Has 'Humanised' Industry By CHARLES HOPE Can Catholic thought and action change the struc ture of industrial society ? Sincere and practical CathoPILGRIMAGE Can Catholic thought and action change the struc lir employers in France today think so; and they are TO WELSH determined to do it.
Two brothers, Jean Louis and Gaston Bernier, who decided to follow the teaching of Rerum Novarton and Quadragesimo Anno decided also that a complete reorganisation of their business near Angers on the banks of the Loire was necessary. The firm make locks, metal frames, agricultural instruments, and other metal
products. They saw that the relations between Capital and Labour must be changed. • They abolished in their thought all abstract phrases. The words "Capital" and "Labour" to them represented men and women, who all had rights and status but different functions.
The head of the company bebame " the first of all the workers in the business." Further, they said he must be "liberated front the tutelage of capital." Capital and Labour were people—the men who brought capital and the men who brought labour.
"MAKE IT WORK" It was these who had to he associated together in the ownership of the means of production, M the government of the business, in the risks of production, and in the sharing of its fruits. Gaston Bernier, the founder of the business, was no theorist. " Let's make it work," he said, Constructions Meca-Metalliques Chalonnaises was formed by Gaston Bernier in 1932 with a capital of Fr. 3,200,000. At first it was in the sole ownership of M. Bernier, but expansion made more capital necessary, and in 1945 it became a limited liability company. Now it is also a partnership, in which the shareholders have limited their rights of ownership and control and the employees — " the bringers of labour "—have accepted greater responsibility for the conduct and prosperity of the business.
The managing director is secured with extensive powers to act in the name of the company, but he is now responsible, not to the financial shareholders only1 as in the past, but to the associates or partners, who are both represented at the Annual General Meeting, and on the Council of Management, which, under the managing director, is the guiding body of the business.
THE COUNCIL This Council comprises: The managing director or his representative, an associate nominated at the annual general meeting, a member of the technical staff—elected, a non-technical employee — elected.
The qualification for membership of the Council is three years' ser vice. The Council meets once a month, or more often if necessary.
Remuneration is on a salary and sharing basis, after due appropriation for reserve, expenses, and fixed dividend of 4 per cent on the finan
cial capital. Employees are encouraged to become shareholders and so participate from both sides.
But remuneration, though necessary, is coming to be looked on as the least important part of the affair; it is the fact that a restoration of status and of ownership has taken place which is important.
All are part a the business, have a stake in it, and a say. "I never put in operation any plan or proposal," declares M. Bernier. "until it has been thoroughly examined and discussed and agreed by all concerned through their representatives."
Does it work? — Said one employee, ordinary workman and the Communist-dominated C.G.T. delegate: When the owner suggested this association our first reaction was distrust — another racked We'd heard stuff like this before, but it hadn't meant a thing.
" However, we tried it, and gradually little things, the meetings, getting all information about the business and its progress, actually getting our share of the profits every month, showed that these were not words but deeds.
IT DOES WORK
"Two things show the change that took place: One summer all the chaps voluntarily went on to a sisty-hotir. week in order to cornplete a special programme of production. In the earls, days of the association when the company was in need of extra capital for expansion of plant and tools. we unanimously—and in the absence of the manager—agreed to return half our bonuses in return for bonus certificates realisable at a later date."
"The new spirit," said a clerical employee, a member of the Christian Confederation of Trade Unions, " which has turned doubt into confidence, only comes partly from the material advantages of the new association. most from a mutual discovery of employer and employees. We know each other, understand one another. And this is the community and co-operative spirit which I would like so much to see introduced into all industry." So that it may be, the Berniers have founded, with M. Lucien de Broucker, the Union of Industrialists for the Association of Capital and Labour — the U.C.E.A.C.T. — with its headquarters in Paris, the president being M. Alexandre Dubois.