Page 6, 12th March 1937

12th March 1937
Page 6
Page 6, 12th March 1937 — INDUSTRIAL WELFARE

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People: Patricia Hall


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SIR,—Your correspondent, Miss Patricia Hall, and I agree on many points, notably that there are some very good non-Catholic employers! l take it she is referring to the Quakers, and the chocolate firms in particular. They certainly have the reputation of being good to their people, although one rather guesses the motive for providing health services for employees in food factories. If the consuming public is to have confidence in manufactured foodstuffs— and for big sales and large profits public, confidence is essential—it is clearly inadvisable to allow employees to be at work unless they are in the pink of condition. Why don't such firms admit openly that they operate health services because they are essential to their sales?

Miss Hall says a Jesuit once went round a factory where welfare schemes were operated, and said he was well satisfied with what he had seen. I expect he was. 1 could myself take him round a works bigger than the one with 10,000 employees that Miss Hall mentions, where there is a sort of " Intourist " organisation for showing visitors clinics and canteens and all the rest of it. And he would certainly be satisfied. But if he called afterwards on the parish-priest in the nearby workingclass district, who knows the employees in their private lives, he would hear quite a lot of things that the guides from the Welfare Department had somehow forgotten to mention.

Employees do not want to be spoon-fed spiritually, mentally and physically by their firms. They want good wages and fair conditions of work, and they can appreciate that strict but just discipline is necessary.

Workers resent pretty gardens, swimming pools, canteens, institutes, clubs, and all the other things that are given to them

merely to keep them quiet. Admittedly such things are good in themselves, and with institutions such as pit-head baths and accident-dressing stations one has no quarrel. Incidentally both pit-head baths and first-aid stations are not entirely under the firm's control, the unions have a say in the first and the second are regulated to some extent by the State. Where any particular welfare service is operated for the genuine benefit of the workers, irrespective of whether it is a voluntary move on the firm's part or whether it is something that is compulsory under the law, employees can sense the goodness of the motive and appreciate what is done for them.

The object of the industrial welfare movement is to " improve " the condition of the workers while control of the means of production is retained absolutely by Big Business and High Finance. But we know enough of the results of industrial capitalism and international finance to suspect the motives that are behind schemes for giving workpeople everything from sponsored religion to rest-rooms fitted with hot-water bottles, always of course excepting the one thing that they realty need and want—freedom that is economic as well as political.

I have seen workmen patronised in many different ways, but until I read Miss Hall's letter I had never heard of a company that openly paid a trade union organiser! Whose

interests does he serve? Miss Hall will probably say that the interests of the firm and its workers are identical. We have not yet got a Christian State where that is recognised as true, and in the meantime [ think it would be healthier if such benevolent firms were to pay wages high enough to enable the men to employ their own trade union officials. Otherwise we might reach a delightful state of affairs where the Federatio'ti of British Industries paid the members of the Trades Union Congress " to advise " the workers " on trade union activities," as Miss Hall puts it!

Isn't it rather appalling to think that churches will be " provided " on companyowned housing estates if the tenants' employers are " approached in the right way and manner," to quote Miss Hall's words? Are bishops to go cap in hand to limited liability companies and ask boards of directors for their kind consent to provide buildings to house the Blessed Sacrament? If a firm can afford to put up a church it can afford to pay its people well enough to enable the priest to raise the money to build his own.


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