The Cautious Revolution: Britain Today and Tomorrow

By Ernest Watkins | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
Trade Unions and Trade Unionists

So far, we have dealt with problems that are primarily problems of management. Not that I think these problems are only the concern of management; on the contrary, management has a greater chance of finding answers if it can enlist the co-operation of everyone with ideas and an interest in their solution. But it is the responsibility of management to make the decisions, and give the orders. Prior consultation, prior explanation, may make it easier to give the right orders, may make it easier to get co-operation in having the orders carried out. They do not alter the essential fact that at some stage, some one person or group of persons must accept responsibility for a course of action and must thereafter see that it is followed. There is a boundary between direction and operation, and no organization has yet escaped this fact.

But what of the situation on the other side of the fence, among those who have to do what they are told if production is to be maintained? If production is less than it might be, how much is their fault? Is labor, as it is called, interested co-operatively? Is it submissive and passive, or is it obstructive and arrogant? Here, right away we are mixed up with the trade unions, for trade unions are, more rightly than wrongly, looked upon as the outward manifestation of the whole world of labor. Do the trade unions as organizations, and trade-union leaders as individuals pull their weight, or is it true that they are restrictionist in outlook, afraid of high output, afraid to make capitalism work well because they have a vested interest in trouble?

I would say this, after many talks with people in industry, at all levels. There is, in Britain, enough evidence now to convince anyone that a real and a positive trend towards co-operation in industry exists. And by co-operation, I mean a realization that output

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