By MICHAEL KILDARE
THE United States,
I besides giving a lead In the introduction of automation techniques, is also giving a lead In a study of Its social implications,
The Department of Labour in the U.S.A. has established an office of Automation and Manpower to examine the effects of automation and other technical changes upon the labour force.
This new department will develop programmes for the training and placement of workers displaced by new techniques, and will hold conferences with employers and unions affected by such changes with the object of helping to overcome any transitional difficulties.
Over the next few years technological changes should start making themselves felt in this country, not only in factories but also in offices and banks. There has been a considerable amount of talk on the subject but so far no direct action to prevent unnecessary hardship and suffering. Surely now is the time for us to take a leaf out of the Americans' book before it is too late?
FIT FOR WHAT? •
ACONFERENCE organised by Liverpool University and the British Council far the Rehabilitation of the Disabled, heard two speakers criticise doctors for not taking more trouble to establish exactly what kind of a job a disabled patient could do. The description "fit for light work " was of no help to managers and foremen, who were generally willing to help if they knew what they were helping with.
At the same conference Sir Alfred Roberts pointed out that British industry loses more days through industrial accidents and disease than through strikes. He also said that the growing rate of industrial accidents, particularly amongst younger workers, was causing much concern to the T.U.C. which had been urging the Minister of Labour to develop a much more active policy on the prevention of industrial accidents.
ASOUTHWARK County Court judge criticised the 'loose wording" of a union rule in a recent court case where a former member sued his union for the return of superaunuation contributions.
in his summing up the judge said: "I don't think this rule has been drawn up with the care which should be taken in drafting union rules. So many union rules are drawn up as loosely as this one".
It is a fact that many union rule books are ambiguous and often contradictory. It is only when they are in dispute or a court case develops that these discrepancies are brought to light.
Surely. it would be in the interests of individual trade unions to have legal advice on their rule books now rather than wait for a court case. Such a step would help to show the general public that union executives are anxious to show willingness in putting their house in order. After all the reputation of the whole labour movement has been badly damaged by the revelations in the E.T.U. court case, and they owe to the general public some acknowledgment of their willingness to put things right.
SOUNDING A CHORD
WORTH thinking about is the following sentence which appeared in the August issue of the "Times Industrial Review": "When it comes to applying morality, Christian or otherwise, to the practical problems of daily industrial life, the rank and file member of most unions seems to fall back more on the simple question of solidarity and is thus easy prey for anyone who sounds that chord".
FREEDOM CAN FALL
AN attempt by a local councillor in Wigan, who is a member of the E.T.U., to persuade his branch to pass a resolution seeking to ban Communists from holding office in the union defeated by a large m union defeated by a large m Many trade unionists are very much opposed to banning Communists from holding union office. Unfortunately no amount of exhortation appears to have the effect or increasing alertness and informed interest in union affairs. Thus ignorance of Communist techniques and widespread apathy enable Communists to capture control. If they are not to be banned and members remain apathetic how then can the unions maintain their democratic structure?
As far back as 1955 the T.U.C. said in a pamphlet "The T.U.C. and Communism": "If democrats are not determined to defend democracy at every point of attack, if they are apathetic. if they refuse or forget to vote, then freedom can fall , The T.U.C. General Council urge the mass of trade unionists to respond by asserting ever more strongly their determination to preserve their democratic freedom in the face of this threat from the Communist Party".
That was five years ago and the position is probably as serious as ever.