A WORD TO THE WORKERS.
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The Facts and Why They Must Be Squarely Faced.
IVERY MUCH dislike assuming the role of a Job's comforter, but there are times when it is iieceSsary to face a serious situation and not to attempt to gloss it over by talking generalities abciut the certainty of a boom in trade and the universal prosperity that is to follow upon military victory. I do not know exactly how many men are employed in connection with the British motor industry. I will not attempt to estimate, because there are so many businesses not exactly forming part of the industry, but wholly or partially connected with it as suppliers of raw material, components, and so on. There are, Moreover, many seeders, of this paper who are, directly or indirectly, depencteet, upon the motor industry for their livelihood, inasmuch as their work is connected with the operation of motor vehicles.
I suppose that no one will seriously disagree with the statement that, if the British motor industry were to be killed or maimed, the consequence would be unemployment on 'a somewhat large scale and. its effects would be felt not only in the works of the motor manufacturers. Now, what is the position of the industry at the present day? It has, as a direct consequence of the war, lost almost the whole of its goodwill overseas. and a considerable proportion of its goodwill at
• home. A great part of the work that it did before the war consisted in the creation of goodwill. When the maker of a particular type of vehicle gets the goodwill of some particular district he has created for himself a very valuable assetSo long as his vehicles perform well, sales in that district are far easier to effect there than elsewhere, for the reason that people locally are familiar with this particular Vehicle and its
Now, suppose that the manufacturer, having worked hard to establish himself in this market, is prohibited from supplying it for five years,. What is the consequence? Obviously many of his vehicles will drop out of service and will be replaced by vehicles of other makes. This is specially liable to happen if, during the five years, he is not only unable to supply new vehicles but cannot assist effectually in maintaining the old-ones. When he comes back tothe market, he B21-4
finds competithrs well established. His name no *Imager carries the weight that it did. He has been away so long that people have forgotten him. He is, in fact, hit in much the same way, as was the proprietor of a one-man business, obliged to join the Army while his more fortunate competitors were able to carry on. at home.
Now, this has happened to every British motor manufacturer in every market in which he was previously known, Perhaps,. the commercial vehicle manufacturer may be singled out as having been particularly hard hit. We all know that, when a trading concern buys a vehicle which gives reasonable satisfaction, the whole tendency is to place subsequent orders with the same manufacturer. To secure these orders he need not show superiority, but onljea,pproximate equality, because there is a proper bias in favour of simplifying maintenance Of a fleet by seeing that that fleet is composed solely of vehicles of one make. At the beginning of the war, thousands of Britishbuilt commercial vehicles were commandeered. Their former owners were obliged to fill their places as best they could. In some cases, the substitutes were failures. In others they were at least fairly successful. In any of the latter eases, the trader is very reluctant to go back to the make he used before the war unless it can show vast superiority. Slight superiority is insufficient to balance the trouble micasioned in the maintenance of a mixed fleet. The sale of the first commercial vehicle to the new client is often a troublesome and difficult business, and for that reason not particularly remunerative. Once that sale has been effected, if the vehicle does well, many subsequent sales may follow of their own accord. Consequently, the removal of one British vehicle and its forced substitution by one of foreign make may amount to a, very serious loss of goodwill and the subsequent transfer of a large number of orders to the foreigner, merely on the grounds that his machine is nearly, if not quite, as good as the British one. I will not bore my readers any longer with this discussion on the loss of goodwill. I think they must all agree with me that the thing has 'happened: that it
has happened through no fault.of the British .mannfacturer and that it will be a big and costly business to get 1;ack what has, to all intents and purposes, not merely been presented to the country but actually handed Over to the competitor from abroad.
Now we can-only get back goodwill be giving eytremely good value as compared with our competitors and. by giving, also, satisfaction in such respects as promptness, of delivery and attention in the form of service after the vehicle has been placed. At the present moment, manufacturers are struggling to recover their lost goodwill. They are, undoubtedly, handicapped by the rather casual and lethargic attitude of a large proportion of. the workers. In many cases they have hoped and almost promiSed to effect deliveries on certain dates and have found it impossible to do so, simply because those concerned in the manufacture have not seen fit to hurry, feeling perhaps that. they deserved a comparative rest altar the ' strain of the war period.
Meanwhile, of course, the cost of production has gone up considerably on account of the general increase in the rates of wages. The payment of high wages is only possible if the output of the individual worker is also high, or, alternatively, if the market in which the product is sold is closed to the products of competitors from outside. This latter policy can be adopted in an emergency, but is not sound as a per manency. A country which applie i s. it wholesale s in the position of the proverbial community the members of which lived by taking in one another's washing.
Special meashres, even if they would not be sound at all times, may, however, be perfectly justified for meeting, special emergencies Under present circumstances and until things have settled down on to a far more normal basis, the British manufacturer feels certain that he cannot hold his own unless he has-the advantage that can be afforded by preferential treatment in certain markets. He is convinced that, unless he gets some such advantage in return-for the sacrifice to which he has submitted, he cannot climb again into the position that he would have naturally occupied at the present moment, had he not been obliged to devote himself so long to war work. If he cannot sell his goods he cannot go on paying-people to make them, Neither can he pay such rates that he is obliged to sell at a loss. Any individual or nation attempting to do this is on the high road to bank
ruptcy. Unquestionably, the best possible way of pulling British industry together would be found in unreserved collaboration of employers and employed, all equally determined to do their best, and, so, to increase their value and prosperity. If we could im
mediately reach this ideal of collaboration, then possibly we might do without. even temporary safeguards of a more or. less artificial kind. Such collaboration cannot, however, be achieved in a moment. There are old-established difficulties in the way. It seems to me, therefore, that what we must do is to work along two lines. First of all, we must try to get things on to a basis that is commercially sound, and that really means permanent prosperity for all concerned. We must push up the output of the individual so that it will be possible to pay him well and, yet, to sell the goods that he manufactures at competitive prices. Suppose thatea man were looking for a, job and when, applying for it, he stated that he expected to be paid 15s.. a day and that; during the working, day, he would:turnout one finished. article. If the man to whom he applied for work found that he already had a plentiful supply of workers asking a pound a day, but undertaking to turn out at least two finished articles, then our,friend would have very little chante of getting the job, because the thing he produced, whatever it might be could not he sold at the same price as the thing produced by the other man. Just the same is bound to happen with the products of different countries. If the average man in one country works as hard as he possibly can, it is more profitable to pay him a pound a day than to pay 15s. a day to the average man in another country_ where.people only work half as hard as they can. In fact, the products of this latterweountry would have, no chance at all in open competition.
We must, then, get rid of the whole idea of intentional restriction of output. Admittedly, there are difficulties in the way. The thing cannot be done in a day. While we are. trying to do it we must, therefore, keep certain markets more or less reserved for our own products by ehasging duties against the import of foreign products. When we have made our.'selves as efficient as the foreigner, in the sense that we can really produce cheaper than tie can then we can afford to give up these duties which many of us dislike because they affect the priceof things that we have to buy.
'My own opinion is that the position of the motor industry calls temporarily for something even stronger than duties ; that is to say, for a, definite., limitation of imports for a period which need be long or short according to the willingness of the worker to nut his back into his work and, so, to oust the foreigner from the markets of the world, purely on the basis of value for money and' not as the result of any artificial handicap in our favour.