Volume Two 1932 - 1945
From Marginalisation To Government
Militancy undermined by class partnership, sees employers adopt Charles Bedaux’s system of labour time study, mediated by flawed rating `guesstimates’. Bargaining becomes dominated by negotiations over cuts in pay.
As ‘distressed areas’ face decline, newer consumer industries emerge, attracting middle classes with significant disposable incomes. The luxury end being the purchase of elegant high-performing motor cars. One car owned for every 24 people compared to today’s standards of one car between every two people. Lucas Industries joins a plethora of household names reliant on the labour of doubly exploited women and youth, increasingly preferred over unemployed men.
The Labour prime minister splits his cabinet in 1931 to form a National Government, mainly based on Tories and Liberals. Labour Party is reduced to a mere 46 MPs.
Spontaneous reactions against Bedaux break out in a swathe from the Great West Road to Bristol Docks, up through the South East Midlands to the West Midlands along the A5 trunk road.
Mass resistance from women, young people, and the unskilled matches a fighting mood amongst the unemployed who are organised outside of trade unions. Skilled engineering workers have dropped by half since 1914, from 60% to 32% by 1933.
Trade unions formally collaborate with employers over Bedaux and other techniques. Many, encouraged by the Communist Party, fiercely oppose the employers’ approach.
A tight labour market sees workers extracting what they can. Even those victimised after 1926, get jobs. A fusion of competitive bargaining over payment by results systems and cynical appraisals of management techniques results in strong union workplaces not reliant on professional officials.
The phoney war is unpopular and suspicion about profiteering is rife. A new-found strength comes to dominate the wold of work. Women are a strong part of this until, in a reprise of events in 1918, they are sent back to the home, dampening rising demands for equal pay for another generation.