Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/1057

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
with the result that the stringency of the conditions and restrictions

enforced varied very greatly in different districts, according to the comparative strength of the unions in those districts. Employers complained of being subject to vexatious restrictions not imposed on their competitors, and they declared that they were severely handicapped as compared with America and other countries, where engineering employers had much more complete control over the management of their business. In 1895 was formed the Federation of Engineering Employers by the coalition of the local associations on the Clyde and in Belfast, and this federation gradually spread to other districts until it finally embraced the United Kingdom generally. The policy of the federation was to defeat the attempts of the unions to put pressure on particular individuals or localities by the counter-threat of a general lock-out of trade unionists over a wide area in support of the employers thus attacked. The lock-out notices were framed in such a way that 25% of the trade unionists employed were to be discharged at the end of each week until the whole were locked out. Lock-out notices of this kind were twice—posted in August of 1896 and in the spring of 1897—before the general dispute, but in each case the dispute was averted before the notices took effect. But the conferences which took place in April 1897 between the representatives of employers and unions led to no agreement except on comparatively unimportant points. When, therefore, in June 1897 the London employers, threatened with a strike for an eight-hour-day, put their case in the hands of the Employers' Federation, and the federation determined to support them by a general lock-out, it was understood that this lock-out was enforced, not only in order to resist the reduction of hours in London, but to obtain a settlement of all the important questions at issue between the federation and the unions as a whole. The engineers replied to the notices of a gradual lock-out by withdrawing the whole of their members from work in federated workshops. At first the lock-out affected some 25,000 men employed in 250 establishments, but by the close of the dispute the number of

employers involved had risen to 702, and of work-people to 47,500.
Until November no meeting between the parties took place, but

on the 24th of November and following days a conference was held in pursuance of negotiations with the parties by the board of trade, each side having its own chairman. The main point for which the employers contended was freedom on the part of each employer to introduce into his workshop any condition of labour under which any members of the trade unions were working in any of the federated workshops at the beginning of the dispute, except as regards rates of wages and hours of labour. Arising out of this general principle of freedom of management, a number of special points were discussed and subsequently embodied in separate articles of the provisional agreement, and a system of local and general conferences for the settlement and avoidance of future disputes was also included therein. The employers absolutely declined to grant any reduction of hours of labour. The negotiations dragged on for a considerable time, and were at one time broken off owing to the refusal of the men to ratify the provisional agreement. By the end of the year, however, it was evident that the position of the men was very much weakened owing to the depletion of their funds, while that of the employers was stronger than ever. On the 13th of January the London demand for an eight-hour-day was formally withdrawn, and after some further negotiation, and the embodiment in the agreement of the notes and explanations published by the employers, a settlement was arrived at and ratified by more than a two-thirds majority of the men, the final agreement being signed on the 28th of January.

The victory of the employers was complete, but the use made of it was moderate, and the relations between employers and workmen in the engineering trades on the whole improved, all matters likely to cause dispute being now amicably discussed between the representatives of the respective associations.

In 1866 a strike of 3000 shipwrights on the Clyde led to a general lock-out of shipbuilders in the district. In 1877, 25,000 iron shipbuilders on the Clyde struck for 23 weeks for an advance of wages, the dispute being settled by arbitration.

In 1906 the shipbuilders in the Clyde district struck work for about 7 weeks to obtain an advance of wages of 1s. 6d. a week. The dispute ended in their defeat, about 15,000 men being affected.

In 1891 a prolonged dispute took place between the plumbers and engineers engaged in shipyards on the Tyne as to “demarcation”; 2460 men were idle from 7 to 8 weeks, the result being the drawing up of an elaborate list of apportionment applicable to the Tyne and Wear. The shipbuilding trades have from early times been marked by numerous “demarcation” disputes, mostly of a local character, as to the limits of the work of the various bodies of work-people—e.g. between shipwrights and boatbuilders; shipwrights and joiners; shipwrights and boilermakers; joiners and cabinetmakers; boilermakers and engineers; engineers and plumbers; engineers and brassfinishers. Some of these matters are now dealt

with by joint trade boards (see Arbitration and Conciliation).
Among the more important disputes in the iron trade are to be

mentioned a strike and lock-out of 30,000 ironworkers in Staffordshire in 1865, in which the men were beaten after a costly stoppage of 18 weeks; an unsuccessful strike of 12,000 ironworkers in Middlesbrough

for 18 weeks in 1866; and an unsuccessful strike of 20,000
ironworkers in Staffordshire for 4 weeks in 1883 against a reduction

of wages, attended by rioting and destruction of plant.

The nailmakers in the Dudley district engaged in widespread disputes in 1840, 1881 and 1887. The strike of 1840 against a reduction of wages was unsuccessful. Those of 1881 and 1887 were for advance of wages; the former was wholly, the latter partially successful. The women chain-makers of Cradley Heath successfully struck in 1910 for an increase of wages.

Other Trades.—Among other noteworthy disputes are to be

1. A successful strike of 14,000 persons in the Leicester hosiery

trade in 1819 for an advance in wages.

2. An unsuccessful strike of 13,000 or more tailors in London in 1834 for a rise of wages and reduction of hours, lasting several months.

3. A dispute among the pottery workmen in the Midlands in 1836 against the terms of yearly hiring, leading to a general lock-out of over 15,000 men for 10 weeks, which ended in the defeat of the men.

4. A series of disputes among agricultural labourers in 1872-1874 for increases of wages and other improvements in the conditions of employment, in which the men were mostly successful. These disputes, which are almost the only widespread disputes recorded in agriculture, evoked much public interest.

5. In 1889 there was a prolonged strike of dock and waterside labourers in London for a rise in wages and other alterations in conditions of employment, which was successful, mainly through the financial support received from the Australian trade unions and from the general public. It began on the 13th of August with a small local dispute at the West India Docks about the wages earned for discharging a certain cargo, but spread rapidly among all classes of dock labourers in the port, who took the opportunity of demanding an increase in the rate of pay for time work from 5d. to 6d., the abolition of contract and piece-work, and the remedy of other grievances. They were joined by the stevedores and lightermen, who came out “in sympathy,” though the latter class of men soon formulated a set of demands of their own. Employment was brisk, the weather fine, and the public sympathetic, and in a few days' time not less than 16,000 men were idle. For the most part they were unconnected with trade unions which could give them strike pay, but during the month that the strike lasted the public at home and abroad subscribed nearly £50,000 in support of the strikers. Of this total over £30,000 came from Australia, where from the 29th of August onwards a series of meetings were held for the purpose of raising funds to assist the London labourers. The Australian subscriptions practically decided the issue of the contest. On the very day on which the first Australian meeting was held at Brisbane the leaders of the strike attempted by means of a “no-work manifesto” to widen the area of the dispute and cause a general stoppage of industry. Though this attempt was soon abandoned it caused considerable alarm and threatened to alienate public sympathy from the men. Early in September many of the wharfingers made separate settlements with the strikers, and the shipowners attempted to put pressure on the dock companies to allow them to employ labour direct within the docks. The apprehensions of the public led to the formation of a conciliation committee at the Mansion House, including the Lord Mayor, the bishop of London, Cardinal Manning, Sir John Lubbock (Lord Avebury), and others, who mediated between the strikers and the dock directors, with the result that after one abortive attempt at a settlement, the terms of which were rejected by the men, an agreement was arrived at on the 14th of September, under which the dock labourers obtained the greater part of their demands. From the 4th of November the rate of hourly wages for time work was raised to 6d., with 8d. overtime; contract work was converted into piece-work, with a minimum rate of 6d., and other points in dispute were settled. Though during the strike cases of intimidation and violence on the part of pickets were by no means absent, the police-court charges arising out of the dispute were remarkably few. By the end of the year the Dock Labourers' Union (which had previously been known as the Tea Operatives and General Labourers' Union, and at the beginning of the dispute numbered about 800 members) had increased its membership in London to over 20,000—a number which was afterwards further increased by the formation of provincial branches. In London, however, the membership rapidly declined during the following years of depression of trade. The stevedores, who, as above remarked, came out “in sympathy” with the dock labourers, returned to work as soon as the latter were satisfied, but the lightermen's demands were adjusted by an award of Lord Brassey before they

returned to work.
6. The organization of labour at the principal ports which

followed this dispute led to a series of struggles between the new unions and the shipowners, who formed an organization called the Shipping Federation Limited, and successfully established their right to employ “free labour” in opposition to the unions of seamen and other bodies of labourers. The last of these disputes on a large scale occurred at Hull in 1893, and ended in the defeat of the dock labourers after a stoppage affecting 11,000 men for 6 weeks.

7. In 1895 a general stoppage of 46,000 boot and shoe operatives was terminated, after a stoppage of 6 weeks, by a settlement effected

through the board of trade. The issues of this dispute were of