MOVING WITH THE TIMES
NO. the CATHOLIC HERALD has not gone mad. The secular press, with one or two notable exceptions, chose to smear last week's TUC assembly. We did not. And we were right.
The confused voting means rather less than nothing. What do resolutions add up to anyway ? Who remembers the names of the proposers, or the voting result, of the Labour Party conference resolutions on Clause IV and disarmament ?
Talk to the delegates who went to Brighton last week and they'll tell you flatly that Frank Cousins emerged as second-rate and that Ted Hill is a spent force.
Why don't we use our heads? The fundamental reconstruction that George Woodcock is asking of his movement could never have been worked overnight. Actually, most of the ideas in the TUC reports on Sweden and economic planning appeared in the CATHOLIC HE.RALD long ago.
I didn't dream them up. Nor, as a matter of fact, did Mr. Woodcock, exclusively. They arose naturally from the new dynamism beginning to rev up in the movement's underbelly.
But if an earlier TUC Council. even in the days of Arthur Deakin and Ernest Bevin, had tried to launch the recent economic plan ning report, it wouldn't have lasted five minutes. The present situation, however, is that the delegates and great sections of rank-and-filers are intensely interested in it, and are openly calling it the finest document produced by the unions in this century.
In our highly conservative trade union movement, there is bound to be a prolonged gestation—but the end product will be all the better
for that. '
Trade unionists are showing clear signs of thinking for themselves these days, as appears from last year's firm rejection of strike action by the engineers and the massive turning of the worm at Dagenham.
At the moment. trade unionists are talking of laying less stress on the 40-hour week, and thinking more in terms of a system whereby they could "save up.' enough leave to have two or three months' paid holiday every five or ten years.
This would give them a chance to get abroad, to enter for crash courses and extended summer schools. to amalgamate pleasure with a little specialised adult education. The idea will probably not germinate fully for a couple of years yet. That's the way it goes. But to interpret the natural caution of good men like Cousins. or the inevitable squawkings of the last-ditchers on the left wing, as a defeat for progressive thought is naive in the extreme. This goes for the resolutions on nationalisation, which may amount to little more than a gesture.
The Communists know better than the British press. They will move with the times—and cash in on them as best they can.
The recent building strike produced one of the most interesting developments in industrial relations for a long time. This was a suggestion that the British Employers Federation and the Trades Union Congress should work together to secure a settlement.
A meeting actually took place between Mr. John Hunter and Mr. Morris Laing (of the BEF) and Mr. George Woodcock. As events worked nut. they did not take an active part in the settlement. but the move suggests a new trend in conciliatory processes. The office of conciliator has traditionally belonged to the Minister of Labour. but two factors have reduced his significance in this respect. The fact of a government incomes policy means that Mr. John Hare emerges primarily as a member of the Cabinet, and only after that a conciliator. Moreover, the trend towards centralising more and more influence in both the BEE and TUC is offering more roles to their officials.
The ballot for the post of National President in the Electrical Trades Union closed on Monday. There are three candidates, of whom Les Cannon is the only antiCommunist.
Nominations are now being called for the Executive Council. Two years ago. anti-Communists won nine of the 11 positions, thereby effectively breaking the Communist stranglehold on the union's governing body. But the Communists are making a determined effort to regain their influence on the council, and are believed to have drawn up a secret list of candidates. Closed door meetings have been held in each of the 11 electoral areas.
The list contains only two party members, a move to bring a new look into the campaign. The others are non-Communists regarded as critical of the anti-Communist leadership.
Some officials of the Shipbuilding and Engineering Confederation are hoping to remodel the engineering industry's procedure for settling disputes on the lines followed by ICJ.
The existing procedure. based on the York Memorandum, is 41 years old. No representative of the employers or of the unions who has taken part in earlier discussions can take part in the deliberations of the central conference. The employers claim that this takes the heat out of the dispute. Some unions disagree, and see no sense in a system whereby an employer and local union representative sit outside a conference chamber to be consulted by national officials bobbing in and out of the meeting.
The I.C.I. procedure involves national officials of either side in the second stage of the procedure —this is equivalent to the local or district conference under the Confederation system. Everyone involved in a dispute participates in the final conference.
One advantage is psychological. It is better for members to sec their national officials in action than to be told by the national officials that they have put up a good fight and lost. The new procedure also exposes weak or incompetent union negotiators.