Do Not Disturb The Act
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IF events proceed according o preselit plans the Road Haulage Wages Act will become, within a month of its coming into operation, a dead letter. It will have been shot to pieces and utterly demolished by those whom it was designed to benefit. The recommended short-circuiting of the prescribed procedure for alteration of the wages scales, this proposed evasion of the proper provisions of the Act, means neither more nor less than that. The law is being set at naught. No law which can be shown to be so easily evaded in any one of its particulars can be expected to be observed in any other.
Instead, therefore, of the industry finding itself, in this year of grace, with a substantial measure of agreement on wages, backed and supported by the force of law, it is likely again to be in precisely the same state, in respect of the important item of wages, as it was before the Act was conceived, let alone placed upon the Statute Book. In other words, the amount of wages paid will continue to be subject to the will of the individual employer, without regard whatever to any agreed scale. That has already been proved to be a futile and unstable basis, leading to wide diversity of wages paid and corresponding inequality of conditions, encouraging a diversity of rates for haulage.
Proper Procedure Should be Followed That this is likely to be the outcome of any sort of compliance with the Central Board's recommendation to pay at once the increases asked by the Transport and General Workers' Union, and to pay them as wages, without any qualification or restriction, without any provision for the future and, above all, without going through the procedure laid down in the Act, cannot be denied by anyone who, is acquainted with the facts and who will willingly take those facts into consideration.
The scales of wages, and the conditions of employment—much more important, in the majority of cases, than the actual amounts of the wages—approved by the Central Wages Board, agreed, under protest, by the Area Boards, and set out in R.H.2, was a reasonable and equitable one, and, so far as most operators are concerned, represents a considerable increase on pre-war scales, thus being, in effect, the equivalent of an increase which is more than any present increased cost of living, due to the war, would justify.
The wages set out in the scale would eventually have been paid : they would not have been applied throughout the country at once : no one with any knowledge of conditions within the industry imagines that. There is no more likelihood of immediate compliance with this statute on the part of the rank and file of hauliers than there was, is, or has been, in the case of previous Acts of Parliament, that of 1933, for example. Non-compliance will, however, be less prevalent if there be no excuse for it ;•with some excuse it will be rampant.
Wages Stabilization Urgently Needed If the Act be properly administered, in such a manner as to command respect, the desired end of wages stabilization within the industry will undoubtedly be achieved. That is one of the conditions the industry most urgently needs. The essential factor of respect will, however, be lacking if, as seems at present to be the intention, both employers and employees continue with the suggestion to evade some of the law's provisions. In such procedure lies all the excuse that so many need for evading all of its clauses.
The Central Wages Board has, we protest, acted, in this matter, with precipitancy and without giving due consideration to the possible results of accepting its recommendations. There is, in our opinion, an alternative and preferable procedure which would have met the requirements of the case, would have enabled further increases in wages to have been paid where, on examination of the facts, such increases were found to be justified, and yet would not have necessitated any interference with the law or the bringing of that law into disrepute. • The Board could quite well have dealt with this application for an increase in the wage scales by suggesting a war bonus. In so doing the effect, so far as the amount of wages to be received by. employees is concerned, would have been precisely the same—those operators who will pay the increase recommended will still do so ; those who will ignore the recommendations of the Board will continue to ignore any such recommendation—but there will arise no suggestion that the procedure of the Act should be short-circuited and the principle of the Act, undeniably something which the industry needs, will remain unaltered. The basic scales of wages will remain unaffected. In that way the presentation of an excuse to evade the Act would be avoided and its enforcement facilitated.
" C.M.", the Champion of Producer Gas
TEARLY two years ago The Commercial Motor N prophesied in these words "Within 12 months machines using this (solid) fuel will be on our roads in fair numbers." We were not far wrong.
Almost seven years ago we reported a test that we had made on the road of the first of the more modern types of producer-gas plant about which so much is heard to-day. It was an H.S.G.equipped Ford van. Since then, every noteworthy event in the world of alternative fuels has been reported and, in the majority of cases, comments on thevarious developments have been made.
This paper has not only followed the fortunes of producer gas more closely and for longer than any other, but has risked disfavour in the eyes of certain of its readers and advertisers by giving encouragement to all movements to apply homeproduced fuel to road transport. We were, prompted to adopt this attitude by confidence in the possibilities of solid or gaseous fuel—particularly the former—and because we were convinced of the importance of the matter to the Nation's welfare. Unfortunately, our politicians were less awake to the position, or lacked such boldness— hence the lamentable delay now in meeting th.. industry's demands for producer-gas equipment. On• the subject of producer gas, we wrote in February, 1937, in connection with the then proposed expenditure of £1,500,000,000 on rearmament, that an allocation out of that sum to encourage the use of home-produced-fuel vehicles would constitute no more than a common-sense measure, calculated at once to alleviate unemployment and to strengthen our defences. We attributed, at the same time, the attitude of the Government to imported fuel for road transport to its short-sightedness and avarice for revenue.
Our Scheme For War Conditions In June of the same year, we outlined a transport scheme for war-time conditions. Briefly, it was this : That the Government should guarantee supplies of coal to all gasworks, stipulating it received back all the liquid products, leaving the gas and coke. The liquid would be for use where it was indispensable, whilst in almost every town gaSeous and solid fuel would be available for local passenger, goods and agricultural services, suitably modified. We added that Government encouragement would be essential.
More recently, in March, 1938, writing again on home-produced fuel, and producer gas in particular, we stated that encouragement must be given, and suggested that it should take the form of a reduction in tax on the vehicle and an increase in the permissible total load and unladen weight, so that the patriotic employment of home-produced fuel would not penalize the operator, as in the case where the extra weight woulii•remove the vehicle from the 30-m.p.h. category.
Not until nearly two years later was that concession, almost precisely as we had outlined it, granted and not until after the outbreak of war.
Having played the part of chief champion of the cause of alternative fuels for so long, we are now gratified to see that those whom we have supported are coming into their own, and others entering the field. We welcome, too, the manufacturers of parts and accessories, whose co-operation is already proving extremely valuable. We do regret, however, that such delay has been permitted.