e COLUMN eves.. Sharing the Profitssm-vwxlm AITHEN the Conservative Party meets in conference in Bournemouth next month it is likely that there will be much talk of the party's support for profit-sharing schemes as a step towards a property-owning democracy.
Profit-sharing and co-partnership make a strong appeal to most Catholic social thinkers even though the best way to apply them is often not very clear.
It will be remembered that when the present Government was elected, a great deal was said and written about the official encouragement which would be given by Conservatives to such schemes. But what has the Government done?
I put this question to Mr. Ernest Marries. Conservative M.P. and former Minister who for years has campaigned within his party for the acceptance of profit-sharing as official Conservative policy.
He was, I knew, associated at one time with a group who were actually considering drawing up draft legislation, which would give preferential tax treatment to those firms who went in for profitsharing.
The group's idea at that time (it was when Labour was still in power) was that if and when a Conservative Government was sent hack to Westminster, a draft Bill would be already available for its use.
When I reminded him of this the. other day Mr. Marples told me that it is not, so far as he knows, the Government's intentionto introduce any such new legislation. But official, Government-authorised encouragement is none the less already being given to those who are interested.
Encouragement THE aim is to use encourage ment rather than legislation. The Inland Revenue authorities have been instructed to give every assistance to those who are considering introducing profit-sharing and co-partnership schemes, and in effect. they do receive preferential treatment. This is contrary to normal official practice.
If you go to your tax ofresed when you are considering, for example, some new life insurance, and ask him what relief will result from taking out a particular policy, he will tell you (unless he happens to he a personal friend—and who among us is in a position to cultivate such valuable friendships?) that it is up to you to go ahead if you wish. But he must only come into the picture when he next assesses your tax liability—after you have already committed yourself.
But if an employer goes to his tax collector and tells him that he is considering introducing a profitsharing scheme he will get the official's co-operation from the start.
In other words the man who normally wields the tax bludgeon with ruthless pleasure will sit down and discuss with the lucky man the various sorts of schemes now in operation and which of them will bring the greatest tax relief to him.
As a consequence the number of firms now operating profit-sharing schemes is now steadily mounting. They are, incidentally, of sufficient numbers for the Amalgamated Engineering Union to be now carrying out an enquiry to discover how many there are and what forms they take. Human relations 01vIE employers who now back such schemes are no doubt prompted to take up profit-sharing by no higher motive than to put a bit more cash into their own pockets by means of tax concessions and the proceeds of increased production by the workers.
The interest of others flows from a conviction that human relations are of primary importance in any enterprise and that everyone benefits when the worker feels that he has an interest in the concern by which he is employed.
In most cases the profits shared are of little real. economic significance, in the sense that they will usually amount, when they are spread among so many, to less than would a good sized weekly wage increase, But the economic aspect of profit-sharing has never been the main one. Much more significant is the psychological factor.
But this in time does have its eeonornic consequences. Workers who have a stake in the firm by whom they are employed work with a better spirit and have a more direct interest in both industrial peace and increased production than they had before.
Thus the firm which operates a genuine profit-sharing scheme of a type which " brings the worker in on the ground floor" should, in lilac, be in a better position to pay its workers well than is one where human relations are had and where the workers are motivated by nothing higher than a desire to do as little as possible for as much money as they can get.
It is not an argument against profit-sharing that it happens to be good business for all concerned. On the other hand, if the purpose behind it is a purely materialistic one it can, of course, lead to a growth among the workers of precisely that type of profiehungry materialism of which they have so often accused the employers.
In other words, it is likely best to achieve its purpose when the inspiration for it comes from Christians.
R. REG. BIRCH, a well. known Conummist, has been re-elected president of the London (North) district corn mnagtieneee nf g Union.th Amalgamated E The cemmittee is responsible for A.E.U. members throughout London north of the Thames. This includes the important factory area of North West London where the Communist Party is currently making a new drive to strengthen its position among engineering workers.
Mr. Birch. who is a shop steward at a De Havilland aircraft factory, was returned unopposed. In other words, from among all the tens of thousands of non-Communist engineers in the district there was not one who was prepared to come forward and accept the challenge or who had become sufficiently well known as a workshop leader in make it worth his while to do so.
Next to come up for re-election will be Mr. Claud Berridge, fulltime secretary of the same committee. Mr. Berridge is also a wellknown Communist. He is, in fact, one of the party's most experienced and important industrial contacts.
1 wonder, will he too be unopposed?