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at times have been strange. Yet again, when employers (on the introduction of the Insurance Act) levied a charge for material on their workers, so that in effect the workers should pay the entire cost of insurance stamps, can we wonder that no time is lost in discussion, that the strike, armed from head to heel with something more than 'peaceful' picketing, springs into being?
Yet the strike is undoubtedly a clumsy method of procedure. Of other means at present we seem only to recognise the interview between masters and men, the conference between employers and trade union officials, and the Conciliation Board, or Enquiry, presided over by some neutral arbitrator-who may or may not be a Government official-and ad hoc legislation. In years gone by one heard of the 'Round Robin,' an institution which probably met its death at the hands of the new-born 'Dignity of Labour,' though the reason for its existence survives. An interview between masters and men means in practice that one or two workmen speak on behalf of their fellows. Throughout that interview the men are heavily handicapped (if not actually obsessed) by the knowledge that they must pick and choose their words. The master labours under no such difficulty. And ever after the spokesmen are marked individuals. This of course is the reason for the men's desire that their case may be stated by Union officials.
Any comment upon recent happenings in this connexion would be a labouring of the obvious. Here then we have the position that an interview where the men must state their case is not satisfactory to them, while one at which Union officials make the representations is not favoured by the masters; and the Board of Enquiry presents its own peculiar difficulties. The type of man who can approach these questions with an open mind is not born many times in a generation; and when the case for labour is stated the judge is in effect a defendant, for he belongs to the employer class.t Nor must we forget that the plaint of labour is all too often
* Somerset Collar and Shirt Makers, July 1912.
The Report of the Federation of Trade Unions, 1913, contains a suggestion to the effect that 'Judges who try cases in which the interests of capital and labour clash should be selected from a different class from the one which now provides them.'
put forward by yet another of the defendant class. But supposing all such difficulties to have been overcome, and that there is an adequate supply of suitable chairmen for our Boards, how are their decisions to be made binding upon both parties? This latter question seems to bring us at once to the method in general use to-day, ad hoc legislation. Nor are objections wanting here; such legislation is apt to be hurried, the 'hard cases which lawyers tell us make bad law are apt to receive undue prominence, and a lack of special internal knowledge of detail sometimes leads to the making of strange
What then is to be done? Are the occasionally working rich and the ever-toiling poor to remain so very far apart? The following suggestions, put forward in all humility and as a mere tentative outline of possibilities which would at least go far to satisfy working men may be of some service. This is an age of specialisation; why not a new type of specialist, an Average Adjuster in matters of labour? Such an expert would need to have received an education on quite definite lines with a view to the office he is to fill. This education would require to be of a peculiarly high order, but its catholicism must not depend on a knowledge of the classics. Firmness, tact and dignity would of course be essentials. Ability to sift evidence from the standpoint of common sense rather than a comprehensive legal training would also be indispensable.
But above all he must have an intimate knowledge of working-class conditions. To obtain this he must actually become a workman for a time-a period of certainly not less than three years. This will be the most difficult part of the training, for it must be thorough if it is to serve any useful purpose; he must live on his pay, not embarking on this period with a well-stocked wardrobe nor receiving allowance or presents from his friends; indeed his communication with them ought, if the thing is to be thorough, to be rigidly restricted. Moreover, he must understand at the outset that 'not feeling quite the thing' is to entail no stoppage of work -a fact he would soon learn for himself, but it should in common fairness be impressed upon him at first. Then,
and only then, it seems we shall get a sufficiently large class of men capable of presiding at labour enquiries, men who will know both sides of the question. Having held such an enquiry, it might be best for the Adjuster' to submit his conclusions to a small committee of his colleagues, and their pronouncement might become automatically an ad hoc statute. It may be objected that Sir G. Ask with is here already to do this sort of work. From the working man's point of view Sir George has done splendidly; but my middle-class friends tell me that it is easy to settle strikes by giving in to the striker. Are there many men who will act upon sympathy for the under dog in the teeth of their own friends' opposition, unless beside sympathy they have also exact first-hand knowledge upon which to base action which is not conventional? Sympathy plus experience gives a greater fund of moral courage than is usually derived from sympathy alone.
If this outline of a tentative scheme be considered worthy of discussion, the matter of labour training will probably receive criticism. The suggestion that men should be taken from refined homes and compelled to associate with working men, living and working as such men live and work, may seem absurd if only because the educated man would naturally feel his changed surroundings much less congenial to him than would be the case had he been born in such a condition of life, and may thus be led to take an exaggerated view of the hardships. This is true, but may it not be urged, as tending to counteract such depression, that our student will have definite hope, and will know that for him the period is but a period? period? It may also be argued that even at the end of his three years he would not be able to take his place in any skilled trade. Let him then either undergo a longer period of labour training or be content to work throughout the shorter course as a labourer. Probably this latter suggestion would be found best in practice, if only on account of the saving in time. The labourer is always cognisant of the way of life of his 'mate' the mechanic.
Industrial peace will never rule the earth; but a band of arbitrators knowing both sides of the question would go far to remove friction, while the mere fact that such
a body, however small, was making the sacrifice, undergoing the necessary training, would do much for labour.
Since the foregoing remarks were written, war, international war, has come upon us, bringing in its train an immediate cessation of industrial hostilities, to be followed after a period of some seven months by a most unfortunate recrudescence of labour troubles in those industries upon which our own and our Allies' existence as free peoples are most vitally dependent. If we try to explain the working man's attitude throughout these happenings as briefly as possible, the fact is that he never has believed, probably never will believe, that there is danger for England. Overwhelming proof of this statement can be adduced by anyone who has worked with him on terms of anything like intimacy. When a fleet of Zeppelins was believed to be approaching the Royal Woolwich Arsenal, the men could not be got to take the situation seriously. It was a stupendous joke.
Why, then, did the declaration of war produce immediate economic peace? Because the violation of Belgian neutrality aroused all that was best in our working classes. Naturally there follows the question: why did this state of things not continue? Here a complete answer cannot be given in few words. Strikes are seldom, if ever, attributable to one single cause. The final or precipitating event is generally to be regarded as no more than the makeweight which turns the scale. Further, though we may accept it as an axiom that there should be no strikes in war time, it hardly follows that, if strikes occur, the blame is entirely with the workers.
The most important and consequently the most regrettable strikes of which we have been hearing in the immediate past are to be attributed broadly to natural weariness and equally natural resentment of injustice. The strain of the war has fallen very heavily upon the workers. Overtime is by no means the unmixed blessing which certain persons would have the general public believe. A dock labourer, writing to the editor of one of our daily papers, says: 'It is possible for a man to work three days and three nights in one week.' To the additional hours of work the delays due to the crowded state of trains and trams about industrial centres should
be added when one is considering the fatigue of overtime. Frequently it seems as though many persons, whose hours are probably under their own control, elected to travel for amusement at just those times when working men consider they have a right to easy homeward transit; while it is certainly the fact that the London County Council Tramways Committee has not risen to the demands of the period, the early morning service being quite inadequate. Loss of one minute by the working man may mean the loss of hours in his pay.
With regard to the injustice. Here again we find the Daily Press, with but few exceptions, arrayed against the working man. That large section of the Press whose ubiquitous representatives can learn all about anything in less than half an hour and whose columns admit no contradiction, has been guilty of criminal folly again and again throughout the past six months. The headline provocative, most dangerous of implements since it stirs up the ignorant who read little beyond placards and head-lines, has been all too much in evidence, while sensational stories have been told of drunken dock labourers arrested with anything from twenty to sixty pounds in their trouser pockets, and quite interesting little fables have been related in cold print concerning the working man's preference for notes because a paper hoard can be moved without noise. The mischief done by these exaggerated statements and insinuations concerning working-class earnings is incalculable. Dealing with one aspect only, do such statements not furnish semblance of excuse for the artificial inflation of prices? Since contradiction or correction from those who know is seldom or never admitted, great bitterness is engendered. The dock labourer previously quoted, who succeeded in getting a letter published, wrote: 'I have been a dock labourer for thirty-five years and the last three weeks have been my best weeks for years, my wages averaging 21. 5s. . . . so where does the four or five pounds per week come in?'
Before leaving our consideration of the Press attitude towards increased earnings there are yet two points to which attention should be directed. It has already been said that very few working men live on their normal weekly wage. From this it follows that overtime