Cedar Rapids Gazette, June 18, 1974, Page 4

Cedar Rapids Gazette

June 18, 1974

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Issue date: Tuesday, June 18, 1974

Pages available: 48

Previous edition: Monday, June 17, 1974

Next edition: Wednesday, June 19, 1974

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Publication name: Cedar Rapids Gazette

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Cedar Rapids Gazette (Newspaper) - June 18, 1974, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 2 THp Odar Rapids Gazette: Tues.. June 18. 1574 (f'4k    kV-/    ■ ■films* Labor Law Spurred British Battle ' *    ,    *■    MT*    A    %    •* * tv By J. A. Livingston Economics Columnist “In Place of Strife" will go down in the annals of British politics as the prelude to the social contract. But it’s better known as “The Battle of Downing Street”, the title of Peter Jenkins’ book about it It is a white paper, which was prepared under the watchful and approving eye of Prime Minister Wilson and optimistically presented to parliament in January. 1969. by Mrs. Barbara Castle, then secretary of employment and productivity. Strike-Poisoned It was to be her master contribution to Britain’s economic rebirth It would reform the turbulent, strike-poisoned relationship between British management and British labor. It would make socialism — her brand of socialism — work But alas! Unlike most white papers, it never reached a vote in the house of commons. The British labor leaders made clear to Wilson that government was his business but running labor unions was theirs. That ripped the Labour party down the middle. A memorable exchange took place. Victor Feather, then general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, arranged a meeting at Chequers. Wilson’s country residence He hoped a quiet discussion would end in compromise and harmony. But no! Both Jack Jones, head of the Transport & General Workers Union, Britain’s largest, and Hugh Scanlon, head of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, the second largest, were adamant. They would not accept legislation with penal clauses. Wilson too was adamant. He’d not accept vague promises that labor would put its own house in order. At one point Scanlon said: “Prime Minister, we don’t want you to become another Ramsay MacDonald." A harsh dig MacDonald had been a coalition prime minister, who had to compromise with the Tories to stay in office. Was Wilson yielding to Tory taunts about the destructive strikes of unions? Na Du bee k Wilson retorted: “I have no intention of becoming another Ramsay MacDonald. Nor do I intend to be another Dubcek Get your tanks off my lawn, Hughie!” A counter dig! Scanlon had once been a member of the Communist party. And Dubcek. of course, was the Communist party leader whose “Czechoslovakian spring’’ prompted Brezhnev to send in troops to impose Soviet discipline. In the end. Scanlon won the figure-of-speech contest. Wilson was beaten by his own party. So he scrapped the legislation Some of the ideas in “In Place of Strife” were American imports from the Taft-Hartley Act It called for a cooling-off period before strikes and strike votes. But in totality, it was a pro-labor bill. Numerous benefits to unions were included, including access to information from employers. But the union leaders would have no government interference in any way with their vested right — the right to strike Yet strikes are an economic indulgence — an archaic method of settling differences between management and labor And. in Great Britain — a nation which consumes more than it produces — they’ve become an over-indulgence. So much so that they’re referred to as the British disease CuBsrquroers Magnified True, the percentage of man-days lost due to strikes is less than in the U.S. But the character of British strikes magnifies the economic consequences. “In Place of Strife” went into this: “The typical British strike is unofficial and usually in breach of agreed procedure Although it is often soon over. it comes with little warning and the disruptive effect is serious It is commonest in a small number of industries such as motor assembly and components, the docks and shipbuilding . . . This type of strike can cause far-reaching dislocations of work and at times takes place in complete disregard of its consequences for the community.” In contrast, strikes in the U.S. tend to be predictable — and, don’t laugh' — orderly and ritualistic. They usually occur at the termination of a contract Before the shutdown, plants operate overtime and inventories are built up. Extra production has taken place. Then workers, their bank accounts thickened with tinie-and-a-half pay. take a holiday. Such strikes have to last a long time before the work force or public suffer Additionally, most American contracts are for two and three years British agreements are only for one year and have no legal force They're not binding in the sense that courts can impose financial penalties for breaches of contract Haphazard Discipline Finally, union discipline in Great Britain is haphazard The independence of the shop steward — the elected representative of groups of workers — has given rise to the expression “The power lies on the shop floor." When there is a dispute — Did the foreman insult a worker? Is the assembly line moving too fast? Have work procedures been changed9 — a shop steward, on his own, might call for a strike vote. Then, bingo, an entire plant can be shut down’ In the U.S. established procedures for handling shop-floor grievances — with union representatives going up the line from foreman to supervisor to plant superintendent and finally to an impartial umpire — turn off the strike valve. Such procedures are still rudimentary in Great Britain. Shop-floor power also enters into bargaining. Contracts will often be worked out between national unions and employers associations. But then, the agreement has to be fitted to the plant involved. This negotiation is done by shop stewards. Ifs a perfect setup for trouble. Naturally, each shop steward wants to make the best bargain That’s how he wins the loyalty of workers and rises to power within his union The case of Alan Thornett. known as “the mole," serves as an example He became the shop steward of 150 lorry drivers in the Transport & General Workers Union (TGWU) at the Cowley assembly plant of British Ley land Motor Corp , outside Oxford Then he became deputy senior shop steward, a position of influence among shop stewards. The Cowley plant became a replica of the British economy in miniature: Stop and go! According to British Leyland, Thornett encouraged rather than discouraged strikes, and it withdrew its recognition of him as a shop steward. His constituents, the lorry drivers, struck, idling the plant’s 12.560 workers “ThorneIt Out!" Confronted by another succession of payless days, the wives of workers picketed with placards: “Thornett Out!” “Don’t Strike. Work!” * Moderates In, Militants Out'” A modern Lysistrata urged the denial of sex to husbands. “It is always wives and families who suffer during these massive stoppages The withdrawal of conjugal rights is one of the few weapons available to womenfolk ” Thornett is a left winger. In a group, he tends to keep in the background That’s why he’s called “the mole.” But when it comes to business — union business — he’s all activity. He’s an effective speaker and a tough bargainer He has a EVERY PRESCRIPTION IS CAREFULLY FILED IN YOUR FAMILY PRESCRIPTION RECORD Why? To provide o patient profile to insure comparability of your medicines & health.-Po ho mon ut 5? 7 (ONVIMINT 10UTI0NSpharmacies reputation for getting workers what they want Hence their loyalty. In this instance under intense pressure from workers throughout the plant — and from some within his own group — he stepped down. The (Third in a Series) Vjj\fVliVVVV>AiAiAA*iJ‘ ^ national union, at least for public consumption, found no justification for the company’s allegations against him. Nonetheless, it changed the method for electing shop stewards at the plant. Because there was so much common sense in "In Place of Strife", Prime Minister Heath gave it a second dreaming in the Conservative party’s Industrial Relations Act of 1971. What happened might have been expected. Summoned Tanks The Trades Union Congress advised its members not to register under the act, and Scanlon, Wilson's irritator at Chequers, went much further He summoned the union’s tanks and came out victorious again Here's the story: The ALEW sought recognition at the engineering firm of Con-Mech Ltd , asserting a majority of its 66 workers were members of the union The company denied this, and charged “Communist subversion." About a dozen and-a-half workers set up a picket line to turn away vehicles bringing in supplies. The industrial Teutons court issued an injunction which the union ignored. Later the court assessed the ALEW for Con-Mech’s financial losses, but invited the union to appeal. Again, the union ignored the court Thereupon, the judge ordered the union to pay: Again. no response, notwithstanding the personal appeal of Michael Foot, Secretary of Employment. asking Scanlon to go to court and state the AUKW’s position Finally, the court impounded union funds. And w hat was Scanlon’s answer? National Disaster He cast the deciding vote to call a nationwide strike and shut down newspapers, automobile plants, and numerous other establishments. Had the strike lasted and been fully effective, it would have beeen national disaster The AUEW is a craft union, which spread-eagles industry — steel, non-ferrous metals, automobiles, printing, power stations, electrical equipment, aircraft, paper-making, even textiles. After 24 hours of confusion, turmoil, resentment, and dismay, out of nowhere appeared four anonymous businessmen with 65.0(H) pounds ($156,(HH)) to discharge the union’s debt The intervention, said the court. was a “novelty." but acceptable Scanlon called off the strike. The tabloid “Sun" screamed across its front page: “Who Bailed Britain Out?" and got no answer The sedate "Times", under the heading, “A Silly Strike”, noted that ( on-Mech had received “its due," but felt that Scanlon’s "sudden dash for anarchy” didn’t augur well for the future of the social contract. Las Vegas! Thinking of a Las Vegas vacation at lowest prices possible? A film will be shown Friday, June 21, at 8 p.m. at Peoples Bank East. Call 365-0308 after 6 p.m. — or — weekends all day. Sponsored by Co-Op Social Club The 3rd U.S. Infantry The Old Guard Ft. My ar, Va.    Wathlngfon,    D.C. M. A Tradition of Service to America Since 1784 The Army needs well qualified men to be part of their most elite unit. . .The Old Guard, the Army’s ceremonial unit and escort to the President. For information concerning The Old Guard, Contact Sp 4 Randy Willman at United States Army Recruiting Station 2712 First Ave. N.E. Phone 319-365-8601 Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52402 ST :.V ' "v. at" ■ PttfA • ■? • • Mr Enroll in Blue Cross & Blue Shield Depositor Group Plan thru- First Trust and Savings Bank Regardless of past or present Health Condition 11 month waiting period on existing health conditions, 9 month waiting period on tonsil and adenoid operations, 270 dav waiting period on maternity Regardless of Age 6 month waiting period on existing conditions for persons age 65 and older And with automatic payment of Dues from your Checking Account LIMITED ENROLLMENT PERIOD The limited enrollment period will be from June 4 1974, to June 28, 1974; representatives of Blue Cross-Blue Shield will be in our main bank, 1201 Third St S E . Cedar Rapids, and our Ely office in Ely. Iowa, every Tuesday Wednesday, and Friday during the enrollment from 9.00 a rn to 12 OO a rn Information may also be obtained at our office at 1820 First Ave N E , Cedar Rapids Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa Working together for your well being. Take advantage of FREE CHECKING and many other new banking benefits as a member of the New Outlooks ClubFirst Trust and Savings Bank1201 THIRD ST. S.E. 1820 FIRST AVE. M.E. 1600 DOWS ST. ELY, I A. 364-0101 ;

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