The politics of the railway unions have to be situated within the industry’s system of collective bargaining. This had grown out of an occupational culture characterised by discipline and paternalism, and with workers often circumscribed by the parochialisms of company identity and grade priorities. Management antipathy to union recognition harmonised with this culture; their opposition was fuelled also by a concern that recognition would promote increased labour costs at a time when improved facilities, technical innovations and tighter safety requirements demanded expensive outlays. Yet recognition came incrementally. If the First World War provided the occasion for the final step, the process had begun much earlier. The North Eastern might have been derided by its peers, but its overall performance demonstrated that recognition was not o f itself a prelude to disaster. Elsewhere, investigations into accidents often permitted rule-governed debate between managers and union officials. The 1907 Conciliation Scheme 3
introduced the prospect of arbitration as a general principle, and union officials served as advocates before arbitrators. The union assessment that Conciliation would be a prelude to recognition proved more accurate than the company hope that it would be an alternative. Objections to recognition were diluted in a context of union growth, government interest and perhaps a concern that the prohibition seemed unreasonable to a broader public opinion. Younger modernising managers became more influential. Their concern with discipline co-habited with a gradual acknowledgement that a predictable environment for their business decisions required ordered industrial relations. In that task, recognition and formal bargaining arrangements could be a resource rather than an obstacle.