AIR. W. J. Carron, president-elect of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, and Fr. Charles Pridgeon, S.J., Principal of the Catholic Workers' College at Oxford, expressed to me this week their views on the rights and wrongs of the strike by workers at the British Motor Corporation's factories (writes Douglas Hyde).
The A.E.U. is the second largest of the IS unions involved in the strike of more than 20,000 workers.
Mr. Carron was forthright! in his condemnation of what he called the employers' "ruthlessness " in dismissing 6,000 workers without prior consultation with their unions' representatives.
He expressed the fear that if this course were followed by employers generally in the event of redundancy, then there would be a return to the bitter classwar of pre-war days.
Fr. Pridgeon was also unhappy about the employers' action. But he expressed concern too at the fact that the unions had at once retaliated in kind by calling the strike.
And he questioned the morality of their action in using workers in other enterprises, such as the docks and the railways, to bring pressure upon both the company and in particular those thousands of B.M.C. workers who have not so far joined the strike.
Good spirit menaced
THE B.M.C.'s action," said IMr. Carron, -is inconsistent with the line of most employers since the end of the war.
"That line has been that the workpeople and their aellare do count in industry today. particularly when it comes to questions of 'hire and fire.
"If other employers take their lead from the B.M.C. when redundancy occurs, we shall go back to the pre-war psychology of bitter class-war on both sides.
"And in any case, if the R.M.C. succeed against the unions, now, a lot of the good spirit which has grown up in industry in recent years will be completely dissipated and good industrial relations will be destroyed."
This was a reason, Mr. Carron said, why the B.M.C. strike is of direct importance to other workers too. Much more than the future of B.M.C. workers depends upon its outcome.
If the workpeople wanted to be cynical. he said, they might understandably say that it was easy for employers to talk of joint consultation during a period of full employment. Now. when redundancy was arising. was the time when their real attitude was put to the acid test.
During the period of full employment. skilled workers had been necessary to the industry at almost any price. Had they wished to adopt a policy of grab they could have done so—and held the community up to ransom in the process. But, compared with their opposite numbers elsewhere, their record was a good one.
Mr. Carron went on to compare B.M.C.'s action with the attitude of Vauxhall Motors, who are also confronted with a redundancy problem. In the case of Vauxhall's, he said, as soon as the company realised that production would have to be reduced, they got in touch with the work people's representatives.
For several weeks now the employers and the union had been in consultation although redund ancy dhoeese not become operative until t end of August. Where employers were willing to show consideration for their workers in this way no trouble arose and mutual confidence continued.
But where they behaved as though the individual worker's welfare and future was of no concern to them, even those trade unions which had no love for class-war were obliged to strike.
Both sides at fault
FR. Charles Pridgeon, S.J., told
TIM CATHOLIC HERALD: "Here are two moral questions raised by this strike: "I. Did the employers act unjustly in dismissing 6,000 men?
"2. If they have acted unjustly. are the workers justified in striking as they have done?
"It is no justification of the strike to say the other side did wrong and to claim complete freedom to retaliate without reserve. Even when a strike is justified. both the extent and the manner of it are subject to the moral law. "An employer certainly has the right to dismiss employees for a just reason—and one such reason Is lack of sufficient work—just as an employee has the right to withhold his labour.
.' No redundancy' is an admirable wish. but it can be unrealistic.
"A man's right to work does not mean a right to a particular job perpetually.
"So much for the mutual rights involved, but these should not be a bar to both sides arranging to soften the hardship of unemployment by a sensible procedure of joint consultation well beforehand.
"With regard to the workers' claim, first of all 'no redundancy' is not justified as it stands, for there is no provision in the Contract of employment whereby work is guaranteed for a period of time.
"Similarly, the claim for compensation is not justified as it stands, because there is no provision for it in the contract of employment.
-To this extent, these two claims do not constitute a just cause for a strike.
"They do raise matters which urgently require consultation.
"It would seem that both sides are at fault in this strike—the employers because they did not make a more generous gesture by giving longer notice (that was a mistake in tactics), and the employees because the trade unions made no attempt to discuss the unemployment which everybody knew was coming.
"Great damage has been done to the spirit of joint -consultation and to the mutual trust built up since the war.
"The remedy lies for both sides in an effort to change their mental outlook towards each other. The employers need to make a more generous gesture, and to make it first."
MASS IN THE EVENING ON HOLIDAY
114ERE is the third list of the " times of Sunday evening Mass at seaside and other holiday resorts: EASTBOURNE. Our Lady of Ransom, Grange Road (opposite Town Hall): 8.30 p.m.
REDCAR, Yorks. Sacred Heart, Lobster Road: 7 p.m.
CRICKHOWELL (Welsh mounbin resort). St. Joseph, Brecon Road: 6.20 p.m.
FALMOUTH, Cornwall. St. Mary Immaculate, Killigrew Road: 9 p.m.
DOUGLAS, Isle of Man. St. Mary, Hill Street: 8 p.m.
H)VE. St. Peter's, Portland Road, 6 p.m.
'BA CUT DIED A CATHOLIC'
Vietnam rebel leader
BA OUT the commander of the Hoa-Hao rebel forces in south-west Vietnam who was executed last month, is now reported to have been baptised a Catholic just before his execution. Agency messages stated at the time that a priest visited him but that he refused to be baptised.
A Catholic news agency report from Saigon has now denied this. It says that the priest who visited him—a Vietnamese of the vicarate of Cantho—did in fact baptise him after instructing him in the essentials of the Faith.
Ba Cut. once a General in the Vietnamese Army, was formerly reputed to be anti-Catholic.