Imagens das páginas
[ocr errors]


ideas of management. In this matter American unionism is in effect fighting a defensive struggle for the preservation of the skilled craftsman, collective bargaining, and standard rates of payment. The unionists maintain that time and motion studies are unscientific, especially in so far as they make inadequate or guesswork allowances for differences between workers; they object to developments which would cut up the task now discharged by one skilled and distribute it amongst a number of specialized human automata; they assert that the scientific management appeal is to the individual desire for large earnings, and thus it breaks down the idea of a standard rate of payment and standard conditions of employment; further, they point out that it transfers the determination of wages and conditions from the field of collective bargaining to the hands of the autocratic manager or time-study expert, and as such destroys any semblance of industrial democracy. The whole scheme is, in short, a cunningly-devised plan for speeding-up and sweating, aiming at increased production and bigger profits, and at reducing the great body of workers to a little-skilled, practically interchangeable and unorganized mass, devoid of any feeling of mutual interest or united action. The craft unions endorse the verdict of Professor Hoxie when he declares that "scientific management, properly applied, normally functioning, should it become universal, would spell the doom of effective unionism as it exists to-day.” Whether a compromise will be reached, by which the unions will gain some control over the studies on which scientific management rests, remains to be seen. The alternative to that is that unionism should spread its cloak over the many millions of still unorganized workers; otherwise it will be too weak either to prevent or control the spread of these efficiency methods over the greater part of the American industrial field.

Recent Developments. During the last ten years, and especially since 1914, important changes have come over the face of American unionism. The I.W.W., established in 1905 as a revolt against the narrow conservative business policy of the Federation of Labour, set out to unite the workers of America in one big revolutionary union. It soon, however, discovered valuable work nearer to hand in attempting to organize the unskilled aliens from Eastern Europe. Its successful fight in the Lawrence textile strike of 1912 brought it great fame, but since that time its numerical growth has not been prcportionate to the noise which it makes or the fear in which it is held by public opinion.

But whilst revolutionary ideas have failed to receive any big body of support in the I.W.W., the Federation of Labour itself has become imbued with more radical ideas than those preached by Gompers and the old school. The unions comprising the Federation contain an increasing number of men who regard their organizations not merely as institutions for improving industrial conditions inside the capitalist system, but also as bodies which can play an important part in reconstructing society. Hence convention after convention has witnessed a growing socialistic section of thought amongst the younger unionists, and although Gompers has retained his position as president, his ideas have been defeated on numerous occasions. For instance, industrial unions with semi-revolutionary aims have been admitted into the Federation; the 1917 Convention decided to form a political labour party; that of 1918 decided to challenge the Steel Corporatior.'s refusal to recognize unionism by making a vigorous effort to organize steel workers. In 1920 the Montreal Convention, representing over 4,000,000 affiliated unionists, decided by a large majority in favour of the government ownership of railways, in spite of the strong opposition of the executive.

When America entered the war the heads of the American Federation threw themselves into the war work with great zest, and Gompers was appointed labour advisor to the government. Agreements made with the government and with employers provided for the complete recognition of unionism and collective bargaining, settlement of all disputes by arbitration, and the maintenance of trade union standard rates. The scarcity of labour and the increase in the cost of living made it necessary to grant large increases in wages, and in eight leading industries average hourly earnings increased during 1914-1919 between 74 per cent. and 112 per cent.

The Armistice was, however, the signal for a revival of the old struggles, with increased intensity. Ideas from Russia, along with the alleged conservatism of the labour leaders, were responsible for numerous big strikes, which were started and carried on in defiance of ion executives. The years 1919 and 1920 were marked by widespread industrial disturbances, to cope with which the Federal Government called an industrial conference in tlie hope of discovering some way to industrial peace. This conference met late in 1919, and contained representatives of labour, capital, and the public. It broke down completely, however, when the employers' representatives refused to recognize “the right of wage-earners to organize without discrimination, to bargain collectively, to be represented by representatives of their own choosing in negotiations and adjustments with employers in respect to wages, hours of labour, and relations and conditions of employment.” This refusal was quite in keeping with the policy of the Steel Corporation, the head of which declared his uncompromising hostility to any recognition of unions or acceptance of the closed shop idea.

Books Recommended. Coman, K., “Industrial History of the United states”; Carlton, F. T., “History and Problems of Organized Labour in the United States”; Ashley, W. J., “The Adjustment of Wages”; Brissenden, P. F., “History of the I.W.W."'; Laidler, H. W., “Boycotts and the Labo'ır Struggle''; Hoxie, R. F., “Trade Unionism in the United States,” and “Scientific Management and Labour.”

[ocr errors]



Introduction. The history of Australian trade unionism presents few novel features, and in all essentials except one—that of method—the movement has added little to union theory or practice. If we examine the structure, we find that until quite recent years local craft unions held the field, and only since 1900 has there been any trend towards federal amalgamations or the erection of big industrial unions. No successful attempi has been made to create anything equal to the British Trade Union Congress, the American Federation of Labour, or the German General Commission of Trade Unions. In aim, Australian unions are predominantly "business” bodies, striving for better wages, shorter hours, and the “closed shop.'' Only when we turn to method do we find conditions different from those of Europe or America. Until 1890 Australian unions. trod thc ordinary track of collective bargaining, conciliation, and strikes. But the industrial warfare of 1890 ended disastrously for the strikers, and the nineties, therefore, saw a swing from industrial to political methods. The regulation of industrial conditions became a matter for state action; wages boards and arbitration courts were gradually established, and trade unionists turned to the state to obtain for them those benefits which in other lands were sought by collective bargaining and strikes. But partly in order to influence state policy, and partly because of the growing acceptance of radical or mildly socialist ideas, labour set to work to build up a strong political party and to capture the reigns of government, both state and federal. The Australian Labour Party is essentially a trade union product drawing the bulk of its funds and most of its leaders from the industrial organizations. Hence, since the nineties, the struggle between capital and labour has been fought chiefly on the floor of parliament, in the wages board room, or before an arbitration court judge. But this removal of the field of action failed to bring that satisfaction which had been anticipated, and after 1916, when the conscription issue tore the political and industrial labour movements in two, thus weakening seriously the political arm, some large sections of labour lost faith in the old machinery and have turned their attention once more to industrial. methods.

The growth of labour organization has been made easy because of several favourable circumstances. (1) The disintegrating forces which were responsible for the formation of rival unions in European countries have been absent. (2) The problem of coloured labour was dealt with at an early stage, and the White Australia policy put an end to any fear of a further influx of Orientals. At the same time the volume and quality of immigration has not been such as to endanger labour standards. The distance from Europe has prevented that flood-tide of immigration which swept to America, and has especially prevented a big influx of people from Eastern and South-eastern Europe. Hence immigrants have come comparatively small numbers, and have been drawn from the more advanced Europear areas where trade unionism was well known; therefore the new


arrivals could easily be merged into the body of organized labour. At the same time, there has seldom been any great over-supply of labour, and so the unions have been in a strong position when bargaining with the employer. (3) The democratic atmosphere has made it easy for labour to influence politics and get its ideas accepted by parliament. Thanks to these conditions, the movement has progressed rapidly, especially since 1900, and in 1919 there were 628,000 unionists out of a total population of 5,250,000.

The history of Australian unionism can be divided into three epochs. The first ranges from the establishment of Sydney. in 1788 to the gold discoveries of 1851. It is a period of small beginnings, with organization limited to the free workers who were catering for the primitive requirements of the infant settlements. The second epoch extends from the gold rush to the industrial disturbances of 1890-4. Gold attracted to the country large numbers of free labourers, many of whom failed on the gold diggings, and were therefore compelled to turn to other avenues of employment. Gold mining became capitalized, new industries were established, transport facilities developed, and the pastoral industry created a large demand for seasonal workers at shearing-time. As these new occupations grew larger and more capitalist in character, the division between employer and employee widened; good land became more difficult to secure, and so all the conditions favourable to the formation of unions emerged. Hence by 1890 unionism had extended over almost the whole field of employment. Organization was of the local and craft type. Union aims were the ordinary business aims. The methods were collective bargaining, strikes, and some friendly society work. Of political activity there was little. The third epoch extends from the industrial disputes and general depression of the early nineties up to the present day. It is marked by a large increase in union membership, by the federation or amalgamation of local unions, by the beginnings of industrial unionism, and by the substitution of political for industrial methods.

Early History. In 1822 a convict servant was sentenced at Liverpool (N.S.W.) to bread and water for a month, 500 lashes, and penal servitude for life for having incited his master's servants to combine in order to demand increased wages and rations. Two years later some free labourers, coopers by trade, were accused of having made "a combination and conspiracy against their employers' interests''; but permanent organizations do not appear till about 1840. During the forties many newcomers brought with them the ideas of British unionism or Chartism, Irish discontent, and European radicalism, and several unions were formed-e.g., among Adelaide tailors and bootmakers in 1846. On top of these came the gold-hunters, men of all sorts and conditions, and in many cases excellent raw material for labour or political organization. Even before the gold rush, the separation of Victoria from New South Wales in 1850 created a big demand for building3 in Melbourne, and when the diggings were opened up in the following year the population of Sydney and Melbourne increased rapidly. Out of this building boom came the Operative Masons' Society in Melbourne (1850), and unions of stonemasons, carpenters and joiners, plasterers, and bricklayers were formed by 1858. The printers of Melbourne formed a Typographical Association in 1857, and a number of engineers formed the first overseas branch of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers in Sydney in 1852.

Early Aims—The Eight-Hour Movement. These first unions had little need to worry about wages, for the attraction of the goldfields was so great that employers were compelled to pay high rates in order to keep any workmen. Wages in Melbourne increased generally from 6/- or 8/- a day in 1850 to 25/- or even 40/- in 1854. When the boom subsided wages were still, in 1858, about 50 to 75 per cent. above the old level. True these high rates were counterbalanced to some extent by high rents and prices, but even then wages were good. It was estimated in 1857 that while wages were four times those paid in Britain, the cost of living was only double the British rate.

Unions therefore turned their attention at first almost entirely to reducing the hours of labour, and the eight-hour day become the central aim of all labour bodies. The demand was by no means new. Robert Owen had preached it twenty years before; Dunedin (N.Z.) was built in 1848 on the basis of an eight-hour working day, and in America the idea had many adherents. But it remained for the early Australian unions to secure full recognition for the principle. The demand for houses, etc, had driven employers to exact a ten- or twelve-hour day, but in 1855 the Stonemasons' Society of Sydney demanded, and after a strike secured, the eight-hour maximum. In the following year all the building workers of Melbourne secured the same time-limit, and inaugurated the annual celebration of their victory in that year. · In Queensland (1858) and South Australia, (1873) the building trades led the way; in Tasmania the shipwrights were the first to voice the demand (1874), but in Western Australia the eight-hour system was not introduced until 1896.

Miners and Chinese. The first phase was marked by organization in the building trade and the eight-hour demand. The second, which stretched from about 1860 to 1880, saw unionism spread over a wider field and expand its aims. After 1860 the gold fever subsided, and gold-mining became a more capitalistic industry, thanks to the need for deep digging and machinery. The old type of independent miner gave place therefore to the mining company, employing a number of .wage-earners. At the same time coal-mining become more important, the pastoral industries got into their stride, a few manufactures sprang up in the towns, and the number of coastal boats increased. Meanwhile new problems had to be faced by the wage

Wages were sinking far below the boom level of the fifties. Legislation was needed to regulate the new mines and factories, and thus kill at birth the growth of conditions similar to those prevailing in the early British factories. Above all, something must be done to check the flood of Chinese which had been sweeping over the country since 1852. · There were 28,000 Chinese in Victoria and New South Wales in 1861.

These problems first became pressing in the gold mines of Victoria, and were responsible for the formation of the Amalgamated Miners' Association in 1874. In these mines a ten-hour shift prevailed, provisions for ventilation and precautions against accident were lacking, wages were low, and many Chinese were employed. The miners' union at once set out to get conditions improved by legislative effort, and an Act of 1877 provided for an eight-hour shift, improved ventilation, and inspection of machinery. A series of successful strikes cleared the Asiatics out of the industry, the A.M.A. persuaded the Victorian Mines Department to insert a clause in new mining leases forbidding the employment of Chinese, and as restrictions


« AnteriorContinuar »