IT'S TECHNICALLY UNJUST!
All Parties must
share the blame
By Fr. PAUL CRANE, S.J.
IF the railway strike takes place it will be the biggest on the railways since the General Strike of 1926.
It is clear that the strike will do great harm — to the economic life of the country, the convenience of the public and the good name of the railwaymen themselves.
It is equally clear that the benefits sought by the strikers are not such as to outweigh the harm that the strike will bring in its train.
There is no proportion between the good sought by the strikers and the damage the strike will do.
It is difficult to escape the conclusion that on this ground alone the threatened strike represents a technical injustice.
This conclusion is reinforced by a further consideration. The National Union of Railwaymen is party to an agreement that there should he no commitment on pay before the publication next April of a report containing the findings of an independent committee to enquire into the level of railway Wages.
In claiming a wage increase last April and calling a strike to force it now. the N.U.R. appear not merely to have broken this agreement. but to have infringed that other, which forbids it to strike until its case for a wage increase has been heard.
These are further grounds for the conclusion that the strike called represents what I have called a technical injustice. To speak of a :echnical injustice is one thing, to allot moral guilt is another.
I am not prepared to place full responsibility for the strike on the shoulders of Sidney Green and his Executive. Mr. Green is a moderate man. He and his committee have suffered great provocation.
In the first place, the committee appointed to review the level of railway wages has been a very long time at its job.
The railwaymen have had to wait two years to know where they stand. Two years is a long time, especially for those being paid at the minimum rate of £7 us. 6d. a week.
Secondly. militants in the N.U.R. have been submitting the Executive to pressure, and the pressure has proved harder and harder to resist.
In the circumstances, one cannot escape the conclusion that the B.T.C. and the two other railway unions involved should have proved much more sensitive to the difficult position in which the executive of the N.U.R. found itself.
It is known that the British Transport Commission would have granted the N.U.R. the interim wage increase it requested had the latter been supported in its claim by the two sister unions.
For reasons best known to themselves, but which seem to the outside observer to have been singularly lacking in magnanimity. the A.S.L.E.F. and T.S.S.A. refused their support.
As a result, the N.U.R. had its request turned down by the B.T.C. after seeing the money it sought "dangled in front of our eyes". Exasperated, angry and bitter, its Executive has reacted by calling a strike.
For this tragic decision. the two sister unions of the N.U.R., its own militants and the B.T.C. must bear their share of the blame —the sister unions for their mean self-centredness, the militants for their selfish irresponsibility, and the B.T.C. for its woodenness in negotiating and the insensitivity of its public relations.
Is it too much to hope that in the next few days the T.U.C. will work on the parties concerned in such a fashion as to avert a national disaster?