Continued from page 1 Rovers. and the National Union of Vehicle Builders.
Efforts towards the end of 1957 and in 1958 focused on the B.M.C. plants. Several unofficial stoppages over closed shop j551.1faS took place in Oxford, one of the points specifically pinpointed by the Communist Party. May saw the Pressed Steel strike which so hit the supply of car bodies that 7,000 workers were laid off at other factories and 20,000 put on short time.
B.M.C.. Rootes and Jaguars were badly hit precisely at a time when _they were exporting record quantities of cars,
This year, shop stewards from the motor industry in Britain attended the International Liaison Committee's meeting at Milan, which produced a directive now appearing in the June issue of "World Trade Union Movement" in the form of an article by Giacomo Adduci, who, two years ago, visited Britain secretly to meet Communist union officials and extremist shop stewards.
The directive includes demands for more wages; shorter hours; the introduction of the 40-hour, 5-day week throughout Europe; the "stopping of dismissals and the effective guarantee of wages in all circumstances"; slower speeds of work; an increase of the number of workers on conveyor belt production and in the departments.
It urges wider and more united efforts in the monopoly factories and promises WFTU support for this struggle by the automobile workers".
So much for the Economic League's report. Meanwhile, Fords at Dagenham have suffered 47 strikes this year, and only three days out of the past 11 weeks have been wholly free of stoppages. The American company is boosting the German Ford, while English models are piling up.
With the implications of the Common Market upon us, employers are seeing the red lightand are beginning to get tough. The recent strike for 9d. an hour at Pressed Steel ended with the strikers being sacked, and many of those who were allowed back later were compelled at first lo accept 2d. an hour less than they were earning before.
Last week's unofficial strike at Dagenham broke out over a claim for a wage increase plus a guaranteed working week for three months. The claim was not unjust; Fords are the lowest paying car menu fact u rers and they made an £18 million profit last year.
But the management was able to say in effect: "Put an end to these stoppages and we'll consider the wage claim in September. And we'll guarantee you a working week if you'll guarantee us one."
Mary of the more responsible trade unionists see a variety of causes, over and above Communist activity, for the general weakening of official union leadership in British industry. and they are renewing their search for a formula to infuse new purposes and energies into the constituent unions and into the T.U.C.
The trade union requires not more surgery but rebirth. Here is one suggestion:
For years we have all been talking about co-partnership and shareholding for the workers. Few of them are genuinely interested: the whole concept seems too remote and involves complications they are not trained to cope with. But it would be otherwise if the trade unions were to acquire blocks of shares.in the employing companies and hold them in trust for their rank and file members.
Whether shares were bought on the open market or by virtue of legal compulsion on companies to issue certain quantities of stocks and shares to the unions, the effect would be that the workers, through their unions, would not only receive an enhanced income but would also acquire a genuine, practical share of control in industry.
Realising that their unions were the natural link between themselves and their new found property-owning status. conscious too of the new specialist, professional and expert character that would be forced on the unions' H.Q. staffs by such developments, the workers would rediscover their unions as the natural focal point for their loyalty.
A variation on the purchase of stocks and shares would be for the unions to collect compulsory savings from their members, build them up into Unit Trust Funds. and operate a system whereby the member can refrain from drawing his dividends and simply leave them to pile up into a more dignified and richer alternative to Welfare State security.