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Cedar Rapids Gazette (Newspaper) - June 18, 1974, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 2 The Cedar Rapids Gazette: Tuts., June 18, 1974 ByJ. A. i.kinpston Economics Columnist "In Place of Strife" will pa rJwn m !hc anr.ais o'. British politics as the prelude to the social contract. But it's better known as "The Battle of Downing the title of Peter Jenkins' book about it It is a white paper, which preparec! uiuier 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 PnKnnrd It was to be her master con- tribution 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 govern- ment 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, Bri- tain's largest, and Hugh Scanlon, head of the Amal- gamated 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? No Dobcek 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, A counter dig! Scanlon had once been a member of the Communist party. And Dub- cek, of course, was the Com- munist party leader whose "Czechoslovakian spring" prompted Brezhnev to send in troops to impose Soviet dis- cipline. In the end, Scanlon won the figure-of-speech contest. Wil- son 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 ac- cess to information from employers. But the union leaders would have no govern- ment 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. Consequences Magnified True, the percentage of unofficial and usually in breach of agreed procedure Although it is often soon over, it comes with little warning and (ho 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 the community." In contrast, strikes in the I'.S. tend to be predictable and, don't laugh! orderly and ritualistic. They usually occur at the termination uf a contract. Before the shutdown, plants operate overtime and inventories are built up. Extra production has taken place. Then workers, their tank ac- counts thickened with time- and-a-half pay, take a holiday. Such strikes have to last a long time before the work force or public suffer. Additionally, most America contracts are for two and thre years. British agreements ar only for one year and have n legal force. They're not bine ing in the sense that courts ca impose financial penalties fti breaches of contract. Haphazard Discipline Finally, union discipline i Great Britain is haphazard The independence of the sho] steward the electei representative of groups o workers has given rise to th expression: "The power lies 01 the shop floor." When there i a dispute Did the forema insult a worker? Is the asseni bly line moving too fast? Hav work procedures been changed? a shop steward, 01 his own, might call for a striki vote. Then, bingo, an entin plant can be shut down! In the U.S. establishei procedures for handling shop floor grievances with union representatives going up line from foreman to super visor to plant superintenden and finally to an impartia umpire turn off the strib valve. Such procedures are still rudimentary in Great Bri tain. Shop-floor power also enters into bargaining. Contracts wil often be worked out between national unions and employers associations. But then, the agreement has to be fitted to the plant involved. This nego tiation is done by shop stewards. It's a perfect setup for trouble. Naturally, each shop stewarc wants to make the best bar- gain. That's how he wins the loyalty of workers and rises to power within his union. The case of Alan Thornett, known as "the serves as an example. He became the shop steward of 150 lorry drivers in the Transport Genera Workers Union (TGWU) at the Cowley assembly plant of Bri- tish Leyland Motor Corp., out- side 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! Ac- cording to British Leyland Thornett encouraged rather than discouraged strikes, anc it withdrew its recognition ol him as a shop steward. His constituents, the lorry drivers, struck, idling the plant's workers. "Thornett Confronted by another sue cession of payless days, the wives of workers picketed with placards: "Thornett "Don't Strike. "Moderates In, Militants A modern Lysistrata urged the denial of sex to hus- bands. "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 man-days lost due to strikes is group, he tends to keep in I he less than in the U.S. But the background. That's why he's called "Ihe mole." But when il comes to business union business he's all activity. He's an effective speaker and a tough bargainer. He has a character of British strikes magnifies the economic con- sequences. "In Place of Strife" went into this: "The typical British strike is EVERY PRESCRIPTION IS CAREFULLY FILED IN YOUR FAMILY PRESCRIPTION RECORD Why? To provide a patient profile to insure comparability of your medicines health. 7 CONVENIENT LOCATIONS pharmacies w Spurred British Battl reputation for getting workers register under (he act, and Foot. Secretary of Kmploy-what they want Hence their Scanlon, Wilson's irntator at ment, asking Scanlon to go to loyalty Chequers, went much further court and state the AUF.W's In this instance under in- He summoned the union's position .Finally, the court im-tciise pressure from workers tanks and came out vktwiuUN pouiuliit union funds. And what throughout the plant and again. Here's the story: was Scanlon's answer'.' from some within his own The Al'F.W sought recogni- National Disaster group he stepped down. The lion at the engineering firm e was a but acceptable Scanlon called off the strike. The tabloid "Sun" siTfjinifl across Us front page. "Who Bailed Britain and got no answer. The sedate under the heading. "A silly noted that Con-.Mecli had received "its hut f.'ll that "sudden dash for anarchy" didn't augur well for the future of the social 3rd U.S. Infantry The Old Guard ft. Myer, Va. WoiWngfon, O.C. dandl yggy' Coii-Mech Ltd.. asserting a llu' ____ fti workers were ca" a strike Tradition of Service fo 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 at I.MSI for members uf tin- iini.in Tho snut
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