25 JUNE 1948, Page 1


These details are worth recalling, but the fundamental issue is whether agreements freely negotiated, in most respects very favour- able to the men, are to be observed or wantonly and irresponsibly violated. The one course means order in industry, the other anarchy, and if it is carried far enough, ruin. What undisclosed forces are at work can only be surmised. In the first instance the strike, however perverse and indefensible, hinged on a genuine industrial dispute. In its deplorable extension other elements may well have figured. The activities of a Communist section among the shop- stewards is not in doubt ; and the results are manifest. The strike is entirely unofficial. The union mainly concerned, the Transport and General Workers' Union, has adopted an entirely proper attitude. Its secretary, Mr. Arthur Deakin, took the only possible course in urging the men to return to work in accordance with their agreements, and promising to call a national delegate conference to consider whether any changes in the organisation and operation of the Dock Labour Board were called for. Whether the resumption of work by about a thousand men on Wednesday was due to that, or to the Prime Minister's appeal, or to a return of good sense to this minority cannot be determined. The statement issued by the Dock Labour Board makes abundantly clear, what no one in fact has denied, that its elaborate machinery, which has so greatly improved the men's status, makes full provision for the discussion of any dispute by committees and tribunals on which the men themselves are fully represented. Unfortunately there seems to be some lack of effective contact between the individual and the now gigantic Transport and General Workers' Union. It may be that the resumption of work will gradually spread. Meanwhile there will be general approval of the Prime Minister's firm statement on Wednesday and of the action of the Government in sending troops to unload food that would otherwise have perished. The problem of dealing with an industry that has no compunction about holding the community to ransom remains.