Imatges de pàgina

machinery which is employed with such success in the Lancashire cotton trade. The two secretaries who visit the mill in which any question of interpretation has arisen correspond in all essentials to the two house agents employed respectively by the owner and the incoming tenant of a furnished house. In the interpretation of wage contracts there is even more justification for this method than in taking an inventory. The object of the house agent on either side is to get the best terms for his client. But the professional experts who visit a cotton mill, in response to a complaint from operative or employer, are not employed by or responsible to either of the parties directly concerned. And though one represents the associated employers, and the other the combined workmen, both are retained and paid to secure an identical object, namely, absolute uniformity between mill and mill. So far as regards the application to the particular cases of existing general contracts between employers and workmen, arbitration, though possible, is therefore but a clumsy device. The only way of getting an efficient umpire for such technical work would be permanently to employ a professional expert of high standing to give his whole time to the business. But directly an industry is sufficiently well organised to afford the expense of an efficient paid umpire, it can find in the joint meeting of the salaried experts of both sides a far more speedy, economical, and uniform method of settling questions of interpretation than any arbitration could provide.

The reader is now in a position to estimate how far arbitration is likely to serve as a panacea against strikes or lock-outs, or even to become a permanent feature of the most highly organised machinery for collective bargaining. In the really crucial instances

the issues relating to the conclusion of a new agreement-habitual and voluntary recourse to an umpire may be expected, we think, only in the unlikely event of capitalists and workmen adopting identical assumptions as to the proper basis of wages. We have seen how unreservedly the best-educated workmen of the North of England accepted, between 1870 and 1885, the capitalists' assumption that it was only fair that wages should vary with the selling price of the product. For twenty years the miners of South Wales have acquiesced in the same doctrine. If this view were to become accepted in other trades, it is conceivable that arbitration would become more popular On the other hand there is growing up among

workmen a strong feeling in favour of a fixed minimum standard of life, to be regarded as the first charge upon the industry of the country, and to be determined by the requirements of healthy family life and citizenship. If the capitalists should accept this view, arbitrations might become common, the explicit reference in every case being what conditions were required in the industry to enable the various grades of producers to lead a civilised life. But no such agreement

among them.

on fundamental assumptions is at present within view. We are therefore constrained not to place any high expectations upon the fiat of an umpire as a method of preventing disputes as to future conditions of labour. Nor can we estimate very highly the practical value of arbitration in the application to particular cases of existing general agreements. In promptitude, technical efficiency, and inexpensiveness the impartial outsider’is inferior to the joint meeting of the salaried secretaries of either side.

But although arbitration is not likely to supersede collective bargaining, or to prevent the occasional breaking off of negotiations, it has great advantages, in all but the best-organised trades, as a means of helping forward the negotiations themselves. The first requisite for efficient collective bargaining is for the parties to meet face to face, and in an amicable manner to discuss each other's claim. But this initial step is often one of difficulty. We are apt to forget, in view of the regular negotiations in such highly organised trades as the cotton operatives, the boiler-makers, and the Northumberland and Durham coalminers, how new and unusual it still is for capitalists and workmen to meet on an equal footing, to recognise each other's representative capacity, and to debate, with equal good temper, technical knowledge, and argumentative skill, upon what conditions the employer shall engage his own hands. Even to-day, in the great majority of trades, the masters would think it beneath their dignity voluntarily to confer with the trade union leaders on equal terms; and they would resent as preposterous the idea of disclosing to them their profit and loss accounts, or even the prices they are obtaining for their product. Yet it is upon these facts that they base their demand for a reduction of wages, or their refusal of an advance. The workmen, on the other hand, especially in such half-organised trades, are full of prejudices, misconceptions of the acts, and utopian aspirations. Under these circumstances, even if the employers consent to meet the men at all, there can be no frank interchange of views, no real understanding of each other's position-in short, no effective negotiation. Recourse to an impartial umpire is one way out of these difficulties. The employer's dignity is not offended by appearing before an eminent jurist or statesman, sitting virtually in a judicial capacity. It is regarded as only natural that the arbitrator should ask for the statistical facts upon which each party bases its case. The mere fact of each having to set forth its claims in precise terms, in a way that can be maintained under cross-examination, is already a great gain. But if the arbitrator is tactful and experienced, he can do a great deal more to bring the parties to agreement. He discovers, by kindly examination, what precisely it is that each party regards as essential, and persuasively puts on one side any irritating reminiscences of past disputes, or theoretic arguments going beyond the narrow limits of the case. In friendly conversation with each side in turn, he draws out the really strong arguments of both, restates them in their most effective form, and in due course impresses them, in the most conciliatory terms, on the notice of the opponent. Those who have read the proceedings before such an experienced arbitrator as Dr. Spence Watson will, we are sure, agree with us in feeling that his wonderful success as an umpire is far more due to these arts of conciliation than to any infallibility in his awards. In case after case we have been struck by the fact that, long before the end of the discussion, many of the issues had already been disposed of, the points remaining in dispute being so narrowed down by a mutual recognition of each other's case that when the award is at last given each party is predisposed to accept it as inevitable.

In this patient work of conciliation lies the real value of arbitration proceedings. There is no magic in the fiat of an arbitrator as a remedy for strikes or lock-outs. If either party really prefers fighting to conceding the smallest point to its adversary—that is, in those cases in which either employers or the workmen have an overwhelming superiority in strength—there will be no submission to arbitration. If both parties are willing to bargain, and are sufficiently well organised and well educated to be capable of it, no outside intervention will be needed. In those industries, however, where organisation has begun, but has not yet reached the highest form; where the employers are forced to recognise the power of the men's union, but have not yet brought themselves to meet its officials on terms of real equality; where the workmen are strong enough to strike, but do not yet command the services of experienced negotiators, the intervention of an eminent outsider may be of the utmost value. It is of small importance whether his intervention takes the form of 'arbitration' or 'conciliation '—that is to say, whether he is empowered to close the discussion by himself delivering an 'award' as-umpire, or whether he must wait until he can bring the parties to sign an agreement' drawn up by himself as chairman. In either case his real business is not to supersede the process of collective bargaining, but to forward it. And in view of the usual impossibility of agreeing upon any common assumption as to the proper basis of wages; in face of the workman's suspicion of the brain-worker's training, and the employer's fear of electioneering considerations; and remembering the importance of securing universal concurrence in the result, we are, indeed, inclined to believe that the intervention of the eminent outsider' will, as a rule, be at once more acceptable and more likely to be successful if he avowedly acts only as a 'conciliator.'

This inference is supported by the events of the last few years. On four notable occasions outside intervention has been evoked to settle a serious industrial conflict. In 1893 Lord Rosebery, at the express desire of the Cabinet, settled a dispute which had for sixteen weeks stopped the coal trade of the Midlands of England. The next year saw the intervention of Mr. Asquith, as Home Secretary, in the quarrel between the London cabowners and their drivers. In 1895 Sir Courtenay Boyle, Permanent Secretary of the Board of Trade, drew up the agreement which terminated the great strike in the boot trade. And Lord James, a distinguished member of the Conservative Ministry of the day, in January 1896 brought about, after protracted negotiations, a settlement of the dispute between the Clyde and Belfast shipbuilders and their engineers. But notwithstanding the official position of these magnates, it is significant that in no case were they asked, and in no case did they attempt, to cut the Gordian knot by the judicial decree of an umpire or arbitrator. It was not their business to inquire into the merits of the case. They were not called upon to make up their minds whether the employers or the workmen were in the right. They had not even to choose between the rival economic assumptions on which the parties rested their respective claims. Their function was to persuade the representatives of both sides to go on negotiating until a basis was discovered on which it was possible for them to agree.

This work of conciliation is, we believe, destined to play a great and for many years an increasing part in the labour struggles of this country. In the present state of public opinion the intervention of an outside conciliator' is, as regards the imperfectly organised trades, a precursor of regular collective bargaining. In many trades the employers themselves are not united in any association: in many others they still haughtily refuse to discuss matters with their workmen. In any prolonged dispute public opinion now almost forces the parties to resume negotiations, and the intervention of an eminent outsider is found the best lever for collective bargaining. His social position or official status secures for the proceedings, even among angry men, a certain amount of dignity, order, and consideration for each other's feelings, whilst it prevents any hasty rupture or withdrawal. So long as Lord Rosebery was willing to go on sitting, it was practically impossible for either the coalowners or the coalminers to stop discussing. But prolonged discussion does not lead to agreement unless the parties get on good terms with each other, and are brought into a friendly mood. It is the conciliator's business to see that this atmosphere of good humour is produced and maintained. The excellent luncheon which Lord Rosebery provided for owners and workmen alike was probably more effective in creating harmony than the most convincing arguments about the living wage.' All this, however, is but preliminary to the real business. We have already described the important part played by a tactful and experienced arbitrator in drawing out the best points in each party's case, restating them in the most persuasive form, and eliminating from the controversy all unnecessary sources of irritation or non-essential differences. The ideal conciliator adds to this a happy suggestiveness and fertility in devising possible alternatives. Throughout the discussion he watches for the particular points to which each party really attaches importance.


He has a quick eye for acceptable lines of compromise. At the right psychological moment, when discussion is beginning to be tedious to both sides, he is ready with a form of words. This is the crisis of the proceedings. If the parties are physically and mentally tired, and yet pleased with themselves and no longer angry with their opponents; if the conciliator is adroit in his drafting, and finds a formula which, whilst making mutual concessions on minor points, includes, or seems to each party to include, a great deal of what each has been contending for, the resolution will be agreed to, if not by acclamation, at any rate after a few minor amendments to save the dignity of one side or the other; and almost before some of the slower-minded representatives have had time to think out all the bearings of the compromise the agreement is signed, and peace is secured.

We see, therefore, that outside intervention in wages disputes may be of the highest value, and we anticipate that it will, for many years to come, in all but the best-organised trades, play a great, and even an increasing, part. But its function will not be that of arbitration,' properly so called, but rather that of conciliation,' though this will continue to be sometimes carried on under the guise of arbitration. Instead of aiming at superseding collective bargaining, the arbitrator will more and more consciously seek to promote it. In fact, so far from being the crown of industrial organisation, the reference of disputes to an impartial outsider is a mark of its imperfection. Arbitration is the temporary expedient of incompletely organised industries, destined to be cast aside by each of them in turn when a higher stage, like that of the cotton operatives or the boiler-makers, is attained. The present Government has therefore done well to cut down its arbitration bill to a modest Conciliation Act.' The pretentious legislation of 1867 and 1872, from which so much was expected, is now simply repealed. The Board of Trade is empowered, in case of an industrial dispute, to inquire into the causes and circumstances of the difference. It may intervene as the friend of peace, to persuade the parties to come to an agreement. If a conciliator is desired, it may appoint one. Finally, if both parties join in asking that the settlement shall proceed in the guise of arbitration, and wish the Board of Trade to select the arbitrator for them, the Board of Trade may accede to their request, as it might have done without any Act at all!

This conclusion will disappoint those who see in arbitration not a subordinate and temporary adjunct to collective bargaining, but a panacea for stoppages of industry. The popularity of arbitration has deep roots. At the back of the peremptory public demand for the

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