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II. PRESENT PROCEDURE IN WORKER-EMPLOYER RELATIONS
(a) UNIONS AND EMPLOYERS ORGANIZATIONS
8. Labor-union development in Great Britain has been gradual over a long period of time. It began at least as far back as the repeal of the combination laws in 1825. Its growth is briefly traced in part III of this report, in connection with the historical evolution of collective bargaining. At the end of 1936 there were in existence. in Great Britain and Ireland 1,041 trade-unions, with a stated membership of 5,308,000,2 representing roughly one-third of the workers estimated as eligible for union membership. About half of the total union membership belonged to unions which were grouped, for purposes of collective bargaining, into 63 federations of varying size and composition. The Trades Union Congress affiliates most of these unions in a large confederation, and most of the Scottish unions are in addition affiliated to the Scottish Trades Union Congress.
9. The formation in Great Britain, first locally and then on an industry-wide basis, of employers' associations for dealing with labor matters, has also covered a long period of time. They were initiated in response to, and originally to combat, the growth of unions. Subsequently, after periods of more or less severe conflict, they entered into collective agreements with the unions-a development which, as is shown in part III, was already well under way in the nineties and continued steadily thereafter, reaching substantially its present form and scope by the end of 1921. At the end of 1936 there were 266 general federations or associations of employers, designed to cover the whole of an industry or service, and to deal exclusively with labor matters. In addition, there were 1,550 other such employers' associations, chiefly of a local or district character. Many of these are affiliated to the general associations. Most of the general associations are members of the National Confederation of Employers' Organizations, which deals with the broader aspects of labor relations and labor policies."
10. On both the employer and the workers' side these organizations differ in structure and in their internal regulation. Among the employers' associations some, like the Mining Association, are quite homogeneous; some, like the Engineering and Allied Employers' National Federation, bring together many different types of manufacturing; some like the Wholesale Clothing Manufacturers Association, affiliate both district associations and individual firms; some, as in the textile industry, consist of particular divisions of an industry according to materials or processes or both. Among the union federations, some are very loosely organized and others are so highly developed that they differ little from amalgamations; they may bring together unions in different industries, or local unions in a single industry, or associations of national unions in a single industry.
11. This diversity of structure is the result of long historical growth reflecting the different customs, practices, and traditions in the various industries.
(b) COLLECTIVE AGREEMENTS
12. The employers' associations and the unions have long since become an integral part of a collective-bargaining system in which they respect one another and mutually attribute real value to the agreements and to the relations that have been built up between them. In Great Britain the expression "collective agreement" does not mean an agreement between a single employer and his workers, or even an agreement between a single employer and a union. It means an agreement negotiated collectively by representatives of a group or association of employers (commonly an industry-wide association), and representatives of a union or a group or association of unions.
13. Great diversity appears in the collective agreements; in the provisions for wages, hours, and working conditions, and in the procedure for the settlement of disputes. Many of the agreements with employers' associations are national in scope, regulating the terms of employment of the members' employees, both union and nonunion, in the categories covered by the agreements. Other agreements, though less frequently, are between unions and district, rather than national, associations of employers. Moreover, even in industries where national agreements define the terms of employment with great precision, supplementary district or local agreements often exist. In the case of nonfederated employers, individual agreements may be negotiated with the unions; when they are negotiated they generally conform to the national agreements. The extent to which standards set in the national agreements are observed by nonfederated employers depends on the extent of union organization in the particular trade or locality.
14. The wage provisions in collective agreements are multiform. In the case of time rates they are sometimes expressed as minima and sometimes as standard rates which in practice are the prevailing rates; they are frequently differentiated according to locality. In the case of piece rates the agreements sometimes specify the actual rates in lists which may cover a large number and variety of articles and operations, while other agreements are less detailed. Generally the piece rates are calculated to yield to an average or an ordinary worker a certain minimum percentage above the agreed time rates. Provisions are also made in some agreements for group piece work, for bonus payments dependent on output, and for the automatic adjustment of wages in accordance with variations in selling price or in the proceeds of the industry (restricted to coal mining) or in the cost-of-living indices of the Ministry of Labor. Increases in wages have generally been made by a flat amount of so much per hour or per week, and this has had the effect of decreasing the percentage difference between the unskilled and the skilled worker. At the same time, the differences between skilled workers in different trades are becoming less. In those trades where a cost-of-living bonus is applied (which is usually in the form of so many shillings per week rather than a percentage on the wages) this tendency of decreasing the percentage difference is again observed. The same tendency is found in the action of the trade boards in the very low-wage classes. Hours are generally fixed by industry-wide agreements, usually from 44 to 48, but in some cases less. There are many differences in the
provisions relating to overtime, starting and stopping, holidays, and so on. Numerous details relating to working conditions and other matters, are frequently incorporated.
15. Almost invariably, either in the collective agreements or in agreed-upon rules of joint standing bodies composed equally of representatives of union and employer organizations, there are provisions specifying the steps to be taken before strikes or lockouts may occur.
(c) PROVISIONS IN THE AGREEMENTS FOR THE SETTLEMENT OF BASIC TERMS OF EMPLOYMENT, AND DISPUTES AND GRIEVANCES, WITHOUT STOPPAGE OF WORK
16. Despite the intricate and diverse nature of the collective bargaining process in Great Britain, the arrangements which have been embodied in agreements and rules for settling basic terms of employment, disputes and grievances, have certain common characteristics, as follows:
17. First, basic changes in wages and hours are commonly negotiated by the national unions not with each employer individually but with associations of employers;
18. Second, if negotiations on these basic subjects fail, resort is generally had either by the terms of the agreement or by mutual agreement at the time, to some impartial agency whose decision is generally followed, though the parties rarely bind themselves in advance to follow it. The very gravity of the situation, when differences arise in negotiations applying to the whole or to a considerable portion of an industry, is such as to counsel resort to peaceful means of settlement;
19. Third, when a local dispute as to the application or interpretation of an agreement, or a grievance, arises which cannot be settled between the particular worker and employer, it is then taken up by the local union representative or works committee. If not thus settled, an intermediate step is often provided, by referring the matter to a joint body composed of representatives of a district employers' association and of district union representatives. Failing settlement in this manner, under the terms of the agreement, the question is referred to a joint body composed of representatives of the national union and the employers' association. Sometimes in the final stage, if the national representatives cannot agree, provision is made by the agreement (or by an agreement between the national representatives at the time) for reference of the matter to arbitration which may or may not be binding. There are other variations in the pattern, but throughout the agreements the principle is the same, namely that local disputes and grievances which cannot be settled locally are referred to employer and union representatives who are not themselves directly concerned with the controversy, and who can bring to bear upon it an informed and relatively detached judgment. While the time period necessary for these steps to be completed differs in different industries according to the details of the methods provided, the objective is to settle locally as many disputes as possible, and if they cannot be so settled, to make the procedure short enough to satisfy the workers involved, and long enough
to allay the tension and to make sure that the possibilities of collective conciliation and settlement are fully utilized.
20. Although this procedure for settling local disputes is generally effective, nevertheless unofficial stoppages, that is, local strikes called without the approval of the national union and without completing the settlement procedure laid down in the agreements, have occurred from time to time in each of the industries in question but rarely were they serious either in number or in extent and the national unions invariably sought and usually obtained a prompt resumption of work. These local flareups, while not approved of by either the unions or the employer's associations, appeared to be regarded by those who met with us as a more or less inevitable accompaniment of the procedure adopted for the settlement of grievances and local disputes. As we have already pointed out, the essential feature of that procedure is that local controversies when not settled locally are removed from the immediate disputants and are disposed of by persons on both sides who have not themselves been engaged in the controversy and who can, therefore, view it dispassionately. Necessarily some delay is involved in the process though it is recognized that grievances must be dealt with promptly and attempts are made to expedite the steps as much as possible, and some of the arrangements specify maximum time periods within which action, whether regional or national, or both, must be taken. Even the shortest procedure, however, has not always been effective; occasionally where the grievance is an acute one the men have not waited; as one union leader put it, "the temper gets in their souls." Occasionally, also, the men have deliberately quit work knowing that in a few days they would be ordered back by their officials and expecting to go back, but hoping by their demonstration to obtain redress for grievances more speedily than could be otherwise accomplished, or to make certain that the seriousness of their complaints would be recognized. As has been said, the national officials of the union are energetic in procuring a resumption of work in instances where unofficial stoppages occur. The general principle that there shall be no negotiations while the workers are out on unauthorized strikes is insisted upon and generally maintained. From none of those with whom we conferred did we secure evidence of any substantial rank and file discontent.
21. Fourth, while the agreements provide that there shall be no strikes or lock-outs until the procedure for negotiating basic changes, or for settling local disputes and grievances, has been completed, these and the other provisions of collective agreements rest upon moral force rather than upon legal compulsion. We could find no desire on the part of either employers' associations or unions to seek legislation which would make the voluntary agreements legally enforceable; on the contrary, perhaps the chief characteristic of the attitudes of both groups is that legal sanctions for these agreements are undesirable, and that the agreements should rest upon mutual understanding and good faith.
22. In the cotton textile industry, as described in appendix A, a special act of Parliament, passed in 1934 at the request of both the unions and the employers organizations, authorizes the Minister of Labor by order to make legally binding on the weaving section of the
industry, as minimum rates, the wage rates collectively agreed to by unions and employer organizations; and orders have been so issued. This legislation, the first of its kind in Great Britain, was occasioned by the break-downs in wage standards beginning in the unorganized portions of the industry and spreading to some of the organized employers. It is an exception to the preference for unenforceable agreements in only a very limited sense, for the whole collective agreements are not made legally enforceable, but only their wage provisions; and in another sense the legislation illustrates a further and complementary British attitude, namely, that where the collectivebargaining process is not by itself able to maintain wage standards, and the conditions are sufficiently serious, Government sanction for standards should be sought, but only as a supplement and aid to collective bargaining and not in substitution for it. The trade board legislation later described is another illustration of the same approach.
23. In keeping with this general philosophy, the idea of compulsory statutory arbitration of industrial disputes is opposed. This opposition, following experiments in the early industrial era, goes back at least as far as the Report of the Royal Commission on Trade Unions in 1869. The Whitley Committee Report of 1918 said: "The experience of compulsory arbitration during the war period has shown that it is not a successful method of avoiding disputes and in normal times it would undoubtedly prove even less successful." Repeatedly union and employer representatives who conferred with us expressed their opinion quite definitely against compulsory arbitration, whether imposed by statute or, so far as basic terms of employment are concerned, by collective agreements. In addition to the desire of both sides to retain the right of direct action as a last resort, they believe that provision for compulsory arbitration at the end weakens the utility of preliminary conferences, since the parties tend to rely on the final arbitration. Moreover, though some collective agreements bind the parties in advance to abide by arbitration in the case of local disputes and grievances, provisions of that sort appear to be rather infrequent; and sometimes it will be found that though the term "arbitration" is used and the parties have agreed to resort to it, there is an express stipulation that the "arbitration" award shall not be binding, though it is usually accepted.
24. This discussion of the general principles underlying the British methods of collective bargaining is illustrated by the descriptions of the bargaining machinery in the industries whose spokesmen, for the employers and workers, we met. (See appendix A.) These descriptions reveal not only the constancy of the principles just referred to but the diversity of detail with which they are applied.
(d) ADJUSTMENT OF INTERUNION DISPUTES
25. Methods have been evolved for the avoidance or settlement of disputes between unions. These disputes involve questions of two sorts. The first is whether a particular operation should be performed by one type of craftsman or another-the so-called jurisdictional disputes. The second question is whether one union or another shall organize a certain type or group of workers-the so-called organizational disputes.