From the November 1911 issue of the Socialist Standard
Evidently the capitalist class were convinced of one thing by the railway men’s strike, and that is that under the present conciliation scheme the long, dreary delays in dealing— or pretending to deal —with matters in dispute gave a good excuse for a strike. Hence the appointment of the Royal Commission to investigate the workings of that scheme and to report changes with a view to the prompt and satisfactory settlement of differences, directly the men had been swindled over the strike and persuaded to return to work by their treacherous leaders.
This commission has, after examining a number of witnesses, issued its Report, and the most satisfactory result has been the derision and repudiation by numbers of the men of this document, signed though it is by Arthur Henderson, “Labour” M.P., as chief decoy duck for the Liberal party.
The examination of the witnesses threw a lurid light upon the work Mr. Henderson had in hand. Every witness from the men’s side was pressed by this sycophant to state or agree with some scheme that would keep the men from striking, no matter what conditions were in dispute or how long the “arbitration" was in reaching a settlement.
In summing up the evidence from the men’s side the report says :
“Complaint is made that where advantages accrued to the men by the agreements arrived at by the Boards, or the awards of arbitrators, these advantages were counterbalanced, or altogether taken away by changes in the 'management.' The chief instances given are the reclassification of grades, the employment of men in a lower grade to discharge the duties of men in a higher grade, adjustment of hours of duty so that Sunday rates of wages and overtime are avoided, and, where hours of labour were shortened, the arrangement of hours of going on and coming off duty in a way that spread the period of duty over a greater number of hours.”
To this the employers replied that “the changes in matters of management which the men allege deprive them of the benefits granted by awards, were not carried out with that object.” (Italics ours.)
Here we see that it is not even attempted to deny the men’s statement, but only the motive for such actions.
Yet in spite of this the Commission says :
“We think that with their great responsibilities the companies cannot, and should not be expected to, permit, any intervention between them and their men on the subjects of discipline and management."
No wonder their Report met with the derision of the men when the most vital questions are to be left entirely in the hands of the employers for settlement!
The suggested amendments to the 1907 Conciliation Scheme are worthy of notice.
The Central Boards are to be abolished. The Sectional Boards are to be retained. But the latter are to have a chairman selected from a panel to be constituted by the Board of Trade. If the Sectional Board does not agree upon a name from this panel, the Board of Trade selects one. His powers and decisions are peculiar. The Boards are to meet twice a year, but a special meeting may be asked for by either side to be held in fourteen days. Should a difference arise as to the date or necessity of holding such special meeting, the chairman’s decision settles the matter.
If the two sides of the Board fail to reach an agreement the chairman gives a decision!
“Settlements arrived at by agreement between the two sides of a Conciliation Board shall have effect for at least twelve months."
“Settlements by decision of the chairman of a Board shall have effect for at least two years.”
And as before, no meeting be held during August or September, except by mutual consent.
Here we see how the official representative of the capitalist class—the chairman—has enormous powers in ending any dispute that arises and so deprive the men of the old excuse of delays.
In all essentials the scheme will work more rapidly and strike its blows in greater number than before. The men have not yet gained a single essential point they did not possess before, while the companies’ interests are more rigidly safeguarded under the swifter moving machinery now available.