Issue date
12 Mar 2001

'The Government found itself, within a year, under the necessity of asking the trade unions for the unprecedented sacrifice of the relinquishment, for the duration of the war, of the entire network of `Trade Union Conditions’ which had been slowly built up by generations of effort for the protection of the workman’s standard of life', wrote the Webbs.

'This enormous draft on the patriotism of the rank and file could only be secured by enlisting the support of the official representatives of the Trade Union world, by according to them a unique and unprecedented place as the diplomatic representatives of the wage earning class.

'In the famous Treasury Conference of February, 1915, the capitalist employers were ignored, and the principal Ministers of the Crown negotiated directly with the authorised representatives of the whole Trade Union World…'

The Treasury Agreement‑which provided for an undertaking by the unions not to strike while the war was still on, and which laid it down that unsettled disputes must be sent to arbitration was indeed a landmark. But the 'authorised representatives' (which included a representative of the TUC Parliamentary Committee) were not empowered to commit 'the whole Trade Union World'. In fact, the miners withdrew their representatives on the first day of that three day Treasury meeting with Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Walter Runciman, the President of the Board of Trade. And the Amalgamated Society of Engineers signed the agreement only after seeking, and receiving, separate reassurances that trade practices would be suspended only in firms concerned with war production, and that in those same firms excess profits would be limited.```

 

Contents    Next section...