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Common Sense And Labour

by Samuel Crowther

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Text extracted from opening pages of book: COMMON SENSE AND LABOUR BY SAMUEL CROWTHEE LONDON: SIR ISAAC PITMAN & SONS, LTD. 1 AMEN COENEE, E. C. 1920 Printed in Garden City, N. Y., U. S. A. All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages^ including the Scandinavian CONTENTS CHAPTER PAGE I. THE FUNDAMENTAL CAUSES OF LABOUR UNREST 3 II . THE RELATION BETWEEN THE EMPLOYER AND THE EMPLOYED ...... 1 III. THE WORKER AND His WAGE .... 50 IV. WAGES AND PROFIT-SHARING DELUSIONS . 77 V. THE FETISH OF INDUSTRIAL DEMOCRACY . Ill VI. WHEN THEY GET TOGETHER . . . . 136 VII. THE ECONOMIC TRUTHS OF WORK . . . 171 VIII. THE MAN AND THE MACHINE .... 189 IX. THE METHODS AND POLICIES OF BRITISH LABOUR : COMMON SENSE AND LABOUR COMMON SENSE AND LABOUR CHAPTER ONE* THE FUNDAMENTAL CAUSES OF LABOUR UNREST A LARGE employer who has never had any difficul ties of moment with his workers and who has given a great deal of his time to the study of how the employ ment relation might in all fairness be adjusted, re marked somewhat hopelessly the other day: There is something I do not understand in my workers. In former years, we have always been able rather easily to arrive at adjustments and I have rather prided myself, I think, upon the sincerity of the union between myself and those I employ. I have scientifically worked out wage payments and they have always been satisfactory. I have so ad justed my affairs that the volume of work passing through the shops seldom decreases. If our selling orders drop off, we produce for stock, and for the past * Beprinted from System, the Magazine of Business t by permission of A. W. Shaw Company. 4 COMMON SENSE AND LABOUR five or six years we have never laid off a man be cause there was no work for him. But to-day there is something different, there seems to be something stirring, something which I cannot comprehend and I am not sure that the men themselves comprehend for I have talked frankly with many of them. There is something one might almost call a subconscious restlessness that makes them seem different. I cannot put my finger on it and say it is this' or c it is that/ The quality eludes me. I have heard the same sort of statement from many other employers variously expressed, and un doubtedly there are new and strange currents circu lating through the minds of workers everywhere. It is not precisely a profound dissatisfaction with labour as a means of livelihood. It is not so much wages and hours, for although wage disputes are frequent enough, they very often seem rather to be pegs on which to hang trouble than real causes of themselves. With the almost universal habit of eventually grant ing most demands for wage increases, doubling the increase and then adding it into the cost of the prod uct, employers generally are not a great deal con cerned about the wages they pay. COMMON SENSE AND LABOUE 5 The matter of hours is on the same basis. The desire for an eight-hour or a six-hour day would be perfectly comprehensible if the workers gave any evidence at all of desiring so to limit their working time, but they seem to want the eight-hour day as a basis of pay and not as a period of work. We have had several strikes because the request for the eight hour day was granted literally, whereas what the workers wanted was a ten-hour day with overtime during two hours of it. The unions have no answer. They have gained the eight-hour day, which used to be a shibboleth, they are talking of and also succeeding in extending union control, but beyond that they have only vague formulas and some interesting excursions into inter nationalism, possibly with the thought that if you cannot set your own house in order, it is diverting to poke about your neighbour's premises. The progress of events has caught up with trades unions' platforms and the workers are less happy than ever they were. The attitude of the worker is curious; his outstand ing characteristic to-day is a reluctance to work. It is extrao



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