Editorial: Wages Under Labour Government
One of the things Labour Governments are supposed to do is to keep up wages. Since the present Government came in, there have been big reductions in the wool, cotton and jute industries, and there are now pending movements to reduce wages in building, agriculture, mining, boot and shoe production, and railways. These applications for reductions cover about three million workers.
But the biscuit must be awarded to Air. Snowden and Mr. Addison.
Mr. Snowden, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, controls the Civil Service. Their cost of living bonus is governed by an agreement, made as a temporary measure in 1920. The agreement never gave them the full increase corresponding to the rise in prices, and it is admitted that their cost of living has not fallen by as large a percentage as is indicated by the Ministry of Labour index. The staff’s claim for a revised agreement was side-tracked by being referred to the Civil Service Royal Commission, and they therefore contend that until the Commission reports, no further reductions should have taken place. Mr. Snowden replied by giving them a 5 point reduction. When they protested, he replied by lamenting the “ingratitude” of the Civil Servants.
Why workers in Government employ should be grateful when a Labour Government, contrary to the whole theory of the Labour Party, reduces their pay, it is difficult to understand.
Mr. Addison, Minister of Agriculture, went one better.
According to the Landworker, of November, the employers’ representatives on a Yorkshire Agricultural Wages Committee moved for a reduction in wages, but were outvoted by the workers’ and “neutral” representatives. The employers thereupon withdrew, and Mr. Addison has now asked the neutral represenatives to resign, and refuses to re-appoint them. He indignantly denies that he is looking for “neutral” representatives who will agree to wages reductions, but admits that he wants people with whom the farmers will consent to sit. But this, of course, means precisely the same thing. The farmers are not objecting to neutral representatives because of the colour of their hair, but because they voted down a wage reduction. The farmers will continue to decline to sit until they get their way, and the Minister of Agriculture, who has power to prevent this, helps the farmers under a veil of “impartiality.”
The Labour Government has failed to offer to the workers any means of escape from the capitalist system. It fails equally to help them make the best of capitalism by resisting wage reductions.