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prise in constructing new lines than any other railway company in Scotland, it has so far failed to reap the full advantage of its enterprise, owing to want of adequate administration of details, and consequent want of punctuality exasperating alike to the public and to its own servants.
This inability to cope with rapid growth appears also to have been the experience of the Caledonian Railway. It is alleged that some of their most important depots are seriously undermanned, and that the work can only be overtaken by the existing staff by means of systematic overtime working."
Efforts upon the Caledonian line are alleged to have been concentrated largely upon the economical use of locomotive power. For example, until a few years ago the goods traffic between Glasgow and Carlisle was carried on by what was known as the single-trip system. This system involved the employment of twenty-four engines—twelve of which were housed at Carlisle and twelve at Glasgow. The journey was accomplished in nine hours, and the men in charge of the train slept at Glasgow and at Carlisle on alternate nights. The system was, however, abolished in favour of the double-trip system which is now in vogue. This system involves the employment of only six engines instead of twenty-four, and the accomplishment of a double trip in eighteen consecutive hours. The change was accompanied by an increase of pay, but the increase of work is reported by some, at least, of the men to have undermined their health. The saving in plant and other expenses, produced by the introduction of the double-trip system, has been, it is alleged, largely effected at the expense of the men.
It seems almost absurd to criticise the details of railway administration ; but it would appear that either want of means or want of administrative ability in dealing with materiel or with masses of men, or some potent force outside of the
(1) It is impossible to test the accuracy of these statements in detail otherwise than by a Parliamentary inquiry. St. Rollox, Glasgow, has been mentioned to me as a flagrant case of an undermanned depot.
administration, has dragged the companies and the country into the mire of a serious crisis. We are driven to give some weight to the two first-mentioned causes, unless we are to be absolutely sceptical of everything that is said for the traders and for the men, and blindly credulous of everything that is said for the companies. The extent to which the strike has been due to causes beyond the strict range of administration is discussed elsewhere.
The railway system is, in a sense, only in its infancy; many lines of the railways in Scotland are but partially developed ; the two great companies have between them practically a monopoly of the internal transport of the country. Unless one is to take an extremely pessimistic view of the rapidity with which the exhaustion of the coalfields of Lanarkshire and Fifeshire is approaching, we can hardly fail to believe that the companies are just now in process of consolidating a property which must become progressively valuable. If the present service is pinched and straitened, in order that the property may become of greatly increased value to the future holders of the stock, it is a question as to how far this is justifiable from any point of view. If administration is going on such lines, it is opposed equally to the interests of the existing bodies of shareholders and of the companies' servants.
THE RECOGNITION OF THE UNION. Although recognition of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants by the railway Boards was a material issue in the controversy, the repeated demands for a conference between representatives of the companies and representatives of the
was the only explicit formulation of it as an issue. Moreover, ere yet the strike had run half its course the demand for a conference had been expressly placed in abeyance by the
society, in order not to divert attention from the main issuethe question of hours.
From the point of view of the railway companies it could not, however, be thus thrust into the background. As regards the Caledonian Railway, recognition of the union remained the substantial reason of the strike. No doubt the service of that company did not realise the men's expressed ideal in point of hours, and other grievances were also felt; but the adherence of the Board to the “graded system," with its traditions, impelled the men to demand conference between the directors and their own representatives, selected because they were independent of the penalties that might attach to audacious complainants in the company's service. The Board, on the other hand, founded upon the established custom of the company, and especially upon their rule-book, wherein the mode of the presentation of grievances was prescribed.
Rule 150. — “Should any servant think himself aggrieved at any time he may memorialise the Board ; but in such cases the memorial must be sent through the head of his department.” 2
It may be noted that this rule is probably of no validity excepting as a rule of administration, for the infringement of which the company may punish by degradation or dismissal. It is unlikely that infringement of it could be held to be a breach of contract, since the terms of it : involve the foregoing of a right now recognised, if not even explicitly sanctioned by law, viz , the right of combination.
As regards the North British Railway, the relative importance of the questions was in a measure reversed. The position of the question of hours was felt to be intolerable by the men, and to demand immediate answer to the claim made by the Executive of the society ; but the Board thought they saw (1) In the Haldane and again in the Aberdeen negotiations. (2) Rule-book, Caledonian Railway Company. This rule is not one of those common to the lines on the Clearing House system.
(3) No provision is made for more than one person memorialising the Board as one act. It is thus analogous to the similar provision as regards petitioning the Czar, and it is surrounded by similar associations.
(4) See page 41.
their interest to lie in adhering to the strictly technical rendering of their rules, and in declining discussion of the question of hours save by the "graded system.” On both hands, therefore, although the men expressly left the point in abeyance, it remained as a material issue, obstinately opposed by the managers and directors of the companies.
Although comparatively few strikes have occurred upon “recognition of the union," as the ostensible or the leading issue, ? it has really entered into almost all strikes, especially in the rudimentary stages of individual trade-union organisations. At a certain stage in the history of a union it is indeed the inevitable battle which must be fought. The experience of trade-unionists will probably universally confirm the statement that a strike has almost invariably preceded such recognition, and that, given substantial grievances and evil traditions associated with individual appeals for redress, the recognition of the union has been conceded as the immediate or the remote result of the strike.
It must not be inferred from this that trades-unionism and striking are permanently indissociably connected. Strikes occurred during the periods when combination was illegal, and they occur now where no unions exist.?
A union strong enough to strike, but too weak to hold together without a strike, is a danger to all concerned. A union, of which the bulk of a trade are members, guided by an intelligent and trusted Executive, is more likely to be reasonable in its demands than a loosely aggregated mass, without common interests, full of jealousy and suspicion, and acting frequently from caprice.
(1) Out of 22, 304 strikes in separate establishments in the United States (1881-86) only 58 occurred solely for “ recognition of union," and of these 16 succeeded and 42 failed. — 3rd Annual Report (1887) Commission of Labour, p. 1021.
(2) ". There is no union in Macclesfield; but a united action on the part of the weavers has produced a cessation of work.” Qy. 13 834. Third Report Depression of Trade Commission.
(3). The Amalgamated Society of Engineers, in the earlier stages of its history, experienced several strikes; but after all, in thirty-five years spent only 31 per cent. of its aggregate income in trade disputes, a portion of that amount being spent in assistance to other trades. Cf. Labour Statistics, C.-5104, p. 31.
Looked at simply as a means of dealing with employers," through a representative instructed in the wants of the men and independent of the employers, the trade-union unquestionably places the men in the position of being able to make a more advantageous bargain than would otherwise be generally possible for them to make. And, moreover, it really enables the administrator of the labour of many thousands of men to learn and understand their feelings and grievances much more fully and accurately than it is possible for him to do through his subordinates, whose interest generally lies in preventing even the appearance of want of smoothness in working
A workman is easily abashed by a superior official. He cannot state his case lucidly or fairly. He either overstates or understates it. In so important a matter as contracting with
a the leader of a great industrial army, especially a potentate so awful and unapproachable in his eyes as a railway manager, he feels that he needs an advocate well posted in the details of his industry, and possessed of a fluent tongue and a ready pen.
a He is willing to pay for such an advocate. Thus the tradesunion secretary becomes a necessity. There is no reason to suppose that he must be a nuisance to employers, or that he must be an autocrat to the men who employ him. Indeed, the contrary is generally the case. So much opposed are working-men to attempted autocracy by members of their own class, that they are frequently severe to rudeness to those whom they employ. In the railway strike the men broke away from their secretary and their Executive, and carried out their design in their own way. That they did so is an incidental proof of the rudimentary character of their organisation.
(1) Apart from the question of labour combination, which is dealt with later, page 58.
(2) The abuse of the paid agitator, freely dispensed in the columns of the newspapers during industrial disputes, is no doubt sometimes deserved ; but those who find themselves aggrieved by it are aware that similar abuse has at all times been dispensed to those who were not of the abuser's party, and has sometimes been heaped upon those who afterwards became popular idols.
(3) The meetings of Co-operative Societies afford frequent examples of this; and an instance of it in the present strike is given above. See Note, p. 12.