chapter  XIII
11 Pages

The Labour Movement

There 'are two ways by which advocates of trade unionism have sometirnes sought to extricate themselves from this dilemma. One is the assertion that trade unionism and the higher wages and other more expensive conditions it extorts so increase the efficiency of labour as to furnish an extra-product. In other words, the trade union helps to induce employers to adopt the enlightened economy of high wages. But we h.ave already seen that this doctrine cannot be promiscuously applied, so as to support the view that every improvement in pay and other conditions of labour will be attended by a corresponding rise.in efficiency and output. Even in public elnployments, where the full efficiency of the worker and his family falls within the business outlook, some limits are prescribed by considerations of the public purse and the class standard of comfort. In private competitive industry closer limits must be assigned to the practice of the economy of high wages. It is not to be argued seriously that trade unionism is merely engaged in levelling up the efficiency of labour, and in taking, by higher wages, shorter hours and other improvements of working lifet the product of this higher level of efficiency. The enemies of trade unionism indeed contend that by restricting employers in selection of operatives, number of apprentices, the introduction and working of machinery, and in particular by agreements to Unlit the output of labour-power, the trade union makes not for enhanced but for reduced efficiency. But \vhile the exact measure of truth contained in this view need not be discussed here, it may, I think, be confidently asserted that neither the theory nor the practice of trade unionism can be or is in fact defensible as a policy merely based on the application of the economy of high wages, or any other doctrine which itnplies that the gain a trade union can secure for its members is measured by and is continge~t upon the increased productivity of the labour-power which they give out.