11 MARCH 1922, Page 11


[To THE EDITOR OP THE " SPECTATOR."] SIR,—My attention has been drawn to the following sentence in the review of our Annual Report which appeared in a recent issue of the Spectator:—

" If Trade Unions in the Building Trade generally would induce men to put their backs into it almost anything might be accomplished, for in few trades are the regulations so cramping and so self-defeating."

I think this calls for a few words of explanation. There are no regulations that limit output in the Building Industry. Such limitation as does occur is quite clearly traceable to the conditions under which the Building Industry has been carried on in the past. It has been overshadowed possibly more than any other industry by the ever-present fear of unemployment. Bricklayers have frequently been reduced to a few shillings per week because the weather has been bad. Every worker is liable to dismissal at an hour's notice, and when men are engaged for a building contract, they know that their engagement will cease when the job is finished. Under such conditions it is not surprising that men endeavour to spin the work out as the end approaches. It is simply the choice of discharge this week or discharge next week in face of an absolutely uncertain future. The outstanding remedy for this overhanging fear of unemploy- ment is the policy of industrial maintenance, under which the workers of the entire industry would be guaranteed—from a central fund raised by the industry—against every contingency of unemployment outside their own control. I believe that such a policy would not increase the cost of production, but would actually reduce it, because the increase in output would be worth more than the cost of the levy made on each firm for the central fund. Its establishment would set free for the public service vast creative energies that have been crushed for generations, and I doubt if this result can be secured by any other method.—I am, Sir, &c..

MALCOLM SPAREES, General Secretary. The Guild of Builders (London), Ltd.,

52 Russell Square, W.C.1.