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with unemployment. Mr. A. Hopkinson, who moved the rejection of the Bill, claimed that the Government were adopting the policy of Labour of relieving suffering by borrowing. He declared that such a measure took money out of industry, and further increased unemployment. After a short discussion the debate was closured by 167 votes to 69, and the second reading was then agreed to.
The shipbuilding and engineering industries passed through a critical period during March. Workers in the shipyards and engineers in the shops both offered opposition to proposals from the Employers' Federation. As regards shipbuilding, the proposal was to withdraw, in two instalments, the bonus of 26s. 6d. a week. Conditions in the industry were so stagnant that shipbuilding firms were by no means certain that they could secure orders for new vessels even if the bonus was abolished, but the men strongly resented yielding up, one after another, the gains they had achieved in recent years. As regards the engineering industry, the question in dispute was chiefly concerned with the regulation of overtime. The employers insisted that they must have the initiative in deciding when overtime was necessary. The open difference between the two sides was not of essential importance, as there was already agreement on main principles, but the employers were determined to get free from any interference with managerial functions by representatives of the men.
On March 8 a conference was held between the Engineering and the National Employers' Federations and the Amalgamated Engineering Union, but after a prolonged sitting it broke down, and the hopes of agreement were disappointed. Fresh conferences, however, were held on March 10, but they failed to produce any solution to the deadlock, and on the 11th a lock-out began of members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union by firms belonging to the Engineering and National Employers' Federations. The union had a total membership exceeding 400,000, but of this a substantial proportion were already idle owing to trade depression. The shipbuilding unions, however, continued their conferences with the engineering employers. Eventually the latter suggested that these unions should be allowed fourteen days to ballot their members on the endorsement or otherwise of the memorandum of agreement on the employers' managerial control, which the Amalgamated Engineering Union had rejected. The employers stated that after March 25 lock-out notices would be given to the members of any unions which had not by that date accepted the proposal, and they declined to suspend the notices to the Amalgamated Engineering Union while the ballot of the other unions was being taken. After a long discussion the unions concerned decided to accept this offer of the employers.
On March 20 the matter was discussed in the House of Commons by the Minister of Labour, who urged all parties in the engineering dispute to get together again and see if they could not compose their differences. Mr. Clynes, who initiated the discussion of the lock-out, criticised the Government for not taking action. He complained that the Minister of Labour, whom he complimented on having been active, helpful, and impartial in bringing the parties together, had not had the courage to use the extraordinary means at his disposal. He asked for what purpose the Industrial Courts Act existed. Dr. Macnamara pointed out that he could not bring the machinery of the Act into operation while there were ballots proceeding, and emphasised the fact that the court which could be set up could only make recommendations and not issue an award. Sir Allan Smith, the chairman of the Engineering Employers' Federation, declared that if those who were balloting agreed to say that in principle the employers still had the right to manage their factories, the employers would be more than pleased to sit down in conference, while the men were at work, in order to try to come to an agreement with them as to the manner in which the managerial functions were going to operate. He disclaimed any intention on the part of employers of attacking Labour. There was no desire on their part to interfere with collective bargaining, but if they were attacked from the point of view of any communistic spirit, they were not going to tolerate it for one moment. Mr. Clynes and other Labour speakers accused the employers of seeking to take advantage of the weakness of the Trade Unions. Mr. J. C. Gould said that even if the lock-out had not occurred, the engineering trades were faced with practically a total cessation of work within the next six or nine months, and gave illustrations of the enormous increase in the cost of material.
On the following day a deputation from the Joint Labour Council met Sir Allan Smith, desiring a more explicit statement on the question of the employers' rights of management than that which he had made in the House of Commons. At length a basis was found for the renewal of the negotiations between the engineering employers and their men. The agreement admitted the right of employers to manage their own works, and the right of the unions to exercise proper Trade Union functions. The agreement was scarcely reached, however, before it broke down on the question of the reinstatement of members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union who were locked out. The representatives of the union insisted that these men should be given an opportunity of returning to work as a first condition of the renewal of discussions on the main question at issue in the dispute, but the employers refused to accede to the request that the lock-out notices should be withdrawn. The forty-seven unions outside the Amalgamated Engineering Union were thereupon faced with the position of a decisive adverse ballot against the employers' terms. The vote against acceptance was 164,759, and in favour of acceptance was 49,503, giving a majority of 115,256 against acceptance. On March 28 the employers decided to post lock-out notices to the members of these forty-seven unions. The notices were due to take effect on April 6. At the end of March the numerous conferences which had endeavoured to find a settlement had all failed, and a complete deadlock existed in the engineering industry.
END OF THE ENGINEERING LOCK-OUT.
At the beginning of April the outlook in the engineering and shipbuilding disputes was very dark. On the 4th the result of the ballot of shipyard workers was announced, and the proposed reductions of the war bonus were rejected by 37,026 votes against 26,451 votes. It was noticeable that not more than one-third of the members of the unions recorded their votes. As regards the engineering dispute, a difference of opinion arose between the Amalgamated Engineering Union and three important groups represented by the Federation of Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades, the Federation of General Workers, and the National Union of Foundrymen. The latter groups, comprising forty-seven unions, accepted proposals made to them by the Prime Minister for a resumption of negotiations with their employers, and the lock-out notices which affected the members of these unions were suspended. The Amalgamated Engineering Union, on the other hand, maintained its determination to stand aloof. The unions outside the Amalgamated Engineering Union formed a joint Negotiating Committee, which then carried on negotiations for several days with the employers. On the 14th, however, these negotiations broke down on the fundamental issue of managerial rights, and the claim of the unions to prior notice and consultation in the event of material changes being introduced in workshop conditions. The main point of controversy was the question as to whether the management or the unions should have the right of deciding what were material changes. A week later, as a result of the mediation of the National Joint Labour Council, a conference was held between representatives of the Engineering Employers' Federation and of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, but hopes of progress towards a settlement were disappointed. In the case of the other unions, it became clear that no agreement could be reached, and the lock-out notices, which had been suspended, were again renewed. This lock-out threatened to affect about 1,000,000 men in addition to those already unemployed through the lock-out of the Amalgamated Engineering Union.
Whereas at the end of April the engineering dispute was thus more threatening than it had been at the beginning of the month, a move towards peace was made in the shipbuilding trade by a conference of the Executives of the unions concerned, which decided to recommend their members to agree to an immediate wage reduction of 10s. 6d. a week, to be followed by a further reduction of 6s, in two instalments of 3s. each, to take effect on May 17 and June 7. It was agreed that these terms should be submitted to a ballot, the result of which should be declared early in the month of May. 1 As regards Ireland, the agreement reached at the end of March between the representatives of the Dublin and Belfast Governments was welcomed by men of all creeds and classes except extremists. The royal assent was given, on the last day of March, to the Irish Free State Bill, but the hopes that were now entertained of peace in Ireland were destined to be quickly disappointed. At the beginning of April Belfast experienced another week-end of murder. A Protestant policeman was shot dead in the street, and afterwards four men, all Roman Catholics, were killed and three children wounded. On the 2nd the rebel section of the Irish Republican Army held a big parade in Dublin. It soon became clear that the Republican Party were endeavouring to prevent the Free State from coming into existence, and speeches were made by persons who claimed to represent a majority of the Irish Republican Army virtually declaring war on the Free State. In County Mayo Mr. Michael Collins was prevented from speaking, and his meeting was “proclaimed ” by disaffected members of the Republican Party. At Dundalk Mr. de Valera denied the existence alike of the Provisional Government and of the Northern Government, and ridiculed the London agreement. Acts of violence and lawlessness continued to be reported from many different parts of Ireland, and the authority of the Southern Government began to wane under the vigorous challenge of the Republican extremists. On April 6 five disbanded policemen were shot dead in Clare and Kerry. On the same day Ulster police suffered four casualties in a border ambush, and the trade boycott of Belfast, carried on by the rebels, was enforced by the burning of goods seized from trains. On the 10th special police discovered a land mine buried in a road in County Armagh.
Further efforts to secure peace were now instituted by a conference between Mr. Michael Collins and Mr. Arthur Griffith on behalf of the Southern Provisional Government, and Mr. de Valera and Mr. Cathal Brugha, representing the section of Sinn Fein which was opposed to the Treaty. The conference was arranged for April 14, and after a discussion of three hours adjourned until the 18th without reaching any agreement. Meanwhile religious war continued to be carried on in the North. In Belfast on April 13 sniping took place between Catholics and Protestants, and police were fired at from the housetops. In Dublin a raid was made by a large force of armed men on the Four Courts, the Law Courts of Dublin, which was captured and successfully held by the insurgents. Shortly afterwards Kilmainham Gaol, famous in the history of Irish nationalism, was seized by the irregular troops. An attempt was made to prevent Mr. Griffith, President of Dail Eireann, from carrying out his intention to make a speech at Sligo on April 16. He was warned by the Mayor of that town that all public meetings had been “proclaimed.” He replied that the Dail had not authorised any interference with the rights of public meeting and free speech, and in defiance of the proclamation he succeeded in addressing a crowd without interruption, though guarded by armoured cars and Free State troops. On the 16th Mr. Collins was attacked by armed men in Dublin, but escaped injury. He returned the fire of the attackers and captured and disarmed one of them, on whom a live bomb was afterwards found. Other disturbing events of the middle of April included a midnight attack on the barracks in Dublin where the Free State Army had their headquarters. The sniping, which continued in Belfast, necessitated the use of machine guns by the police, but there was no further sign of trouble on the Ulster border.
The Peace Conference, which had arranged to resume on April 18, postponed its meeting till the following day: after sitting for about an hour and a half it again adjourned without reaching any agreement. The campaign of violent interference with free speech continued unabated. Mr. Michael Collins, head of the Provisional Government, was prevented by armed men from speaking in the Market Place at Killarney on April 22, though he succeeded in making two speeches elsewhere in the town. On the 23rd Mr. Collins went to Tralee, but the train in which he travelled was stopped by the line having been torn up in several places. Mr. Collins, however, succeeded in reaching Tralee by road, and addressed a large meeting without disturbance. On April 24 a strike, called by the Irish Labour Party as a protest against militarism, took place in the twentysix counties of the Irish Free State. There was a general cessation of labour, no trains or tramcars being run; postal services were suspended, and all places of entertainment were closed. On that day Brigadier-General Adamson, of the Irish Free State Army, was mortally wounded while holding up his hands in response to a challenge in the streets of Athlone. In County Clare a retired sergeant of the Royal Irish Constabulary was murdered. On the 26th rifle and revolver firing took place at Dunmanway, in West Cork, and three prominent citizens were shot dead in their homes. A land mine was also discovered on a road near Newry. A number of further shootings were reported from West Cork on April 28. Armed men visited the homes of various people in the dead of night and shot them. Meanwhile the situation became further complicated by an