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Out of the Blue

25th January 1957
Page 25
Page 25, 25th January 1957 — Out of the Blue
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Union Shock Tactics Embarrass Haulage Employers in Dealing with Wage Claims

LAST week's application by the workers' side of the Road Haulage Wages Council for increased wages was remarkable not only for its size. It represented also a departure from the unions' usual tactics of attacking British Road Services first and then devouring free-enterprise hauliers at their leisure B.R.S. had no knowledge of the terms of the claim until after it had been submitted to the Wages Council. Why this change of front? It may be that, because the State road haulage undertaking operates mainly the heavier vehicles and, under the system of differentials proposed, would be more severely hit than most free-enterprise hauliers, the unions deemed it wiser to tackle the independent side of the industry first Big increases If the unions' demands were granted, drivers of vehicles generally employed for long-distance work would receive increases in basic wages 'ranging from 2 ls. to 32s. a week. These amounts are, however, only the beginning of the story. For the driver of a vehicle of 12-15-ton payload capacity the total earnings for a 60-hour week would rise from about £12 4s. 10d. to £14 2s. 9d. In the 15-18-ton class the increase would be from some £12 10s. lid, to £14 14s. 3d., and in the over18-ton class (lorry and trailer combinations) from £12 18s. 5d. to £15 6s. I id.

Even in relation to the lighter categories of vehicle, the claim made by the unions is outrageous. For the driver of a 5-8-tonner, which is probably the most popular type of vehicle, the increase in basic wages sought is 17s., but on a 60-hour week a man's total pay would advance by £1 5s. 8d. from £11 12s. 9d. to £.12 18s_ 5d.

The workers cannot expect to secure an increase of this magnitude, particularly at the present time, from independent hauliers. Consequently, in selecting the free-enterprise section of the industry for an exploratory manceuvre they can hardly have hoped to use hauliers as a bait to catch the bigger B.R.S. fish. It is therefore necessary to look elsewhere for the reason for the change in tactics. Graduations in the scale of proposed increases suggest that the claim now being made might be the unions' answer to the arguments between employers and employees on recompense for a 30 m.p.h. speed limit for heavy goods vehicles. It is significant, however, that during the proceedings of the Wages Council no reference was made to the speed limit There is no guarantee that it the present demand were granted, another would not immediately be made on behalf of the drivers of the vehicles which are to be permitted a higher legal maximum speed. Indeed, such an event seems likely, and might be reinforced by sanctions When the employers met the workers' representatives last week, their only knowledge of the business to be discussed was that an increase in wages was sought They had no idea of the extent of the claim. This-is the normal procedure, but the demands made in the past have usually been such that the employers' representatives could, without too drastic repercussions, give an answer on the spot. Last week's claim took the employers completely by surprise and the unusual course of adjourning the application had to be adopted Caught in the Slips The employers should not have been placed in this position. The unions should be obliged, in notifying the Wages Council of an application for higher wages, to state in advance the terms of their .claim, so that the employers could give a reasoned reply. The present procedure is completely out of date and unfair.

it i difficult to understand how any demand for increased wages can be justified under the present disquieting conditions in the road haulage industry. A past claim was granted on the basis of the workas' right to share in the prosperity of the industry. If that argument were still to be used, the employers would be justified in seeking to reduce pay, but, in fact, the unions have again come forward with their annual demand, and this time with One so fantastic that it can hardly be taken seriously.

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