Strikes and the Government 1893–1974 by Eric L. Wigham

By Eric L. Wigham

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By Eric L. Wigham

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The follOWing year was statistically much worse for disputes, the number of workers involved reaching nearly 1,500,000 and the number of working days lost exceeding forty million, but there was not the violence that marked the summer of 1911. The higher figures were largely due to a national strike in the coal industry which cost more than thirty million working days. Early in 1912 Askwith got a settlement of the weavers' strike, skilfully leaving the principle of the closed shop to be dealt with in the indefinite future.

After this the council, though never formally dissolved, faded out of existence. In February 1914 Buxton left the Board of Trade to become Governor General of South Africa, and John Burns, union firebrand turned reactionary statesman, took his place. In spite of the five years of strife, which continued into 1914 with Unorganised Revolt 1907-1914 33 the loss of nearly ten million working days, there was still room for some optimism. Obscured by the succession of big stoppages, collective bargaining and disputes machinery had spread steadily.

Mrs Webb quoted as examples the conflicts between Lord Devonport, now food controller, and Beveridge, his chief official, and between John Hodge, the Rrst Minister of Labour, and Sir George Askwith. Askwith, she recounted, when asked by Hodge to let him know what his department was dOing, sent back a message that 'it was not customary to submit business unless the Permanent Secretary considered a Ministerial decision necessary'. The two prima donnas of the old Board of Trade Labour Department, both found themselves frozen out of the Ministry of Labour before it had been in existence two years.

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