War Situation.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 25th February 1942.

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Photo of Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence , Edinburgh East

And in the coal mines, of course. Members in all parts of the House have drawn attention to the waste of man-power that is going on. It is well-known to many of us that considerable friction prevails because of the refusal of managers to take the workers into their confidence in many respects. When I was a young man, if an employer had rebuked an employee and the latter began his reply by saying, "I thought, sir—" the employer would cut him short by saying, "I do not pay you to think." Probably those words are much more rarely used to-day than they were 30 or 40 years ago, but their spirit frequently remains. I will give an illustration. A few days ago a worker in a firm which has a large piece of national work to do came to see me. This establishment is not a factory, but it employs a large number of workers, mostly what are called black-coated workers. They had come to the conclusion that the work they were doing could be done more economically, both in time and output, if, sometimes, representatives of those who were employed had a chance of presenting certain matters to the management. They were received, it is true, but they were given to understand that it was not their business and that they had much better leave what was the management's affair to the management and, if they had individual grievances to represent, to do so individually.

That is typical of the state of mind that prevails in certain sections of employment and it is that kind of thing that has to be got rid of. We all know that works cannot be run by committees, but we recognise that intelligent men and women at work very often have valuable suggestions to make for more economic management and for better work, and to neglect, them and treat them as underlings who are not paid to think, is the worst way to get on with the nation's business. I had another illustration brought to my attention a few days ago in the city that I represent. There was a very sudden demand in a certain works for the immediate production of certain machinery. The men had counted on going home to dinner, but they were told they could not possibly do so, and that they would have to remain on at work until nine at night. They said if they could not go home they thought the management ought to stand them a tea. It was not a very unreasonable request and any sensible management would have been only too glad to get their co-operation at so small an outlay. What happened in fact was that the head manager was telephoned for and, in order to enforce his point, he collected members of the police force on his way, had as big a row as he could and finally forced the workpeople into submission. I do not suggest that that is typical of what is going on in the country. [Interruption.] I am raising it, because individual cases of that kind continue to exist.