§ Mr. R. MURRAY
I beg to move,That, in view of the worsening conditions of middle-class professional workers. and of time advantages resulting from the recognition of the organisations of manual workers and the practice of collective bargaining, this House is of opinion that local authorities, banks, insurance and shipping companies, and other employers of professional and clerical workers should follow the example of the Government in recognising the organisations of these workers.I rise with considerable satisfaction to move this Resolution. I know that here, as elsewhere, there is an idea, very prevalent in the minds of a considerable section of people that so far as the questions of trade and commerce, the prices of commodities, wages and conditions of employment, are concerned, they should be outside the purview of this House. But the whole of the conditions of our modern life have become too complex and too much inter-related for matters affecting the well-being of large sections of the community to he so segregated and kept from the attention of the House. For long these questions have been invading our deliberations. It is no new matter for the House of Commons 2161 to be asked to deal with the question of the wages of the workers and the conditions under which they are unemployed. The manual workers have over and over again come before this House and sought authority from the House to secure for themselves better and fairer conditions of employment. The miners, the engineers, the railwaymen, the seamen, the dockers and all classes of manual workers have sought consideration from this House. This is among the first occasions on which we have had the attention of Members directed to the condition of the professional workers, workers who are of immense importance and value to our industry as it is to-day, and, if that industry is to be developed to face the extremer competition and greater difficulties of the future, who will be of still more importance in the days to come. We want, therefore, to give some consideration to the position of the professional worker.
I am glad to be able to point, as a justification for this Motion, to the fact that the Government themselves have given recognition to the organisation of professional workers, and have granted to various sections of those who serve them opportunities for organisation, through the Whitley Councils, and in other ways which enable these individuals to stand up for what they consider to he of importance in their lives. The professional workers have been somewhat late in developing, so far as conscious organisation is concerned. Since this matter has been mooted, I know it has been said repeatedly that we on these Labour Benches have been engaged on the old job of trying to secure the support of the professional workers with no real intention of securing for them anything in return. It has been alleged that ours is a political move. I desire to say that those of us who have recognised in labour the one and indivisibly great machine upon which the whole of modern life depends, have all along declared that the professional worker, the worker of higher grade, of greater capacity and wider possibilities of influencing industry, is as much a part of the labour machine as the lowest paid and the least organised of the manual workers. But we could not interfere, nor could we seek to draw Parliament's attention to the matter until the professional worker reached the 2162 point, now attained, of organising himself. "He that, would he free himself must strike the blow." It is now that the professional worker has become alive to the necessity of organising himself that we deem the time ripe for securing for him the recognition which the Government has given to civil servants and others who serve it, and the recognition which has been given to trade union organisations of one kind and another.
During the past few days circulars and letters of one kind and another have been issued to Members of this House in regard to this Motion. I have no doubt that many Members have been surprised at the extent to which the professional worker is organised. I have in my hand a list of the National Federation of Professional, Technical, Administrative and Supervisory Workers, an organisation which contains 400,000 men. The list indicates that, amongst a large number of organisations associated with that Federation, are the Amalgamated Managers and Foremen's Association, Architects and Surveyors, the Association of Engineering and Shipbuilding Draughtsmen, the Civil Service Confederation, the Electrical Power Engineers, the National Federation of Law Clerks, the Railway Clerks' Association, and so on. I quote these names to indicate the extent to which organisation amongst the professional workers has now gone. They have been long in realising the necessity for organisation in order to improve their own condition. Several reasons have stood between them and the realisation of that purpose. They have mostly been in small groups, widely scattered. Manual workers, on the other hand, have been congregated in large bodies and have more quickly realised the importance of organisation. The professional worker has had little or no support from his fellows, and, what is more important, he has often appeared to occupy a position which made him think that he was not of the workers, and that he did not need organisation to strengthen his position. He has worn a black coat, and because of that he has deceived other people and himself into thinking that he had no interests in common with the working classes and did not need organisation. He wore a black coat, but often behind the appearance of respectability and substantiality there was tragedy.
2163 Behind the appearance of substantiality there has often been poverty and misery, so far as the man and his wife and his children were concerned. He deceived himself into thinking that all was well. He reminded me often of a lad whom I knew in my native town. He drove the doctor's gig. Someone said to him one day, "What wage do you get Willie?" He replied, "16s. a week." The questioner remarked," It is a terribly small wage," to which the answer was given, "Ah, but look at the drives you get." The professional worker, content often with a meagre allowance, regarded himself as above any necessity for organisation, because he looked like a gentleman. He was very much like a clubman and waiter whom it has been said you could easily mistake them for gentlemen. The professional workers have all along had to face the same difficulties as the manual workers. They have had to face the same scourge of unemployment, the same uncertainty as to the future, sometimes even smaller salaries and circumstances which made their position still more difficult. Whether we are going to develop our social system along the lines which some of us on these benches dream of, or whether we are going to go on under capitalism as it stands to-day. it is essential upon either plane that we should recognise these important workers and secure to them, as far as possible, stability and safeguards against the difficulties which they have to face along,with fairer and more reasonable salaries. If we are not going to do so, then we shall have a recurring condition of trouble and difficulty becoming more and more severe as these professional workers get a clearer idea of their position and their powers. We are going to have what our great Victorian Laureate described in the lines:That these two parties still divide the world.Of those that want and those that have: and stillThe same old sore breaks out from age to ageWith much the same result.How do we stand in regard to professional workers' organisations to-day? The Government have recognised the right of their professional workers who are organised. That is a tremendous advantage and has been of great value, but 2164 it is not to be thought that from recognition by the Government alone there comes salvation for professional workers. Those who were in the House last week, when we had a discussion with regard to the Lytton entrants into the Civil Service, will know that, whilst they have been granted recognition, unfortunately, those who have hitherto controlled the machinery of Government have not always given these people that kindness and thought, sympathy and justice of which they so often speak. Otherwise we would not have had the report which we had here in regard to the Lytton entrants. Many of them were ex-Service men receiving salaries as low as £2 17s. and £2 13s. for a man with a wife and children. We want to see an extension of the principle which has been adopted in a small degree by Government Departments and the Civil Service of recognising professional workers' organisations. Those important and valuable institutions, the Whitley Councils, are at work to-day among the civil servants, and it is known to a great many hon. Members that the Civil Service has a National Whitley Council, with representatives not only of the workers themselves, but representatives of the Government, including, I believe, three Members of the present House of Commons. We want that principle strengthened and extended, and what the Government has done, so far as its own servants are concerned, we desire to see done generally. We desire that the Government and this House should exercise their influence by the adoption of this Resolution, and that that influence should be extended to all the great institutions and organisations which are running the affairs of industry in this country, so that they will follow in the Government's steps and give to the professional worker the recognition, assistance, sympathy, and encouragement which he has so long deserved, but which he is only now beginning to receive.
In addition to the local government officials of whom I have spoken, I should like briefly to direct attention to the fact that the public authorities of this country control a large number of important officials and servants and that, in many cases, justice is not meted out to those officials. Only a few weeks ago we had in this House a question relating to the appointment of a sanitary inspector in one of the English areas under a local 2165 authority. The salary was to be £80 a. year to cover travelling expenses and with a prohibition which prevented the official carrying out individual or private work. I could quote other instances of the same kind. The, Sanitary Inspectors' Association had a meeting not very long ago at which they discussed many of the difficulties and injustices from which they are, suffering, and they sought to have a deputation received by the Board of Health with a view to having these grievances considered and remedied. All they got in response to their request was a blank refusal to meet them or to discuss their grievances. Surely, in view of all the organisation which is taking place, and the value of collective bargaining which every department of management and industry should realise to-day, it is putting back the hands of the clock for an important Government Department like the Board of Health to refuse to meet the representatives of a body so important in modern life as the officials and employés of a public authority to discuss grievances. One of the things we have yet to do is to create through the action of the Government and the influence of this House a spirit which will give justice and consideration to people in that position.
There are many other organisations to which I might refer. Some of those I have already named are associated with the Federation of Professional Workers, but there is one outstanding example or finely typical example to which reference may be made. I am thinking of that important body, the bank clerks of our country. I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that for the smooth running of our commercial machine nothing is more important than that we should have peace and happiness and a harmoniously working organisation connected with the banking companies of this country. Everybody who knows anything of recent history so far as our banking houses are concerned, will know that for years past and at this moment the bank clerks of this country have been and are suffering injustices and hardships to which no body of manual workers would for a single instant submit. They have been trying to organise themselves in the teeth of an opposition so far as their employers are concerned, which is closely organised and of the most bitter type. These men have not been stirred up to 2166 action by the "vulgar agitator." When trouble arises with labour there is always in the minds of those who dislike that sort of thing, a vision of some "vulgar agitator" playing upon ignorant minds and creating unrest about nothing at all.
These men are mostly well educated. They have had opportunities for consideration, for reading and understanding which have been denied to many of the manual workers. They have been closely in touch with the realities of life and they know the value of their own services, and the services of men like them, to the community. They have not been moved by the "vulgar agitator." They have been moved because of the conditions under which in recent years they have had to carry on their work and because they have found it impossible as individuals to secure that justice and fair play which they have a right to demand. So in recent years they have organised themselves and are still organising themselves into great bodies. But they have failed until now to secure that for which they have asked, the setting up of a Whitley Council or Councils which would enable their grievances and difficulties to be considered fairly and squarely and rectified if rectification be possible.
§ Mr. SAMUEL SAMUEL
Is the hon. Member aware that there is a union amongst the bank clerks, and that the great majority of the bank clerks have joined a union of their own, which has representation and is able to approach the boards?
§ Mr. MURRAY
I have been trying to explain that in recent years the bank clerks have created this organisation and joined in large numbers, but that, so far, their organisation has been rendered ineffective, because they have not had the opportunity of carrying it before their employers or of putting deputations and representations before their employers. What we are seeking for now is that this opportunity should be given to them. Let me remind the hon. Member and the House of what happened in Scotland—and the Scottish Bankers' Association has its analogous, brother organisation in England in the Bankers' Guild. In Scotland and in England, when the War came, no body of men went more freely to do their duty to the country than the bank clerks up and down the country, 2167 and of those who remained, no body of men did their duty more carefully and with 1Pss demand for the advances which were being given to other people. But with the return of Peace, instead of finding all the good things which they had a right to expect from their employers, in Scotland in 1920 the salary which was being paid to bank clerks, after 10 years' service, amounted to the magnificent sum of £160 a year—in 1920, when the cost of living was 141 per cent. above that of 1914!
What happened? A great impetus was given to the necessity for organisation on the part of these bank clerks. They organised themselves, and sought to have justice done them by approaching their employers, but nothing was done. They came to the Ministry of Labour, and in conjunction with that Ministry they again appealed to their employers that Whitley Councils might be set up to consider their grievances. Again they were refused, and they were denied the recognition which was given to the dockers and labourers, and in Scotland it reached the point, unheard of as far as professional workers were concerned, that these bank clerks handed in their strike notices, and were on the eve of a strike, which would have dislocated the financial arrangements of our country. Then, as so often happens, the employers agreed to give some consideration to the question, and they proceeded to do it in the usual way of that half-hearted and forced concession. They proceeded to do it by picking out men here and there and making them certain offers, on condition that they would have nothing whatever to do with this organisation of the bank clerks, and others were warned that if they continued in this organisation their promotion, their superannuation, their increases of salary, would suffer in consequence.
Then they set up what were called internal guilds, tame cat organisations, the favourite process of those who desire to prevent the organisation of the workers —tame cat organisations, which were supposed to come, and be stroked, and purr as the employers desired them to do. Even these internal guilds, however, have begun to demand things which the banking associations of Scotland have refused to grant, and in 1922 these internal guilds asked for a revision of salary, but that was denied them, and, instead of a revi- 2168 sion of their yearly salaries, they found that the last bit of bonus had disappeared. We know that it is the familiar stock in trade of employers, when an increase of salary is asked for on the part of the workers, or when they desire to lower the wages of the workers. to say, "We cannot afford it, because we are having no profits ourselves." This time, however, when these important professional workers are having their salaries reduced, the banks for which they are working in Scotland are declaring dividends of 17 per cent. and 18 per cent. There is no shortage of money, and there is no need to screw these men down because profits are not being made. Profits are being made, but, in spite of that, the intention is to reduce the status and conditions of these workers.
Let me remind the House also that this is not only a very important section of industry but it is a highly specialised one, and, because it is highly specialised, these men ought to have special consideration. Take a clerk in any kind of work outside the banks in the country, whether it be an iron works or a wool factory, and you can put him from one into the other, and in a comparatively short time the experience and knowledge gained in the one industry will serve him for the other; but the bank clerk is a highly specialised worker, and it is practically impossible, after he has served for 8, 10 or 12 years in a bank, to go out and find employment elsewhere. His difficulties, therefore, are infinitely greater, and there is all the more reason why he should be permitted to join together with his fellows in a great and strong union, and why that union should be recognised for the fair consideration of the conditions under which he works. There is something still worse with regard to the position of the bank clerks, and one of the things in regard to which, above all, he is desirous that his condition should be considered. Not only is he a highly specialised worker. who cannot very well leave the business of banking and take up other business, but in the banks in my country—I do not know how he stands in England —a clerk in one bank is not permitted, by the arrangements of the bankers, to leave the service of that bank and go to another. Once in one hank, always in one bank, and anyone can see to what an extent that reduces his freedom and the possibilities of his advancement.
2169 Here is another important point. So far as these employers are concerned they have long been well organised for their own purposes, and corporate action is a thing they understand. The bankers have their own corporate funds and they meet together to consider their own interests and business, and yet they deny their employés the same liberty, the liberty of joining together for the purpose of meeting with them to discuss the questions that are of importance to them and that underlie the whole conditions of their livelihood. We suggest in this Resolution that the time has come when, instead of being mere small handfuls of unrelated individuals here and there, up and down the country, they should become a recognised part of the organisation of industry in this country, and that these great and important bodies should be permitted to organise and should be granted the fullest extent of recognition. Not very long ago we had a discussion in this House—and we shall have similar discussions later on—with regard to the relative advantages of public administration and employment, as against private administration and employment. I could quote the instance or a national bank, the Bank of New South Wales, a National Government bank, in which all these reasonable things that we are asking should be granted to the bank clerks of this country, and to all these other professional and technical workers, have been granted, under Government administration, and have turned out not merely of advantage to the bank clerks themselves, but of advantage to the bank as well.
I do not know that I could put the claim more clearly than it was put in one of the letters which have been circulated among hon. Members. In a letter issued to hon. Members by the Guild of Insurance Officials, this is stated:In urging you most earnestly to support such Resolution, I would remind you that the members of the organisations to which reference is made therein represent important sections of what is known as the middle-class community, whom economic conditions resulting from the War have almost literally compelled to combine for purposes of collective bargaining. At the same time, we are imbued with a desire to attain our quite legitimate aspirations by strictly constitutional means, though it is to be regretted that too many employers of professional and clerical workers still fail, or refuse, to appreciate the imperative need for associations of this character, whose 2170 official recognition, I submit, is, in the highest sense, in the public interest.I sincerely trust that this House will accept this Motion, and will recognise that any effort to hold back the organisation of these people will simply be one more attempt to sweep back an irresistible tide. Organisation amongst the workers has come to stay. For the whole of industry collective bargaining is the best thing we have, and, so far as the more important section of workers is concerned, it is still more imperative that recognition should be given to these men. I will make no use of this platform, as I might do, to point out to these black-coated workers that their interests are on the side of all workers; that they, more largely than those who think they own the machinery of production, govern and control that machinery, and, unless you are prepared to grant now this recognition, it may well be that you will precipitate a time when these men, who are the captains and generals of the Labour army of production, may take possession of the machinery which they now control and may carry argument to a stage beyond the constitutional action which they seek to employ now. I appeal, therefore, to this House to accept this Motion, and thereby to encourage great companies, public authorities, and all organisations which employ these important workers to grant their claim and give them an opportunity to get the recognition which they deserve.
§ Mr. WILLIAM GRAHAM
I beg to second the Motion. My hon. Friend who has just addressed the House has covered the ground so adequately that I need not occupy more than a minute or two in support of the Motion Let me make it perfectly plain that we on these benches draw no artificial distinction between what are called professional and manual workers. We recognise that we have here a body of people who, in their own way, are making contributions to the country's progress and the country's good, and there could he nothing more deplorable than that there should he any idea that we were pleading specially for one class or the other in the Motion which is now before the House. During the War, there was a very considerable extension in the organisation of all classes of clerical and professional workers, hut the Motion which we submit to-night concerns more closely the employés of local authorities, 2171 banks and similar institutions, shipping and large insurance concerns, and one or two other undertakings. During recent years there has been, as I have indicated, a. considerable addition to the membership of associations which cater particularly for these classes of professional workers, and the request which they are making at the present time is simply a request for the elementary recognition of the bodies and associations which they have formed.
My hon. Friend has quoted the case of the Scottish Bankers' Association, and I may be forgiven for citing that case, not because the principle it raises is confined to Scotland in any way, but because more sharply than any other controversy it illustrates what is at stake in this question. In 1920 the average remuneration, with bonus included, of the Scottish bank clerk of 10 years' standing, was about £160; the remuneration of a clerk of 15 years' standing was £216, or thereabouts, and that of a clerk of 20 years' standing, probably £250 or less. No one would seek to defend remuneration of that kind at a time when the cost of living was 141 per cent. above the retail level of July, 1914. The bank clerks organised. They became rapidly a very powerful body, and, in due course, they approached the Scottish banking institutions, five or six in number, very wealthy corporations, for better terms, and not only were they denied the recognition of their Association for the purposes of collective bargaining, but it was quite clearly indicated—and this appears to be more important—that it was the settled policy of the large banking institutions in Scotland to refuse, either now, or at any date in future, the recognition of anything resembling a trade union.
I respectfully suggest that an attitude of that kind is entirely out of date. We have the recognition of powerful bodies of professional workers, highly trained, highly skilled, of all kinds. It has sometimes been said, with very considerable justice, that one of the most powerful trade unions in this country is the British Medical Association I know, from the experience of local authorities, that that association can practically dictate its terms, and not only can it settle its terms by the power which it, possesses, but it can practically prevent the 2172 application of any medical man for a post, unless a salary of a certain standard be offered by the local authority, or by any other party who may be involved. I do not complain. I am only saying at the moment that a body powerful like that, and skilled, has obtained recognition, very largely by public consent, and the very people who defend such recognition refuse a similar recognition to other classes of professional workers, who. perhaps, are just as highly skilled in their own callings or vocations. The Scottish banks fell back upon this expedient. They said, "We cannot recognise your trade union, but we will offer you, as a kind of alternative, an internal guild," and that internal guild became, not merely an alternative to the collective bargaining of a trade union or the representatives of such workers, hut it became an alternative to the application of Whitleyism—of which, in your presence. Sir, I speak with very great respect—in the banking profession.
There is, therefore, far more at stake in this controversy than mere recognition of an association of professional workers. We quite clearly recognise, of course, that we cannot seek to compel the Government to force recognition, nor do we believe for a moment that true recognition will come by what might be called compulsory means. I take the view that the hest course to recognition is a water-tight organisation, but, unfortunately, in these professional bodies, we are in many cases very far from having a water-tight organisation. By that I mean an organisation representative of 100 per cent. of the workers engaged. I entirely concede that if the workers will not themselves organise for the purpose of recognition, then a considerable measure of blame must rest upon their own shoulders, and until they so recognise their duty it will be difficult for those who are organized, and others, to speak on their behalf. Very large numbers of these people are now organised, and they have had experience in England and elsewhere of the working of the internal guild. If the internal guild is really in the nature of a works committee, or some kind of body within the bank or institution which can deal with internal conditions of employment and the rest of it, it probably is capable of doing quite useful work, but it is not a substitute for an effective trade 2173 union, and, of course, it is not a substitute at all for a Whitley Council. The internal guild in the Union Bank of Scotland, which I quoted by way of illustration, has been quite useless in any effort to prevent the withdrawal of the whole of the war bonus. Very much the same experience has been true of other concerns.
The time has come that in our view we must make a very earnest appeal on behalf of the professional workers. We do so for two reasons which I will, in conclusion, summarise as briefly as possible. The first reason is that undoubtedly in our war-time experience probably no class of the community, with the exception of the old age pensioners, suffered more. Their bargaining power was weak, and it was only comparatively late in the War that many of their organisations had any effect at all. The increases in salary granted followed the cost of living at a very respectful distance. There was a decline in the purchasing power of large numbers of people in the banks and kindred institutions. It is only by recognition at the present day that they are going to safeguard themselves in the very difficult economic times through which we are now passing. As a plain matter of duty I think that recognition should he freely accorded.
The second reason is this: that more and more as we study the industrial and general economic progress of this country, more and more do we realise how much depends upon the administrative, supervisory, technical and clerical staffs. Unless we have technical competence and skill, and unless we safeguard them by a reasonable measure of economic security, the many social and industrial changes which we introduce will very largely fail in their application. I suggest in the national interest that it is our duty to afford recognition to such bodies, and support every effort to that end. We have tried to argue in the interests of definite collective bargaining, of Whitleyism itself, and the other purposes of improving conditions and safeguarding that skill upon which the welfare of the community depends. We ask the House to-night to support this Resolution, believing that if there is on the records of this Chamber a message of this kind we have achieved something more than a mere moral victory: we will have laid 2174 down a principle which we trust at the earliest possible moment the banks, insurance companies, local authorities, shipping, and other undertakings will freely adopt.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SAMUEL SAMUEL
Hon. Members opposite, I think, rather under-estimate the action that the banks and large employers have taken. They ask for the recognition, as the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) said, of trade unionism. But hon. Members opposite do not entirely understand what it is that the union of clerks really requires. I do not want any misunderstanding as to the attitude of the banks in this country towards trade unions or collective bargaining. The banks have given every facility to their employés to put forward any grievances that they may have, and I consider, and I think every fair minded person will consider, that the banks, the large shipping companies, and the large commercial houses treat their employés with every consideration and do everything they possibly can to make their existence as happy and as comfortable as it is possible to make it.
The Proposer and Seconder of this Resolution do not understand the conditions or the ambitions of young men who enter these great institutions with a view to making a future for themselves. These large concerns take youths of the age of 19 and 19 and teach them their business, and these know that if they are good pupils, if they are assiduous in their work, they have positions before them. They go into the accountancy department, or the securities department, and they can work up to be sub-managers and managers of the different branches. It would be intolerable if the banks or any other large employér of labour, who has to create a vast organisation with raw material in the youths that come to him, should be dictated to by people outside who have no possible knowledge of the business, and who, I might say without fear of contradiction, in the majority of cases are unwelcome to the employés themselves. In the large banks we have established a guild that was referred to by the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh. This has the power to go before the managers and the directors and to place before them the grievances of the employés, and any statements or representations made are 2175 always considered, and considered sympathetically.
It would be quite impossible for any largo establishment to lay down a scale of wages applicable to every individual in the bank or in any large shipping firm or in any large mercantile firm. What the banks and all large firms must necessarily insist upon is that they must be the masters in their own house. They must absolutely be able to select the fittest men for any particular job, and they must be in a position when unfortunate incidents do occur, where a young man shows no ability or shirks work, or refuses to do work that is necessary to be done instantly, and he puts it off to another day, the promotion of those men must entirely rest with those who are responsible to the public and to the shareholders of the institution for the conduct of the business of that institution. I do not think that the House of Commons will for one moment try to force that system upon the commercial community. The object of this Resolution goes far beyond banks or insurance companies or shipping companies, for it goes to the very bottom of the commercial system of this country. The guild of which I have spoken is, so far as the employers are concerned, voluntarily elected by the majority of the employés of these institutions. I submit that it is not the same as a trade union, because it is entirely a voluntary institution elected by the employés themselves and it is only concerned with the conditions under which they worked. It is entirely in the interests of the employés themselves, and it is not dominated or controlled by political politicians outside the institutions concerned in this guild. I do not think the House of Commons will take the responsibility of insisting upon the recognition of an outside body to enable or empower them in any way to interfere with the activities of the employés in any of these institutions. I do not think the House of Commons would in any way authorise outside interference with people who do not want it.
So far as salaries are concerned the two hon. Members who have spoken have referred to salaries north of the Tweed I am not very well acquainted with salaries north of the Tweed, but I know that we have a great many young men who come south of the Tweed, because 2176 they cannot manage to get along under the conditions prevailing on the other side of the border. They quote these salaries, but they do not say what future provision is made for the people unemployed in these various banks. In an institution of which I happen to be a director we have a pension fund and a provident fund, and we have every kind of pension for the different classes of employés, and all these things have to be taken into consideration as well as the actual salary earned. Under these conditions the mere quoting of a figure for the salary of various types of employés cannot be considered as the maximum rate paid to those employés.
Another reason why it would be impossible for the management of any large commercial institution to recognise an outside authority is that we are constantly in the industries of this country a curtailment of the hours of work, and you have had any amount of agitation to do away with overtime. A commercial undertaking, unlike an industrial undertaking, cannot be bound in that way. You have mail days where you have correspondence from all parts of the world. You have in a shipping office at certain times a steamer arriving or sailing, and it is necessary for the people in that department to work an hour or two hours overtime on that night. Another day they have not much to do, and they can go to their employers and get a day or two days off if they like.
The prosperity of the individual has never been achieved by shirking work when there is work to be done. Those men who are prepared to put in a little extra time are the men who get promotion, and who are selected and gain the confidence of their employers and, as a rule, in a commercial house they do not get any payment for overtime where a man happens, through necessity, to have to stick to his work for an hour or two extra on one particular day, because he knows it is made up to him on another occasion when he can get off. Those men who are not prepared to do a proper day's work or to do a little extra for somebody else are certainly the men who are not selected for promotion in a bank, a shipping firm or any commercial house. You cannot compare the conditions in an office with the conditions obtaining in a large factory. The man who wants to succeed 2177 in an office is the man "ho is prepared, even at some inconvenience to himself, to do everything he can to further the interests of the business in which he is occupied, no matter what the connection may be. Under these circumstances, I feel confident that the House of Commons will not pass a Resolution of this kind, which would mean the introduction into commerce of conditions which would be intolerable, and which would be exceedingly difficult to carry out. Therefore I hope that the House will reject this Resolution.
§ Mr. CLYNES
My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. S. Samuel) has, with great force and candour, stated what might be termed the employers' point of view on this question, and I am certain that he will not object to one of his constituents offering some reply to him in an endeavour further to reinforce what has been said from this side of the House. I think that this is the first occasion for a very long time on which Members of the Labour party have called upon anyone, either in this House or out of it, to follow the example of the Government, for so our Motion is worded; but, of course, it is not particularly this Government, for the example of which the Motion speaks is one which was set very many years ago, and to which every succeeding Government has adhered. It is the example of requiring two organised bodies, the employers and the employés, to enter into businesslike relations with each other, and stand upon the same footing of right for purposes of negotiation and discussion, instead of either claiming the right to deny to the other freedom of action in respect of the choice of an organisation or the election of representatives I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Putney that the men who are covered by this Motion have been very eager for some such discussion as this in the House, and are anxious that Parliament should express an opinion, in order that that opinion should influence the bodies of employers and other institutions mentioned in the Motion.
By that I mean that there is a real necessity for the steps we are asking the House to take. These men have not been organised for long. Their organisation may be imperfect. They have had unusual difficulties to face and overcome. Great influences have been at work to prevent their full entry into the enjoy- 2178 ment of the rights of organisation in a way chosen by themselves. They, to a great extent, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend opposite, are not unemployed in large masses in great factories or workshops; they are engaged, in large part, in small groups, in some instances in only twos, threes, dozens, or twenties. They, therefore, lack that encouragement which frequently comes from the fact that men are massed together in very large numbers. Their difficulties have, therefore, been great, hut their grievances have been real. They did not, indeed, move at all very much in the direction of organised effort until the pressure of high prices made their position intolerable. Like every other class, when the cost of living was ascending they felt the burden of that change, and being, as they were, the last class to secure any advance in wages or any War bonus, they suffered for a considerable time without their employers generally voluntarily coming. forward and giving them relief in any nay similar to the relief secured in the higher wages obtained by the manual population. They did not seek organisation until necessity forced it upon them, and it may be that, if employers employing all these varied groups and classes of clerical and professional workers had voluntarily given to them means for meeting the increased cost of living —
§ Mr. S. SAMUEL
I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. The banks more than doubled their clerks' wages during the War.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I am well aware that there were outstanding instances of the more just and generous and enlightened employers setting an example and doing what was reasonable fairly early, but I know I am correct in stating that, generally, bonuses or advances were not given to these men until after they had organised and put themselves in the position of being able to formulate their demands and to press them. I can assert, in relation to these men, that this class of employé has been placed under the necessity of using the same arts of organisation, of representation and associated effort that almost every other section in the community has enjoyed for a long time, and I think my hon. Friend opposite will see that there is reason in my argument when I say that the right of associated effort, exercised and enjoyed fully 2179 by, say, a combination of banks, is a right which that combination of banks cannot fairly or reasonably deny to the men who may be unemployed within it. These are not rights to be conceded or withheld by any one of us to another according to what we might think is good for them.
Right from the beginning of any discussion on the question of organisation, our old friend the argument of a certain thing being impossible has ever been with us. There are those who feel that organisation will do for our neighbours but not for them; that it is quite suitable for someone else but not for them. We have really gone beyond that stage, and there is not now living I suppose, a class of professional workers, not to say manual workers, in which the persons unemployed have not for a long time recognised the necessity and general wisdom of organising themselves and acting through representatives. I gather, however, that my hon. Friend opposite regards those representatives as third parties. I think they are not. A trade union or a guild, or an association secretary or chairman acting for the men behind him, is no more a third party than is, say, the secretary or the chairman of a board of directors acting for shareholders behind him. The men in any occupation, and not least the men in the higher trades and professions, are required individually to exhibit, in the nature of their work, a high level of competence. They are known to be, and in the nature of things must be, men of exceptionally good character, of standards of honesty, conduct and behaviour of the very highest in comparison with their fellows; and the fact that they must possess unusually high attributes, as compared with their fellows, entitles them to handsome and voluntary recognition by those who might employ them, instead of their being regarded as interfering busybodies and third parties who can have no place in the board room of the employer I deny that it is right on the part of any employer to deny to men who are unemployed in any occupation freedom to associate together and act through properly established organisations.
Why do we ask that this House, in these circumstances, should express this opinion? It is that this activity of organisation should be used and enjoyed as a right, and not as a favour. Men must not come to regard it as a con- 2180 cession; as something which is kindly permitted, and which may, at any moment, be withheld or denied by the employer. I observe that my hon. Friend opposite spoke of what we know to be common in the case of very many employers. He spoke of the kindly treatment of employers, and of the very human and helpful action many employers do take, especially in particular or individual cases. That, again, is not the point. To treat men with consideration, as has been said, or in any charitable sense, or in the sense of any favour in order to help them, is to do something which, after all, is a long way from the concession of that right which trade unions were established to assert, many years ago. I doubt whether, if there were absolute recognition of all these different bodies, covering clerical and professional workers, that that recognition would ever, in any instance, be the cause of straining relationships between employers and unemployed. On the contrary, I think it would tend to increase the standard of friendly feeling between employers and unemployed in these instances.
Clearly, there must now be a number of cases where either public bodies, shipping companies, or insurance bodies, and so on—indeed, it is known that insurance bodies have frequently been offenders in this matter, and that there have been strikes and stoppages of great groups of men merely on that question of their right to be recognised and to have their properly-accredited delegates, chosen for them, acting for them, on wages and conditions. I was in a Scottish town, only a day or two ago, where it was reported to me, as a matter of fact—and I have very good reason to believe it—that a considerable employer there requires his employés to sign a document to the effect that they will not join a trade union, and that they are not members of a trade union. That is a condition of servitude which this House should in no way sanction. On the contrary, this House, being the repository of national freedom, it is the place to which, rightly, we can come to ask that a Motion such as this should be passed in order that the moral weight of this nation should exert an influence for good on the various employers who may be affected.
§ Mr. FAIRBAIRN
I have risen to offer a, few observations on this Motion, 2181 because it would be a great pity if the House were to regard it as of purely a Labour or trade union character. This is a Motion which is so reasonable, and which has been supported so reasonably by all the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken on this side, that I anticipate support from hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. Member for Putney (Mr. S. Samuel) seemed to point out the beneficial conditions prevailing in the banking world, of which I have no knowledge. He may be right, but I regard it as singular that over 30,000 bank officials should think it desirable to join a guild in order to act together in matters affecting their work and conditions. That goes to show that there is some need for this combination, My experience, through a great many years, as an employer of labour and a member of public bodies, has taught me that the employer and the public body never suffer when they communicate and negotiate with representatives of their employés rather than communicate with or talk separately to those employés. That is a matter of fact and experience. It is, I am sure, the Experience of all hon. Members who have knowledge of these matters.
I feel that when bodies like the Bank Officers' Guild, the Guild of Insurance Officials, and that very important body, the National Association of Local Government Officers, appeal to the House to vote for a Motion of this character, it is only right and proper that we, as representatives of the nation, should express the opinion that employers outside should follow the example of the Government in recognising organisations such as these. I know many of their members, and I had a letter from one of my constituents who is an official of one of those guilds. I am quite sure he is not a supporter of the Labour party; I am quite sure he is not an agitator. In fact, I believe be is, or probably was, a supporter of the Noble Lord who used to represent the constituency for which I now sit. I say that because I do not think the claims of these associations should be regarded as purely trade union claims, although that may be suggested. It would be to the advantage of those with whom these officers have to deal that they should be granted this privilege. Of course, we are not granting 2182 a privilege; we are merely expressing the opinion of the assembled representatives of the nation that this is desirable, having regard to our experience, if only in the recent discussions with regard to civil servants.
Everyone will agree with me that the unfortunate defeat of the Government recently, was entirely due to hon. Members assembling in a room upstairs, and hearing the facts, with regard to the position of civil servants, from the mouths of their duly accredited representatives. I am certain I should not have voted in the Division against the Government as I did if I had not gone to that meeting and heard those views so capably, and apparently so truthfully expressed. As public men, it is our duty to support a moderate Motion of this kind, even if it does emanate from the Labour party. If we wish to take away from the Labour party any political or party credit, the best thing we can do, in all parts of the House, is to vote for the Motion, so that They will not be able to claim for themselves any particular credit.
§ Sir PERCY NEWSON
As one who has been a director of banks and insurance companies, both here and abroad, for many years past, I desire to associate myself entirely with the remarks of the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. S. Samuel). T shall oppose this Motion, and for this reason, that I am quite satisfied, from my own experience, that the position is not such as it is represented to be. For many years I was on the board of a bank in India, where we recruited our European assistants from this country. I have no hesitation in saying that the conditions under which those men worked were vastly superior to those in any other branch of life. Those men were brought out to India on very high rates of pay. They were provided with very liberal leave—sick leave and furlough. They had a pension fund and provident fund, to which the banks contributed very materially. The result was that after a man had put in about 20 years' work he was enabled to go home and retire on quite a good competence.
So much as regards the banks. Since I have come home, I have been put on the board of a bank here, and also on the board of a very large insurance company. It was only the other day that the boards of both concerns were engaged in going 2183 through their pay lists. The conclusion to which I came was that the men were treated as handsomely as possible, and I am quite sure that in no other sphere of life were they treated with greater consideration. I believe that is the case in most of the insurance companies of this country. There are provident and pension funds; there are openings in these banks and insurance companies which give men plenty of hope and promise, provided they are men of the right kind. I think the hon. Member for Putney put the matter very concisely from our point of view—the point of view of the employers of these men. We cannot recognise any of these outside unions.
§ Sir P. NEWSON
We cannot do it through the circumstances of business. We have heard the arguments on one side, from the point of view of the employé. We do not hear them stated so freely from the point of view of the employer. What is going to be the position if you have a strike? Is the whole business of the country to be upset? The position is going to be altogether different from the position of a man who runs a factory or a mill. I have been not only a banker and insurance man, but a business man in a fairly large way for many years past, and I have had to do with strikes at mills employing 20,000 men. That is a different matter altogether. If you are going to have a strike or anything of that sort in a bank or in a series of banks in any one place it is a different proposition altogether. I hope this Motion will be carried to a Division. I shall certainly vote against it, and I hope the rest of the Members on this side will follow me in the Lobby.
§ Mr. JOHN MURRAY
I rather regret that the hon. Member who has just sat down has contrived to give to the controversy, which was going on so amicably and so promisingly, a rather sharper turn than was given to it by the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. S. Samuel). Perhaps the hon. Member, when he forgets India more and becomes more used to the conditions in this country, will realise that the system to which you, Sir, have given your name, during his long absence in India has made more progress, not only with manual workers, but with every 2184 manner of worker, than is perhaps known in India. I think the time has gone by when any body of employers can refuse to accord the benefits of Whitleyism to those with whom they work. I should like to take the opposite line to that of the hon. Member who has just sat down, not to emphasise or to sharpen the difference between parties, but rather to suggest that the Debate has already shown how very narrow the issue before the House, the issue between bankers and their employés, really is. It is really a question of one phase of Whitleyism against another, between what I may call the internal phase and the external phase, and by internal I mean that body of arrangements and practices, that constitution in a business establishment, whereby, inside the limits of that establishment, the employer or employers and the workpeople are brought closely together in spirit and in working and are enabled to pursue their common aims better, more efficiently and more prosperously. By the external phase I mean the recognition of organisations which contain more employers and workmen than exist in any one undertaking. The second phase is more widespread and the first is more intimate. Both are equally phases of co-operation, both equally need the support of some constitution building, both are necessary to the prosperity and the advance of industry, both are as necessary to the masters as to the men, and neither is sufficient by itself. There are industries in which the external phase is more important, and will remain more important, and there are industries and callings in which the internal phase is and will remain more important, and in my opinion the development of the internal phase so as to insure within each individual undertaking good feeling and good understanding between the employers and their men is a most vital phase. But when I say that I say to those who applaud me that an equally necessary phase is the external phase, whereby bodies of employers recognise, for purpose of diplomacy, bodies of working men, and no employer can get off with it if he says, "I have supplied the internal phase. I have given you pensions and all kinds of pecuniary benefits and I am not going to give you the external phase." Both have got to come.
2185 This Motion, which I welcome and which I shall support if it is pushed to a Division, seems to me to be a most remarkable sign of the times. I ask the House to think back a few years to the movement which we know as Whitleyism. That movement is based on the recognition that the modern system of organised working of industry is really a co-operative system. It is based on the recognition that the capitalist system is a co-operative system. Whitleyism is an attempt to cure the faults of our system by getting back to the foundation view of co-operation. Voluntary Whitleyism has made great progress. It has done a great deal of work in many departments of British industry. It has done, I believe, almost as much as can be effected on a voluntary basin by the free action of the individuals who are concerned with it. I should not like to say there is a reaction against Whitleyism of a deadly or serious kind, but I say there is a real reaction against Whitleyism, both among the employers and the workpeople. The one are alienated and the others are disillusioned or disappointed. It is possible that the first free momentum of that great movement, which has brought blessings with it to this country and to other countries, is spent. It has done a great work. It has brought clearly before the mind of the country certain industrial relationships conceived in a co-operative and friendly spirit, along with a number of rights and duties which are derived therefrom for all the parties in industry. It has held up before the mind of the nation that great lesson, and not in an incomplete, form either. The Whitley rights, relationships, duties, burdens and privileges have taken on a stabilised and normalised aspect, so that we now know what we mean by recognition of trade unions, by works councils, by all those methods of negotiation and diplomacy and courtesy which have come to bulk so largely in the industrial life of the country. Those things are familiar. They are almost general. They are admirable. They are productive. They conduce to all the aims of industry and to the comforts and wellbeing of all the persons therein concerned. The thing has taken shape. It has become a picture in the minds of the nation. I ask myself often, and I wish to ask this House, whether the time may not be approaching 2186 when those relationships, those rights and duties, those burdens and privileges that Whitleyism imposes upon both sides ought to be given the force of law. In that sense I welcome this Motion, which is an application to this House to take a hand in this matter, to say that Whitleyism is really good and really necessary and that its benefits ought to be extended to fields of industry where they have not yet been extended, and I regard that as the first step perhaps in the campaign for the legal sanction and recognition of the rights and duties and relationships which make up Whitleyism.
There is a third point that I wish to address to hon. Members alcove the Gangway. I do not know whether to call them the Socialist party or the Labour party. I think I shall call them the Socialist party. The capitalist system which has brought us all here is at the bottom a co-operative system, and its many faults and failings consist in offending against the co-operative principle which is at the bottom of it. I am not here to minimise the faults of that system, or to pretend that there is goodness in the faults. Whitleyism seeks in various phases and on various planes in industry to realise more fully with any amount of elaboration and detail the co-operative principle. There is nothing so contrary to Socialism as Whitleyism. There is nothing so calculated to build up and regenerate the industry of this country in its moral foundations as Whitleyism, and I am delighted to-night to see from the Socialist and Labour Benches this Motion being brought forward. It is a capitalist Motion founded on the co-operative principle that is at the basis of capitalism, and says to this House, to this nation, and to all who are engaged in its industry, "Get busy, in order to cure the faults, by bringing that co-operative principle more and more into the forefront."
Major Sir GEORGE HAMILTON
I do not at all agree with the two speeches made from this side of the House. I am, comparatively speaking, a small employer of labour, but a man who has tried to study this question as far as in me lies; and I am in favour of the Motion. I would point out to the hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. J. Murray) that he is really living in the clouds. He dreams 2187 about what he calls Whitleyism as if it were one of those wonderful ideals we have all to fight for, and which is much more important than the successful conduct of business. All of us, whether we are employers or what are called in this Motion, the professional workers, or working men, we have all to work together for the success of business. Supposing there are six different firms in the same line of business, all competing with one another, and the whole of the staff are in one organisation, in what I hardly like to call a trade union—
Sir G. HAMILTON
My right hon. Friend asks me to call it a trade union, and I will do so out of my respect for him, although a trade union is not a suitable name. I would rather call it a combination of professional workers. These clerks, cashiers, draughtsmen, confidential advisers who help the employer to deal with all the confidential details of his business, are combined in one large trade union, and then there happens to he a dispute between say, my right hon. Friend and his employés. I have no dispute with my employés, but my right hon Friend's employés and my employés are combined in the same union. In any business, in any "competitive" business, for competition is the life of business, it is very difficult for the employer to carry on successfully if he has any feeling that his confidential clerks are meeting other confidential clerks unemployed in other businesses and they are all combining against their employers, against those who are finding the capital and most of the brains to run the business.
The hon. Member for West Leeds talked about the Internal phase." That is one of those idealistic expressions which has never descended so low as my humble self in business; but "internal phase" is a very good expression. Is it not the internal phase of business which not only makes the business a success, but which also makes for happiness and complete co-operation between all classes in that business? I have always looked upon my engineers, managers, secretary, cashiers, chief clerks and draughtsmen as more or less part of myself in running the business. I 2188 always have thought it would be useless for me to endeavour to carry on the business unless I had the full confidence, the full trust and the whole-hearted cooperation of every man in my office, and in my works. Occasionally, men in the works quarrel with their employer, not because they want to, but because they belong to a trade union which has a dispute somewhere else, and they are dragged out. They come to me and they say: "We do not want to go on strike, sir. We are perfectly happy. We are perfectly satisfied, and we are entirely with you in trying to promote and extend this business. We hate the idea of leaving your employment, and we hope that when this trouble is over there will be no ill-feeling, and that you will take us back." That is what good trade unionists say to me, and that is what they say to all good employers.
I believe in this Resolution because there are bad employers as well as good employers. Where there are bad employers who sweat their clerical labour, in whatever professional capacity that should be prevented. I was under the impression that the term "professional man" meant a solicitor, barrister, clergyman or a school teacher. I suppose the term "professional worker" includes clerks, cashiers, draughtsmen and everybody who does a hard day's work with pen or pencil, or as a manager, and so on, so long as he is not working with his hands. I have always believed in liberty, and if this Resolution means that you are going to combine the so-called professional workers so that you will have them in one big trade union and if there is a strike or dispute you are going to stop them from earning their salary whether they want to work, or not, I am against it. Otherwise, I am in favour of the Resolution. First, and always, there must be liberty. There is but little liberty allowed by trade unions to-day. I am against the trade unions saying to a man, "You shall not work." That is all wrong; it may be good organisation, but it is doing away with the liberty of the subject in this country, and this House has always stood for liberty. All employers should recognise combinations in employment, and speaking for the employers I say that we are willing to recognise and we are anxious to have what my hon. Friend opposite calls Whitleyism, 2189 but. we are much more anxious to have real true co-operation so that from employer down to office boy we may all feel that we are working together for our joint good, for our combined good, for the good of our trade, and in doing so we are working for the good of our country.
§ Mr. McENTEE
I do not want to be taken away from the Resolution by the speech of the hon. Member who has just spoken, except to say that I am exceedingly pleased to know that he is going to vote for the Resolution. I do not stop to inquire why he is going to support the Resolution, nor am I prepared to enter into discussion with the hon. Member for Went Leeds in regard to the principle of Whitleyism. His speech ought to have been set to music, because of the very fine language in which it was framed. I ask the House to consider the arguments that were used by the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. S. Samuel) and the hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir P. Newson), who spoke of the experience he had in India. The hon. Member for Putney and the hon. Member below the Gangway said, "Suppose you have a strike." I put, it to the House. Suppose you have a strike in a bank, or one of the insurance companies, or any of the big business organisations of the country—it would be a very bad thing for that business, particularly if it happened to be a banking concern. But these men and women, who are described as professional workers, are already organised. We heard to-night that there are 400,000 already organised. They undoubtedly desire to organise, and believe that they have grievances.
The question has been raised in some quarters as to whether these grievances are legitimate or not, but at any rate these people believe they have grievances Is the terrible position that has been put as to a possible strike more likely to occur if you do not grant this freedom of organisation, or if you say to them. "It does not matter what grievances you may think you have, or what the power or number of your organisation is, we, a few employers, engaged in banking, insurance and other industries are the people who are going to determine your life for you, and are going to say to you that you shall not have this organisation because we prohibit you from having it "? All the history of organisation in this country 2190 proves that if you are prepared to take up an attitude like that you are just doing the thing that is liable to lead to a strike more than anything else which you can do. There is no business in this country to-day of any importance in which there is not an organisation of employers. You claim for yourselves the right to organise. You would think it impertinent if a body of workers were to say, "You have no right to organise," and if they had the power to prevent you organising, you would consider it wrong if they used that power for that purpose.
After all, who are you gentlemen that you set yourselves on a pedestal, and say to a larger body of men than yourselves, who must be considered to be at least equally intelligent as some of you, men whose experience probably is as good as yours, who have the same capacity for consuming the necessities of life, and the same desires probably to enjoy some of those things that are considered to be good in life, "You shall not do these things and you shall not form an organisation to protect your own interests "? You have no moral right to say such a thing to those people. I suggest that you might read the very excellent book written by my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb), "The History of Trade Unionism." You will find that exactly the same arguments, which have been used, particularly by the hon. Member for Putney, were used in the past in regard to any body of workers, which from time to time tried to build up an organisation to protect its own interests. I can remember myself in my own time in the trade union movement being told by bodies of employers that it was impossible to allow us to organise and dictate to them how to carry on their business, and we told them then, as one of the speakers told you to-night, that we had never any desire to tell them how to carry on their business, but that we had a desire, as these professional workers have the desire now, to carry on our own business in our own interests and as we think best.
The whole history of organisation in this country proves one or two things. It proves that friendly negotiations between employers and unemployed, whether they be professional or otherwise, between accredited representatives of employers and of bodies of workmen, is always the 2191 system that will lead to the peaceful and best results, assuming that we remain under the capitalist system. Frankly, I am out for the abolition of this system, because I see the failure of it, and its ill results towards the great body of people. But I am not going to say that, because I believe in the abolition of that system, therefore I am going to do nothing within that system which will distribute the amenities of life better than they are distributed to-day. Everybody who has any broad sympathy or knowledge of bodies of workers and employers will agree that both will do very much better for themselves if they appoint their own accredited representatives.
I was rather sorry to hear the hon. Member for Putney speak of the accredited representatives of organisations as outside agitators who come in and make strikes. I have had 30 years' experience in the trade union movement, and with all that experience I have never seen an instance in which a trade union has appointed some agitator simply to make trouble, and I cannot conceive of any intelligent body of men doing such a thing or permitting such a thing to be done. These professional workers are scattered all over the country. They include all kinds of workers, technical and clerical and managers of all kinds, and nobody questions that they have a desire to organise. It would be going very far back indeed if at this time, when we hear so much talk about freedom and when we talk about the lack of freedom in other countries, this House were to determine to-night that these bodies of intelligent, organised, educated people should not be permitted openly to organise.
They are going to organise, and I would suggest to hon. Members that they might consider the history of organisation in the trade union movement. When the manual workers were refused this right of organisation that the professional workers are now asking it did not break up organisation, it did not prevent organisation, but it compelled them to organise in a secret fashion. It left in their minds a sense of injustice which reflected itself in their work and affected their associations with their employers. The employers saw that this secret organisation was injuring their business and introduced a Measure in thi[...] [...]ouse giving industrial 2192 workers the right to organise. I suggest it would be exceedingly bad if when the professional workers have reached the stage they have to-day when they desired to organise if we were to have history repeating itself and have them driven to organising secretly. It is because some of us take this broadminded view and because we believe in the right of every man and woman to liberty, because we pride ourselves in the liberty given to all our citizens, that. I say I believe this Measure will result in harmony and not in discord. We are not compelling anybody to do anything, and I think it would be a bad thing if it went outside that the majority of this House could be induced to vote against this proposal and show the people outside that instead of desiring to preserve the liberty of the subject this House is encouraging a small section of the community to prevent good citizens from exercising their liberty.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. Betterton)
The course which this Debate has taken this evening makes it unnecessary for me to intervene. I rise merely for the purpose of saying that if there is a division it will be left to the free vote of the House.
§ Mr. REMER
I did not intend to intervene in this Debate and I would not have done so except for the speeches which have come from the Labour Benches. Hon. Members on the Labour benches pointed to Members on these benches and said, "You are doing this and not doing that, you are responsible for this and you are preventing that." The hon. Member who has just spoken seems to take the view that the Members on this side of the House are representative of those bad employers who are trying to grind down their workers. I resent his attitude in addressing those remarks to this side of the House, as if we were responsible for those conditions, which we regret as much as he does. I would ask him and others whether he has considered the position so far as the banks are concerned. I understand no bank has declined to receive properly organised bodies of its workers. I understand the workers have organised themselves into guilds and that their properly accredited representatives are being received by managers and directors of the banks and 2193 their cases fully considered, but what the banks are resenting and where they are taking up opposition is where outside organisations try to come in and over-ride the efforts which are made by these properly-accredited organisations. Then the managers and directors refuse to meet them. Having said that, I want to say quite frankly that, so far as I am concerned, I find myself in complete agreement with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir G. Hamilton) and to say quite frankly it is my intention to vote for this Resolution. But having said that, I am at a complete loss to understand what was the necessity for this Resolution being placed on the Order Paper. The trade unions did not get their right of recognition in the industrial world by putting Resolutions on the Order Paper of the House of Commons. If it is a question merely of recognition, I take it everyone in this House is in favour of it in principle. The Government, even if this Resolution is passed, cannot compel these great organisations to carry out this Resolution any more than the House itself can carry out the Resolution if it is passed this evening. It is merely a pious Resolution of the most peurile nature which means absolutely nothing. It is a puerile attempt on the part of the Socialist party to try to get a little electoral credit on their part and to secure some black-coated votes. This Resolution is of a type which I think the Rules of the House ought to prevent being put on the Order Paper as being of no assistance whatever to the Government of this country but which does considerable injury to the prestige of this House.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
The hon. Member who has just addressed the House says that the Labour party is trying to get some electoral credit by bringing this Motion forward. That implies that there is a large electorate who are anxious for it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not a bit! "] If that is not so then where does the electoral credit come in? The hon. and gallant Member for Altrincham (Sir G. Hamilton), who is always in favour of liberty, said in his dramatic and eloquent way that he is in favour of liberty always, and I assume he is in favour of liberty to those professional workers to combine. That is a direct expression of liberty to 2194 those people who wish to combine, for what purpose? The hon. Member says, "To combine against the employers." Nothing of the kind. These men wish to combine in their own defence. Their object is to discuss the conditions of their labour. What is wrong about that? To discuss their terms of employment. What is wrong about that? There is surely nothing to object to in a body of employés meeting in an organisation to compare notes, to compare conditions, to compare their wages and see how far they are receiving justice at the hands of those who employ them. It is not only necessary that the parties should have intercommunication and discuss terms and conditions of labour, but it is also necessary for them to have an equivalent power in negotiation with employers. Employers in the past have always had the advantage, and their abuse of their position has driven men to combine. We never would have had trade unionism at all if it had not been that employés were always at a disadvantage. Working individually and negotiating with employers as individual units they could always be suppressed and always were. It was not until the refusal of the employing classes to grant the very liberty which the hon. and gallant Member for Altrincham so strongly upholds, that we had combination for self-defence.
The corollary of combination is negotiation. It is the easiest way for employers to negotiate with one or two representatives of all their employés, and wherever you get combination negotiation naturally follows. The sequel of that is arbitration; I am in favour of arbitration in all industrial disputes, and I am in favour of the retention of the weapon of the strike in the hands of all industrial combinations. Someone has said that no strike has ever been successful, that the strike has always reacted upon the strikers, who have invariably suffered. I do not believe that statement. It is not so much what the strike accomplishes as what the fear of a strike accomplishes. Whenever employés are combined, and as a result have in their hands a weapon which can compel consideration of their conditions by the employers, the threat very often is sufficient to avert a strike and to secure the improved conditions desired. There are the Councils honourably associated with the name of Mr. Speaker. They have not made the head- 2195 way which they deserve, and I am afraid that the Government, especially the late Government, has not always been in sympathy with the Whitley Councils. The time has arrived when the Government should advise all local authorities to set up Whitley Councils and to use them, with the necessary result of negotiation and arbitration.
§ Captain FOXCROFT
As a Conservative who intends to vote for this Motion I would say two things. Those representatives of the bank clerks whom I have interviewed are most reasonable in their claims, and I am certain that they will be most reasonable in their policy. I feel sure, therefore, that a large number of Conservative Members will support the Motion. None the less, I think that more Conservatives would vote for the Motion had the great trade unions during the past four years used their enormous power with more moderation. In spite of that fact, and because the bank clerks' case is a just case, I shall vote for the Motion.
§ Mr. HARDIE
While very many kind things have been said to-night, I was struck most by the remark of an hon. Member who said that he had been in India. He reminded me of the play- in which the Rajah of Bong comes into a scene. It is all very well to talk about what may be given by good employers. There is one thing that is always forgotten, and that is the right of the employés to have political opinions and to take part in political work. Let me give a case. We have an insurance company with its head office in Perth, and you had there an arrogant bully for manager with the name of Mr. Norrie Miller, and you had the right of these individuals absolutely denied. The employers said they wanted to he masters in their own house. We agree to that. Let the employers be masters in their own house, but they want to be the bosses of the employés' house as well. The employer is not going to leave to the employé any sense of freedom whatever. When the Guild of Insurance Officials tried by every means, on the occasion of the strike in Perth, to come to reasonable terms the manager refused even to discuss matters. He was going to be boss and he was going to say what the standard of life of the 2196 employés was to be, as if he represented some great organisation. Only because of the isolation of that class of professional workers was he able to do it. I come to the draughtsmen and technical chemists unemployed in public works. They are also professional workers, but because they are isolated and not gathered together in large numbers they work at a disadvantage. Take also the case of the shipping clerks during the dock strike in Glasgow. Why do not the employers freely admit that there are employers who make use of the sense of fear? During that dock strike the sense of fear compelled poor, miserable clerks to go on to the docks and to try to dump big bales and boxes, getting into all kinds of trouble and causing themselves blistered hands and sore backs as a result. Why need they stoop to do these things if the employers have the sense of justice which they claim to have? Good employers ought to give whole-hearted support to organisations of professional workers so as to bring the bad employers into line, and I hope that the House will accept this Resolution as one step in that direction.
§ Mr. C. W. CROOK
As the voice of the employers and the voice of the unemployed have been heard, perhaps one who is himself a professional worker may have a word on this matter. I did belong to the union which is not a trade union, but which in fact carries on its business almost in the way of a trade union. We were forced to that position by the very fact that all employers are not good. As a matter of fact, the whole system of trade unionism has been forced into existence and built up by the fact that there are many bad employers who treat their servants so wrongly that combination for defence is absolutely necessary. Bad employers make strong unions. I have fortunately had some acquaintance with the particular question which we are discussing. I was asked some three or four years ago, when the employés of the insurance companies were first beginning to talk about combination, to address them on the methods which we had adopted for combination. I found that had it not been for one or two very bad insurance companies there would be no talk of a combination of insurance workers to protect themselves. The whole of this discussion seems to have turned upon 2197 banks. The banks represent a very small part of this question. Employés in banks are not one-tenth of the professional workers, and I am sure the best employers must agree, even with their knowledge of their own banks, that the combined knowledge of all other banks, both of directors and of employés, is better than the inside knowledge which they possess only of their own banks. The system in banks seems to be that they will kill any combination of bank employés by separating them. They are really following the old Cæsarian motto of dividing and conquering. Even the hest banker does not always treat his employés in the best way. The directors may be perfect in their ideals, and no doubt they are. We have heard two perfect bank directors on this side to-night, but even with perfect bank directors the organisation of the bank has to filter down from those perfect bank directors, through sometimes imperfect managers, down to the clerks, and there is no banker, however perfect., who has a right to say that his employés have no grievances. Therefore, I am supporting this Resolution, because I am a professional worker, and because I think it is time that, while the employés in the trade unions have the protection of combination, while the higher professional classes, like the doctors, the clergy, and the lawyers, have a more perfect protection still, those who are between the upper and nether millstones of these trade unions had protection for themselves.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Hon. Members opposite have opposed this Resolution, not for lack of sympathy with trade union organisation, but because they desire to dictate the form of organisation, for professional workers, that is, to restrain, by bonds which one day or other will be broken asunder, the activities of professional and other employés. I concur in this Resolution as one which will confer a distinct advantage, not merely on professional workers, but on the industrial life of the nation, for hon. Members must be familiar with the long drawn out and protracted struggles in the industries of this nation during the past 50 or 60 years arising from the refusal of the employers to grant recognition to trade union organisations, and if there be a desire for industrial peace and harmony on the part 2198 of hon. Members opposite and on the part of the nation itself, surely the most expeditious means of arriving at such harmony is to grant to professional workers that recognition which to some extent will avoid industrial discord.
The whole of this Debate has proceeded on the assumption that trade union organizations exist merely for protective purposes, that is to say, in order to extract from the employing classes more wages, shorter hours, better working conditions, and so on, but I want to introduce a wider aspect of this very important question, because I do not regard the function of a trade union organisation, whether it be one associated with manual workers or professional workers, as being merely that of protecting the interests of the workers. There is a justifiable demand, and an ever-growing demand and tendency to-day among the workers for more active participation in industrial administration. That is not intended merely in the interests of the employés, but in the interests of the nation itself, and when hon. Members opposite seek to deprecate the activities of trade union organisations they ought to consider the tendencies to which I have referred as important tendencies, which some day or other will have a remarkable effect on the industrial affairs of the nation itself. Unless these tendencies be permitted, if they have not free expression, they are bound to give rise to considerable industrial disturbance, and I would warn hon. Members opposite not to disregard these things, but to take the employés, no matter whether they he manual or professional, technical or administrative, into their full and complete confidence, not only with regard to mere working conditions, but with regard to all aspects of industrial undertakings and their ramifications.
Hon. Members opposite speak of trade union interference with the liberty of the subject. That comes very strangely from certain Members opposite who, not merely in theory, but in practice, have insisted on certain employés in their own industries abstaining from membership of a particular trade union organisation, while there are others, far example, the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. S. Samuel), who is associated with the National Maritime Board, I believe, which stipulates that seamen must belong to one particular 2199 organisation, and one alone. Why do they adopt such a policy? My submission is that, whenever a trade union organisation is prepared to accept the declared and expressed policy of the employers, then the organisation is recognised, but when it is recalcitrant, when it refuses to accept that policy, at all events, in some degree, then the employers are not at all prepared to grant it recognition. I do submit, that whether the tendency in the future be in the direction of Whitleyism, or an improved form of Whitleyism—for I would say to the House that the Whitley Councils, as we know them to-day, do riot give complete satisfaction to the workers of this country, or, for that matter, to the employing class—whether the tendency be in the direction of an improved form of Whitleyism, or perhaps an industrial parliament, or workers' council, or national or local guilds, or some similar form of organisation, there must be closer cooperation between the capitalist undertakings in the country and the large trade union organisations. They must come together, not merely to thresh out working conditions, wages, and so on, but to consider all aspects of industrial affairs, and until the employers of this country and the State itself recognise that the workers must be taken into complete confidence, there are bound to be industrial disturbances.
§ Sir CLEMENT KINLOCH-COOKE
This Debate somewhat interests me, as I happen to be a director of an insurance company, and, therefore, I do know something about this particular question. It is quite true there is a difference of opinion among insurance companies and among bankers as to whether these organisations should go on, or whether they should not. I have looked into the matter very carefully, and I have come to the conclusion that they should go on. I am in favour of them, and I think I am not the only one who is in favour of them. I hope that in course of time the other directors of insurance companies and bankers will come to the same opinion that I do, and give the same opportunity as is given to the ordinary manual worker. I do not see why one class of men should be placed in a different position from another class of men. If one class have an opportunity of combining—and it is useful that they 2200 should combine, because, after all, combination has been going on for a long time, and I think I am right in saying that the power of combination was given by the party to which I belong—having given that power to the manual worker, I hope the party to which I belong will also give it to other workers, so that we shall all have the opportunity of combining collectively, if necessary, in order to make our own grievances or our own requirements known to those who are placed in a position above us. I only wanted to say that those are my views, and I shall certainly vote for the Motion.
That, in view of the worsening conditions of middle-class professional workers. and of the advantages resulting from the recognition of the organisations of manual workers and the practice of collective bargaining, this House is of opinion that local authorities banks, insurance and shipping companies, and other employers of professional and clerical workers should follow the example of the Government in recognising the organisations of these workers.