Posts Tagged ‘J.H. Whitley’

1916 Whitley Committee on Involving Unions in Industrial Management

May 21, 2016

Introduction Unions Pic

Hooberman in ‘An Introduction to British Trade Unions’ also discusses the 1916 Commission on the Relations between Employers and Employed, chaired by J.H. Whitley, which recommended that a system of industrial councils be set up, which brought representatives of management together with those of the employees, and that their should also be similar committees set up in the individual workplaces, as well as a special court to arbitrate labour disputes. Justifying these joint industrial councils, the Commission’s report stated:

… a permanent improvement in the relations between employers and employed must be founded upon something other than a cash basis. What is wanted is that the work people should have a greater opportunity to participating in the discussion about and adjustment of those parts of industry by which they are most affected… We venture to hope that representative men in each industry, with pride in their calling and care for its place as a contributor to the national well-being, will come together in the manner here suggested, and apply themselves to promoting industrial harmony and efficiency and removing the obstacles that have hitherto stood in the way. (P. 63).

In fact, with the exception of the civil service, these proposals did not long outlive the First World War. The unions for their part resented the limitations they placed on collective bargaining. There were attempts to revive the system in 1970s with the NEDCs, but these also failed through the failure of the unions to abide by the demands for pay restraint. This was a major factor in the Winter of Discontent, and the rise of Thatcher, although some historians have said that the blame here does not lie with the unions, who were being asked to fulfil a function which was not theirs, and which was too much of them.

The Tories have since then done their best to curb union membership and the power of the trade unions. Nevertheless, the arguments for workers participation in management is a good one.