Wages by Cheque

The Government are to introduce legislation allowing the workers to be paid by cheque. This piffling proposal will probably produce a hurricane of opposition from certain windy quarters in the Trade Unions and Labour Party, and no doubt some Communists. The right of the worker to be paid, in ready cash will become part of the day-to-day struggles, a real cause celebre.

Tory backwoodsmen are saying that this will make the workers more thrifty. They will, they hopefully claim, put their cheques into bank accounts and not spend it all. Savings will increase, and with them, abstemiousness; sobriety, and all things beautiful. The ideal worker from the Capitalist point of view is the virtuous economic cabbage who can live on practically nothing and enjoy it. If he manages somehow to put a bit away so much the better. He won’t be a charge on the Rates or National Assistance later.

Confidence Tricks
This is the unspoken philosophy of Capitalist Governments. From time to time terrific confidence tricks are played by Governments on workers’ savings. Devaluation was introduced by the last Labour Government, and inflation has been the policy of both Conservative and Labour Governments.

Last Autumn the Government removed the credit restrictions on Bank lending. In a great splash of newspaper publicity the Banks announced a scheme for personal loans for such things as cars, houses, T.V. sets, refrigerators, etc. A few days after the announcement the Manchester Guardian reported the experience of about 50 Salford dockers who queued up outside the local branch of the Westminster Bank. It appeared that the dockers were naive enough to believe what they read. They told the Bank manager they wanted to borrow a few quid to tide them over a bad spell. The Bank manager, as Bank managers are wont to do, asked for some security. All the dockers produced their Union cards as a guarantee of their ability to repay the loan, that is, if they didn’t become unemployed or put on short time. The manager delicately informed them that the Bank could not take the risk, Union card or not. The less credulous of us are now asked to believe that if the dockers, and other workers, were paid by cheque they would have money in the Bank. The worker’s possession of a cheque-book is as meaningful as the verse in the Canadian folk song “Good morning Mum, I have a button here, can you sew a shirt on it?”

An interesting reaction to this proposal comes from the Bank Trade Unions. They apparently do not relish the the increased work this will entail for the same pay. Heaven knows what might happen if the workers start subbing in mid week.

Apart from claims about saving time on accountancy and wage clerks, there is the question of armed robbery being prevented. Snatching the payroll could, by present ethical standards, be considered more a transfer of property than a theft. The biter bitten would be an apt description. After all, the robbery has already taken place at the point of production. As always, the workers are the victims, not the Capitalists.

J. D.

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