,


582 Thirty Years' Growth

unskilled workers attracts, from the ranks of the non- commissioned officers of other industries, men of striking capacity and missionary fervour, such as John Burns and Tom Mann, who organised and led the dock labourers tc victory in 1889. But these men regarded themselves and were regarded more as apostles to the unconverted than as salaried officers, and they ceded their posts as soon as com- petent successors among their constituents could be found In the main the unskilled workmen have had to rely foi officers on men drawn from their own ranks. In not s few cases a sturdy general labourer has proved himself first-rate administrator of a great national Union. But i1 was a special drawback to these Unions in the earl} days of their development that the " failures," who drifl from other occupations into the ranks of general labour frequently got elected, on account of their superior educa- tion, to posts in which personal self-control and persisted industry are all-important. Nor were the duties of ar organiser of unskilled labourers in old days such as developed either regular habits or business capacity. The absence ol any extensive system of friendly benefits reduced to a minimum the administrative functions and clerical laboui of the head office. The members, for the most part engaged simply in general labour, and paid by the day or hour, had no occasion for elaborate piecework lists, even supposing that their Unions had won that full recognition by the employers which such arrangements imply. On the othei hand, the branches of a Labourers' Union in those days were, for one reason or another, always crumbling away ; and the total membership was only maintained by perpetually breaking fresh ground. Hence the greater part of the

for two years salaried President of the Dock, Wharf, and Riverside Labourers, has always been a member, and is now General Secretary, oJ the Amalgamated Society of Engineers ; whilst Edward M'Hugh, for some time General Secretary of the National Union of Dock Labourers, is a compositor ; Mr. Charles Duncan, President of the Workers' Union, is ar engineer ; Mr. R. Walker, General Secretary of the Agricultural Labourers Union, was successively a shopkeeper and a railway clerk, and so on.


The General Workers 583

organiser's time was taken up in maintaining the enthusiasm of his members, and in sweeping in new converts. This involved constant travelling, and the whirl of excitement implied in an everlasting round of missions in non-Union districts. The typical organiser of a Labourers' Union in 1889-94 approximated, therefore, more closely than any other figure in the Trade Union world, to the middle-class conception of a Trade Union official. He was, in fact, a professional agitator. He might be a saint or he might be an adventurer ; but he was seldom a man of affairs. 1

During the past quarter of a century these Unions of Labourers, which are now better styled Unions of General Workers, have changed in character, and are now often huge national organisations of financial stability, administered by

1 The fervent energy of the typical official of the Labour Union of that day was well described in 1894 in the following sketch by Mrs. Bruce Glasier (Katherine Con way), a member of the " Independent Labour Party." " He has his offices, but is generally conspicuous there from his absence. Walter Crane's " Triumph of Labour ' hangs on the wall, and copies of The Fabian Essays, and the greater proportion of the tracts issued by the Manchester or Glasgow Labour Presses, lie scattered ov.er the room. In England, Byron and Shelley, in Scotland, Byron and Burns, are the approved poets. Carlyle and a borrowed Ruskin or two are also in evidence, and a library edition of Thorold Rogers' Work and Wages. John Stuart Mill's Political Economy, side by side with a Student's Marx, give proof of a laudable determination to go to the roots of the matter, and to base all arguments on close and careful study. But the call to action is never-ceasing, and train-travelling, if conducive to the enormous success of new journalism, affords but little opportunity for serious reading. ' The daily newspapers are continually filled with lies, which one ought to know how to refute,' and the situation all over the globe ' may develop at any moment.'

" Yet, unlike the old Unionist leader, he is ever ready for the inter- viewer or the sympathetic inquirer, of whatever class or sex. Right racily he will describe the rapid growth of the movement since the great dock strike of 1889, and show the necessity in dealing with such mixed masses of men as fill the ranks of unskilled labour to-day, of continually striking while the iron is hot, and of substituting a policy of coup d'etat for the deliberate preparation of the older Unions. ' Lose here, win there,' is our only motto, he says, resolutely determined to look at defeat from the point of view of a general-in-chief, and not from the narrower range of an officer in charge of a special division. At the moment of surrender he may have been white to the lips, but the next day will find him cheery and undaunted in another part of the country, carrying on his campaign and enrolling hundreds of recruits by the sheer energy of his confident eloquence." (Weekly Sun, January 28, 1894.)


584 Thirty Years' Growth

men as competent as any in the Trade Union world. Their officers, who have greatly increased in number, have elabor- ated a technique of their own, combining an efficiency in recruiting with an effective representation of their members' case in negotiations with the employers, and before arbitra- tion tribunals, which, particularly in such influential bodies as the National Union of General Workers, the Dock, Wharf and Riverside Labourers' Union, the Workers' Union and the National Federation of Women Workers, brings them much nearer what we have described as the Trade Official than the typical labourers' organiser of 1889. The ex- clusively women's Unions, among which the National Federation of Women Workers is the only one of magnitude, have been exceptionally fortunate in attracting and retain- ing women of outstanding capacity good organisers and skilled negotiators who have not only obtained for their members a remarkable improvement in the conditions of employment, but have, by their statesmanship, won a position of outstanding influence in the Trade Union Move- ment. It is, indeed, important to note that the accom- plished officials of the larger Unions of General Workers, and not those of women only, have become aware of a diversity of view between the skilled craftsman with a " vested interest " in his trade, and the unskilled or, as, they prefer to call them, the semi-skilled or general workers, bent on being considered qualified for any work which the employer has to give. Hence these officials sometimes take a larger view of Labour questions than the trade officials of the skilled crafts. They tend to be in favour of the amalgamation of separate societies into " One Big Union " ; of much more equality of remuneration among all manual workers ; of the " open door " to capacity ; of equal rates for men and women on the same job ; and of a levelling up of the Standard of Life of the lowest section of the workers. This leads them instinctively to a co-ordinated use of the industrial and the political weapons.

Some of these officials, however, are paid in a manner


Payment by Results 585

which may exercise an adverse influence on their activity. A new method of remuneration of the officers of a Trade Union has been devised. In one case the very able General Secretary of a Union of skilled craftsmen, whose services have been in the past most valuable to the trade, is reputed to be paid so much per member per annum, and with the great increase in membership to be making an income four times as large as the salaries of the General Secretaries of great Trade Unions. In another very extensive Union of unskilled and semi-skilled workers, practically the whole staff is paid " by results/' the Branch Secretaries, for instance, by rule retaining for themselves " six per cent on the contributions, levies and fines received from the members of the Branch on behalf of, and remitted to, the Chief Office " ; and being paid also " a procuration fee of is." for " introducing new members " into the Approved Society ; and for the extra work involved in disputes, a further " 6d. when under 25 members are affected, and is. for the first 25 or over ; 2s. for the first 50 ; 6d. per 50 or part thereof afterwards/' This method of remunerating Trade Union officials analogous to that successfully employed by the Industrial Insurance Companies for their agents has certain attractions. A fairly adequate remuneration for the posi- tion and work can thus be allotted to the officer, without its amount being specifically voted by the members or appearing in the accounts in such a way as to offend the rank and file by a contrast between their weekly wage for manual labour and the Standard Rate of what is essentially a different occupation. It is, however, rightly regarded as a pernicious system. The practice of " paying by results " is alleged to lead sometimes to reckless recruiting, to "in and out " Trade Unionism, and even to wholesale poaching among the membership of other Unions ; and it produces in the Trade Union world a type of " business man " more concerned for numbers than for raising the Standard of Life of the members he has enrolled, or for co-operation with other Trade Unions for their common ends.

U2


586 Thirty Years' Growth

Quite another type, of more recent introduction, is the Political Officer of the Trade Union world. He may be merely the Registration Officer or Election Agent serving the local Labour Party and the Labour Candidate in a particular constituency ; he may be simply a Labour M.P. ; he may be the secretary or staff officer of a great Trade Union or powerful federation, or, indeed, of the Labour Party itself, devoting himself to political functions ; he may combine with one or other of these posts, or some other Trade Union office, that of a Member of Parliament ; but he is distinguished from the typical General Secretary, Trade Official or Labour Organiser from one or other of which he has usually developed by his absorption in the political work of the Movement, either inside the House of Commons or outside it, within one constituency or in a wider field. He may not always hold a political office. A marked feature of the past decade has been the frequency and the amount of the calls upon the time of the Trade Union leaders who are not in Parliament, for public service in which their own Unions have no special concern. The Trade Union official has to serve on innumer- able public bodies, nearly always without pay of any kind, from local Pension or Food or Profiteering Act Committees, or the magisterial bench, up to National Arbitration Tribunals, official Committees of Enquiry or Royal Com- missions. Such a man is perpetually devoting hours every day to the consideration and discussion, and sometimes to the joint decision, of issues of public character, in which it is his special function to represent, not the opinions and interests of the particular Trade Unionists by whom he is paid, but the opinions and interests of the whole wage- earning class. All this important work, a twentieth century addition to the functions of the Trade Union staff, and not alone the increasing calls of Parliament, is tending more and more to the development of what we have called the Political Officer of the movement.

These three or four thousand salaried officials of the


'Method of Selection 587

Trade Union world, whatever their several types, and whatever the duties to which they are assigned, are, with insignificant exceptions, all selected in one way, namely by popular election by the whole body of members, either of their respective Unions, or of particular districts of those Unions. They are, in the skilled trades, required to be members of the Union making the appointment ; and in order to gain the suffrages of their fellow-members they must necessarily have made themselves known to them in some way. They are, accordingly, selected almost invariably from among what we have described as the non-commissioned officers of the Movement, those who are serving or who have served as Branch Secretaries, or other local officers. They have thus all essentially the same training a training which has no more reference to the work of an administrator of Friendly Benefits than to that of a Political Officer. What happens is that the popular workman is, by the votes of his fellow-workers, taken suddenly from the bench, the forge or the mine, at any age from 30 to 50, with no large experience than that of a Branch Official, and put to do the highly specialised work of one or other of the types that we have described. 1 It is a further difficulty that such training and experience that an individual Trade Unionist may have had, and such capacity as he may have shown, whilst they may secure his election to a salaried office, or his promotion from one such office to another, will be held to have no bearing on the question of which office he will be chosen to fill. The popular Branch Secretary, who has led a successful strike, may be elected as General Secretary in a head office where his work will be mainly that of the manager of an insurance company. The successful Trade Official, expert at negotiating complicated changes in piece- work lists, may find himself elected as the Union's candidate

1 It is, we think, only the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation that had laid down and acted on the principle of entrusting the appointment of salaried officials to the Executive Committee, on the express ground that popular election by ballot is not the right way to select administrative officers.


588 Thirty Years' Growth

for Parliament ; and will, in due course, be sent to the House of Commons to deal on behalf of the whole wage- earning class, with political issues to which he has never given so much as a thomght. The Trade Union secretary, whose daily work has trained him to the meticulous super- vision of the friendly benefits, may find himself perpetually called away from his office to represent the interests of Labour as a member of Royal Commissions and Committees of Enquiry on every imaginable subject.

With such imperfect methods of selection for office, and with so complete a lack of systematic training for their onerous and important functions, it is, we think, a matter for surprise that Trade Union officials should have won a well-deserved reputation for knowledge and skill in negotia- tions with employers. But their haphazard selection and inadequate training are not the only difficulties that they have to overcome. Trade Union officials are nearly always overworked and expected to become specialist experts in half-a-dozen techniques ; they are exposed to harassing and demoralising conditions of life, and they are habitually underpaid. The conditions of employment and the terms of service which the Trade Unions, out of ignorance, impose on those who serve them, far from being conducive to efficient administration and wise leadership, are often disgracefully poor. In November 1919 the National Union of Railwaymen set a notable example in raising the salaries of their two principal officers to 1000 a year each. But this is wholly exceptional. Even now, after the great rise in the cost of living, the salary of the staff officer of an important and wealthy Trade Union rarely exceeds 400 or 500 a year, without any provision for any other retiring allowance than the Union's own Superannuation Benefit of ten or twelve shillings per week, if such a benefit exists at all. The average member forgets that what he has to compare the Secretary's salary with is not the weekly wage of the manual working members of the Union, but on the very doctrine of the Standard Rate in which they all believe


" Sweating " of Officials 589

the remuneration given by " good employers " for the kind of work that the Secretary has to perform. When we remember that the modern Trade Union official has to be constantly travelling and consorting with employers and officials of much higher standards of expenditure than his own, and when we realise the magnitude and financial im- portance of the work that he performs, the smallness of the salary and the lack of courtesy and amenity accorded to the office is almost ludicrous. The result is that the able and ambitious young workman in a skilled trade is not much tempted by the career, even if he regards it as one of Trade Union leadership, unless he is (as so many are) an altruistic enthusiast ; or unless his ambitions are ultimately political in character. The able young workman will both rise more rapidly and enjoy a pleasanter life by eschewing any ostensible service of his fellow-workmen, and taking advantage of the eagerness of intelligent employers to discover competent foremen and managers, nowadays not altogether uninfluenced by the sub-conscious desire to divert from Trade Unionism to Capitalism the most active-minded of the proletariat. Nor does the danger to the Trade Union world end with the refusal of some of its ablest young members to become Trade Union officials. The inferiority of position, alike in salary, in dignity and in amenity, to which a Trade Union condemns its officers, compared with that enjoyed by men of corresponding ability and function hi other spheres, puts a perpetual strain on the loyalty of Trade Union officials. They are constantly being tempted away from the service of their fellows by offers of appointments in the business world, or by Employers' Associations, or in Government Departments. And there are other evils of underpayment. A Trade Union official whose income is insufficient for his daily needs is tempted to make unduly liberal charges for his travelling expenses, and may well find it more remunerative to be perpetually multi- plying deputations and committee meetings away from home than to be attending to his duties at the office. He may


590 Thirty Years' Growth

be driven to duplicate functions and posts in order to make a living wage. The darkest side of such a picture, the temptation to accept from employers or from the Govern- ment those hidden bribes that are decorously veiled as allowances for expenses or temporary salaries for special posts, is happily one which Trade Union loyalty and a sturdy sense of working-class honour have hitherto made it seldom necessary to explore. But such things have not been unknown ; and their underlying cause the unwise and mean underpayment of Trade Union officials deserves the attention of the Trade Union world.

We have so far considered the officials of the Trade Union world merely as individual administrators. This, indeed, is almost the only way in which their work is regarded by their members. It is remarkable how slow the Trade Union world is to recognise the importance, to administrative or political efficiency, of the constitution of a hierarchy, a group or a team. Where a great society has a salaried staff of half-a-dozen to a score of officials under such designations as General Secretary, Assistant Secretaries, President, Members of Executive Council or District Dele- gates, Organisers or Investigators it is almost invariable to find them all separately elected by the whole body of members, or what is even more destructive of unity, by different district memberships. We only know of one example in the Trade Union world that of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation in which the responsible Executive Committee itself appoints the official staff upon which the performance of the work depends. All the salaried officers of a Trade Union, whatever their designa- tions or functions, can usually claim to have the same, and therefore equal authority, namely, their direct election by the members. This results in the lack of any organic relation not only between the Executive Committee and the District Officers who ought to be its local agents, but even between the Executive Committee and the General Secretary and Assistant Secretaries. The Executive Com-


Office Organisation 591

mittee can shunt to purely routine work a General Secretary whom it dislikes, and an unfriendly General Secretary can practically destroy the authority of the Executive Committee. In some cases the work of the office is in practice divided up amongst all the salaried staff, Executive Councillors, General Secretary, and Assistant Secretaries indiscriminately, each man doing his own job in the way he thinks best, and any consultation or corporate decision being reduced to a minimum. There is, in fact, no guar- antee that there will be any unity of policy within an Executive Committee elected by a dozen different districts, or between an Executive Committee and its leading officials, who are elected at different times for different reasons. The members may choose a majority of reactionary Execu- tive Councillors and simultaneously a revolutionary General Secretary. In nearly all Unions any suggestion as to the desirability of adopting the middle-class device of entrusting a responsible Executive Committee with the power of choos- ing its own officers has been resented as undemocratic. 1 In some Unions the indispensable amount of unity is secured, not without internal friction, by the presence of some domin- ant personality, who may be a secretary or president, or merely a member of the Executive Committee. The same drawback is seen in the constitutions of such wider federa- tions as the Trades Union Congress and the Labour Party.

1 It would clearly be an advantage if the distinction between those responsible for policy (whether designated Executive Councillors, President or otherwise) and those whose function should be executive only, were fully borne in mind. Whilst the former should certainly be elected by, and held responsible to, the membership, it is submitted that experience shows the advantage of purely executive officers which may be what the secretaries and district delegates should become being appointed by, and held responsible to, those who are elected.

At least, a separation should be made between persons elected to be responsible for policy, and officers employed for tasks requiring specialised training (such as the whole of the insurance work of the Union and of its Approved Society ; its constantly increasing statistical requirements, and its legal business) . Such officers should certainly be appointed, not elected ; and should take no part in the decision of issues of policy, even as regards their own department. Speaking generally, much more specialisation of functions and officers should be aimed at in all Unions of magnitude.


592 Thirty Years' Growth

The result is that the Trade Union Movement has not yet evolved anything in the nature of Cabinet Government, based on unity of policy among the chief administrators, nor do we see any approach to the Party System, which in our national politics alone makes Cabinet Government pos- sible. It looks as if any Democracy on a vocational basis must inevitably be dominated by a diversity of sectional interests which does not coincide with any cleavage in intellectual opinions. From the standpoint of corporate efficiency the drawback is that the sectional divergencies are always interfering with the formulation and unhesitat- ing execution of decisions on wider issues, on which it would be advantageous for the Movement as a whole, in the interests of all, to have an effective general will, even if it be only that of a numerical majority.

Finally, it is a great drawback to the Trade Union world that it possesses no capital city, and no central headquarters even in London. Its salaried officials, on whom it depends for leadership and policy, are scattered all over the country. The General Secretaries of the great Trade Friendly Societies and of the Unions of General Workers are dispersed between London, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Liver- pool, and Leicester. The officials of the Cotton Operatives are quartered in a dozen Lancashire towns, and those of the Miners in every coalfield. The District Delegates of the Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades and the organisers of the Dockers and the Seamen are stationed in all the prin- cipal ports. We have seen how little the Trades Union Congress, meeting once a year for less than a week, supplies any central organ of consultation or direction. The meet- ing in London, every few weeks, of the two or three dozen members of the Parliamentary Committee and the Executive Committee of the Labour Party is wholly inadequate for the constant consultation upon policy, the mutual com- munication of each other's immediate projects, and the taking of decisions of common interest that the present stage of the Trade Union Movement requires. Probably


A Central Institute in Westminster 593

no single thing would do so much to increase the efficiency of the Trade Union world as a whole as the provision of an adequate Central Institute and general office building in Westminster, at which could be concentrated all the meet- ings of national organisations, federations and committees ; and which would make at any rate possible the constant personal communication of all the different headquarters. 1

1 Such a building was decided on in 1918-19 by joint and separate conferences of the Trades Union Congress and Labour Party, as a "Memorial of Freedom and Peace," in memory of those who lost their lives in the Great War. It is, however, by no means certain that the necessary large cost will be subscribed.