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STRIKES AND

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V25, Page 1025 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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STRIKES AND LOCK-OUTS. A strike, in the labour sense, is a stoppage of work by common agreement on the part of a body of work-people for the purpose of obtaining or resisting a change in the conditions of employment. The body of work-people may be large or small, and the cessation of work may be simultaneous or gradual; e.g. if the notices to cease work happen to expire at different dates, the cessation may nevertheless be a strike, provided it takes place as the result of a common agreement. It will be seen from the above definition that a strike, though the immediate result of an agreement, formal or tacit, on the part of work-people to withhold their labour, may originate in a demand on the part of the employer as well as on the part of the employes. In the former case the stoppage is often (though loosely) termed a " lock-out." It is obvious, however, that to distinguish stoppages as strikes or lock-outs according to the source of the original demand for a change of conditions would lead to a very arbitrary and misleading classification. Frequently it is not easy to say which side made the original demand to which the dispute is to be attributed, and frequently a stoppage is the result of a break-down of negotiations in the course of which demands have been made by both sides. Moreover, in so far as the distinction can be drawn, it would lead to the result that in almost all cases a dispute in times of improving trade would be termed a strike, and in times of declining trade a lock-out. It is not possible to frame an entirely satisfactory definition of a lock-out which shall enable it always to be discriminated from a strike. It may be noticed that the attempt to make this distinction has been abandoned in the board of trade statistics since 1894, both kinds of stoppages being now included under the comprehensive title of " trade disputes." The only basis of distinction between a " strike " and a " lock-out," which is sufficiently definite for precise or statistical purposes, is the source from which the actual notice to cease work emanates, cessations resulting from notices given by the employers being termed " lock-outs," while. those which either result from notices given by the men, or from their withdrawal from work without notice, would be termed " strikes." But whether the term " lock-out " be restricted as above, or applied, as in the popular use of the term, to any dispute in which the employers appear to be the aggressors, the distinction does not afford a sound basis for the statistical classification of disputes. The source of the actual notices to leave work is often quite an unimportant matter; while, on the other hand, if the ordinary current use of the terms be followed, there will be many disputes which, according to the workmen's view, should be termed lock-outs, and, according to the employers, should be termed strikes-a difficulty which was well illustrated in the controversy as to whether the " strike clauses " in admiralty contracts could be invoked in the case of work stopped through the engineering dispute of 1897. In the present article, therefore, no distinction is drawn for statistical purposes between a strike and a lock-out. Another distinction, perhaps of greater importance than the above, but which in practice it is sometimes difficult to draw, is between a stoppage in pursuance of a trade dispute and a stoppage due to a bona-fide dismissal or change of employment arising from the intention of an employer to cease to employ a particular set of men, or of a group of workmen to cease to work for a particular employer. Generally speaking, a stopp,.ge may rightly be termed a trade dispute if there be anintention on the part of both parties (at least at the beginning) to resume the relations of employer and employed on the satisfaction of certain specified conditions. Where the willingness to resume this relation exists on one side only the question is more difficult, and accordingly it is not uncommon for an employer to deny the existence of a trade dispute, although the men formerly in his employ may be actually drawing " strike pay " from their unions and " picketing" his works to prevent their places being filled. Such cases sometimes arise when the workmen consider that the dismissal of some of their colleagues is due not to personal faults or slackness of employment, but to some collective action which they have taken, or to their membership of some organization. Broadly speaking, however, the distinction is that a trade dispute is a temporary stoppage entered into to obtain or to resist a change of conditions of employment. The essence of a strike or lock-out is a refusal on the part of a number of workmen collectively or of an employer to renew contracts of employment except on certain changed conditions. This simple situation may be complicated by actual breaches of contract, as when a body of work-people leave work without notice, or by attempts on their part to prevent other persons from entering into contracts of service, or to persuade other persons to terminate or break their contracts. But such features as these, though common to many strikes, are not essential. The question of the legal position of strikes, and of the methods adopted for the conduct of strikes, is discussed below. Here it is only necessary to point out that strikes, as such, are incidents arising out of the modern relationship of free contract as between employers and workmen, and have little real analogy with the revolts of servile or semi-servile labour in ancient or medieval times. Trade Disputes in the United Kingdom. Since 1888 the board of trade have kept a record of strikes and lock-outs in the United Kingdom. The following table, based on the official returns published by that department, shows the number and importance of these stoppages in the United Kingdom from 1893 to 1907:- Year. Number Number of Work-people affected. Aggregate of Dis- Duration in putes. Directly. Indirectly. Total. Working Days. 1893 615 594,149 40,152 634,301 30,467, 765 1894 929 257,314 67,934 325,248 9,529,010 1895 745 207,239 55,884 263,123 5,724,670 1896 926 147,950 50,240 198,190 3,746,368 1897 864 167,453 62,814 230,267 10,345,523 1898 711 200,769 53,138 253,907 15,289,478 1899 719 138,058 42,159 180,217 2,516,416 1900 648 135,145 53,393 188,538 3,152,694 1901 642 111, 437 68,109 179, 546 4,142, 287 1902 442 116,824 139,843 256,667 3,479,255 1903 387 93,515 23,386 116,901 2,338,668 1904 355 56,38o 30,828 87,208 1,484,220 1905 358 67,653 25,850 93,503 2,470,189 1906 486 157,872 59,901 217,773 3,028,816 1907 6o1 100,728 46,770 147,498 2,162,151 It should be noted that by " indirectly affected " are meant the work-people employed in the same establishments as those on strike, who are thrown out of employment owing to the strike, but are not themselves engaged in it. The board of trade statistics do not take into account the persons employed in kindred trades who are indirectly affected. An important thing to note about the above statistics is that in many years they are dominated by a few large disputes. Some of the larger cases are shown on the following page. In 1907 487 of the recorded disputes (or about four-fifths of the whole number) accounted for less than one-third of the total time lost, and this, it is to be remembered, is after the very small disputes have been excluded. By " aggregate duration " or " time lost " is meant the product of the number affected multiplied by the duration of the dispute in working days, with some allowance for those who have found work elsewhere or been replaced by others. Though this figure is the best general index of the importance of the disputes of each year, it is but a rough approximation to the time actually lost through disputes. when there is most room for bona-fide disagreement as to the conditions of the labour market. These are undoubtedly the most critical times in the relations of employers and employed, but the disturbing influence of accidental causes is too great Principal Disputes of the Year. All other Disputes. Year. Trade and Locality. Number of Aggregate Number Number of Aggregate Work-people Duration in of Work-people Duration in affected. Working Days. Disputes. affected. Working Days. Coal Miners (Federated Districts) 300,000 21,137,000 . 1893 ) Coal Miners (South Wales and Monmouth) 90,000 1,500,s30 613 244,301 7,830,765 1894 Coal Miners (Scotland) 70,000 5,600,000 928 255,248 3,929,010 1895 Boot and Shoe Operatives . . 46,000 1,564,000 744 217,123 4,160,670 1897 Engineers, Machinemen and others. 47 5~ ( 5,731,000 863 182,767 4,614,523 1898 Engineers, Machinemen and others—continued x00,000 1,118,000 710 153,907 2,521,478 Coal Miners (South Wales and Monmouth) . 11,650,000 S For example, if a strike causes a postponement or accumulation of work, the extra demand for labour, and the overtime worked after its conclusion, may partially compensate for the stoppage. On the other hand, if a dispute should drive away trade or cause the closing of works, it may lessen the field of employment for a long period after its termination, and such lost time cannot be taken into account in the estimates of "aggregate duration." For these reasons all estimates of wages lost through disputes are somewhat fallacious. The real importance of strikes lies less in the value of the actual time consumed by their duration, than in their indirect effects on the organization and effectiveness of the industry, and on the relations of employer to employed, and also in their reaction on the conditions of allied trades. The comparative insignificance of the actual loss to production owing to the mere loss of time caused by strikes will be seen from the fact that the total duration of strikes during the seven years 1901–1907, if spread over the entire adult male working population, would be equivalent to less than the loss of one-third of a day per head per annum. As a matter of fact, however, the loss owing to strikes is very unequally distributed over the industrial population. In large groups of industries, e.g. agriculture, strikes are of rare occurrence. In others, such as the building trades, they are frequent, but mostly small and local; while in mining they are not only frequent and often prolonged, but in many cases they involve large numbers of persons and extend over wide areas. Thus on an average of the seven years 1901–1907 there were 43 disputes annually in the building trades, and 133 in mining and quarrying, but the latter disputes have involved nearly seven-teen times as many persons and had an aggregate duration nearly six times as great. Intermediate between these groups of trades is the metal, engineering and shipbuilding group, in which, more perhaps than in any other group, the importance of disputes varies according to the state of trade. The principal facts relating to the distribution of trade disputes among the more important groups of trades are given in the above table for the mean of the seven years 1901–1907. It would be natural to expect that trade disputes would be most prevalent at or just after a turn in the tide of employment,
End of Article: STRIKES AND
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