IGNITING THE FLAME OF UNITY

THE HISTORY OF THE

 BRIGHTON BRANCH OF A.S.L.E.F.


Give every man what is histhe accurate price of what he has done and been—no more shall any complain, neither shall the earth suffer any more."—THOMAS CARLYLE. 

  

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Locomotive Journa

A Modern Magazine for Locomotive Engineers and Firemen,

 and Electric Trainmen

Vol. 64 February, 1951 NO.2

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THE SOCIETY'S CLAIM

As Our members :are aware, following failure to reach a settlement of the Societys wage claim at the Railway Staff National Council the claim, along with those of the other two railway unions, was referred by the Minister of Labour and National Service to a Court of Inquiry appointed by him under the Industrial Courts Act, 1919.

The Court consisted of the following: Mr. C. W. Guillebaud (Chairman), a Fellow and Tutor of St. John's College, Cambridge, and Lecturer in Economics at Cambridge University; Mr. J. Crawford, General Secretary of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives; Mr. A. J. Espley, formerly managing director of Timothy Whites, Ltd. ; Mr. Lincoln Evans, General Secretary of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation; and Col. H. C. Smith, Deputy Chairman of the Gas Council. (.Mr. Guillebaud had previously served as Chairman of the earlier Court set up in June, 1947, to consider- claims by the railway unions out- standing at that time.

The Court of Inquiry held the first of its public sessions on Thursday, January 4,1.951; these sessions continued on five following days. The private deliberations of the. Court are proceeding us we go to Press.

For the information of our renders, we give below the verbatim report of the Society’s case as presented by the General Secretary before the Court on Thursday, January 4, in support of our claim representing a 1 5 per cent. increase on the wage rates of our member grades as current at July 141950:-

 

Mr. BATY: Mr. Chairman Gentlemen,-In opening on behalf of the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, r have to state for the information of the Court that the claim which we now present applies to the staff employed in the grad~ of Engine Driver, Motorman, Fireman, Assistant Motorman, and Engine Cleaner on British Railways. I should say that the number of Assistant Motormen is negligible, and in point of fact they are, to all intents and purposes, regarded as Firemen.

Of these employees, numbering approximately 94,000, the overwhelming majority are members of the Society which I represent. The grades I have must mentioned constitute together what is called the. line of promotion," through which any employee must pass who desires to attain the position of Driver or Motorman; the latter are the major positions in the line of promotion. He commences in youth as a Cleaner; promotion from grade to grade, i.e., from Cleaner to Fireman, Fireman to Driver, and thence to Motorman, is on the basis of seniority of service, subject to a candidate's successfully passing the necessary technical, optical and medical tests.

The foregoing explanation will, among other things, better enable the Court tofollow the references which from time to time, in the course of my observations, I shall make to staff in the line of promotion."

The application now presented on behalf of the Society’s member grades is for an increase in rates of pay reprinting 15 per cent on the rates which obtained when our claim was submitted on July 14, 1950, which, of course, is the material date from the standpoint of our claims. The claim is set out in detail in my Statement No.1, which indicates the proposed revisions of scale rates in respect of each grade concerned, and to which I shall again refer at a later stage of my submission to the Court.

 

HISTORY OF THE NEGOTIATIONS

At this point it will perhaps be convenient if I outline briefly the historical stages which have led to our claim being now before this Court of Inquiry; but in doing so, I shall confine myself to recital of facts - the reasons for submission of the claim will, I trust, be made fully apparent to the Court in the course of my later observations.

Our claim as submitted originates from an instruction to the Society’s Executive Committee by the annual delegate conference of the A.S.L.E. & F. in May last. That direction was given after full consideration of serious deterioration which, viewed either from domestic standpoint of locomotive men or in relation to other workers both inside and outside the railway service, had taken place and was continuing.

Arising from the instruction received, the Executive Committee on the date which I have already indicated - July 14, 1950 - submitted by letter to the Railway Staff Conference an application for an increase in the wages of its members, such application being in all respects identical with the claim which is now before you in the name of the A.S.L.E. & F.

The Claim was discussed at meetings between the Railway Staff Conference and the Society’s representative held on August 4 and September 15, 1950. At the second meeting www were informed that after careful considerate the Railway Executive had reached the conclusion that they must decline our application. The representatives of the Society pressed very strongly for the matter to be reconsidered having regard to the circumstances then prevailing, but it was stated by the railway representatives that no useful purpose could be served by such reconsideration.

This situation of deadlock was duly reported to a special delegate conference of the Society held on October 10 and 11; that special conference was convened subject to the direction of the normal Annual Conference in May on this matter, and, as a result, the said deadlock was brought to the notice of the Minister of Labour on October 12 last.

Following on a decision thereupon made the Minister that the matter should be referred to the Railway Staff National Council (which is the higher stage than that of the Railway Staff Conference, where the application hd previously been declined), meetings with the Railway Staff National Council took place on November 7, 21 and 22. No offer, however, which could be regarded by us as being in any way satisfactory or acceptable was forthcoming in answer to our claim. In point of fact we were confronted with constitutional issues which in our considered opinion would militate against confidence in our agreed negotiating machinery and against the fostering of good will.

in view, therefore, of the situation of unbroken and continuing deadlock, the Society again referred the matter to the minister of Labour, together with our sister Unions, and, as an ultimate result, the Minister, after several meetings with parties at which no easement of the position could be obtained, set up the present Court.

Those briefly, Mr. Chairman, are the bare facts leading from the Society’s Conference last May up to our appearance before the Court today on behalf of the membership of the A.S.L.E. & F. - and with that necessary preamble, I will now pass on to the merits of our claim and the circumstances which have given it birth.

 

THE LOCOMAN’S CALLING

In order that the basis of our application may be clearly comprehended it will be necessary for me to devote some little time to an examination of certain aspects of the locomotive man’s calling at its respective stages. That calling has, in fact, many features which give it a unique position in our industrial life. It is, as I have already indicated, entered upon in youth in the initial grade of Cleaner. This normally takes place at the age of sixteen; and the youngsters concerned so embarks upon a job which constitutes a life’s career within the separate line of promotion which I have described. There is emphatically no short cut to the position of Driver - a long apprenticeship must first be served, including probably some twenty years in the intermediate grade of Fireman. I would like the Court to bear the significant point in mind when talking or thinking in terms of craftsmen who carry out such responsible duties.

Whilst I refer to he grade of Fireman as “intermediate,” I would emphasise that it is nevertheless a job in its own right - a job not only physically arduous but calling for the exercise of skill, foresight, concentration and resource, in a degree second only to that required of the Driver himself.

Whilst the governing principle of upward movement through the grades is by seniority there are also certain other important factors involved so far as such movement is concerned - the factors of physical (including optical) fitness and practical knowledge.

 

HIGH PHYSICAL STANDARDS

The standard of fitness required from a medical and optical standpoint is exceptionally high - and it remains high throughout the period of a man’s service. The examination on entry as a cleaner is followed by another before promotion to Fireman, and by a third if and when the employee is required for the grade of Driver.

These examinations - and very stringent examinations they are - will be followed by others during the later years of the man’s working life, including special overhauls by the Railway Medical Officer if, notwithstanding the precautions taken in initial selection, a lengthy period of incapacity due to illness or accident, say, for a period of a month or more, and in certain cases less, he has got to undergo a further medical examination, and in the event of passing signals, for example, the man can also be subject to certain examinations arising therefrom.

It is important to make reference here to the optical side of the measures taken to ensure that men in the line of promotion are, and remain, physically fit. First, colour vision must of course be perfect - and I would make the point that the incidence of development of colour vision defects among males is far higher than probably the majority of people imagine; it constitutes one of the several risks which a locomotive man takes of a career cut short in untimely fashion for physical reasons. Then, with regard to form vision, this also has to be perfect on entering the service, the only difference, here being that, the human machine being what it is, certain specified (and strictly limited) easements inevitably have to be made in the case of the re-tests made in later years. It should be added that the wearing on duty of spectacles, or any other artificial aids to form vision, is entirely prohibited; it is acknowledged that in view of the physical conditions governing the work carried out, particularly on the footplate of a steam locomotive, outside aids of sight, such as are regarded as quite unexceptionable in the vast majority of other occupations, could well prove to be a positive handicap to the safety of the travelling public and of railwaymen themselves.

The rigorous physical standards thus demanded at all stages of a locomotive man’s career are in no way called in question by the Society, having regard to the nature of the work performed; and we say this notwithstanding the continuing risk which they involve of summary relegation to labouring duties with loss of income. What the Society does unhesitatingly claim is that the rates of wages paid today to our members represent a totally inadequate remuneration of the high responsibilities and the trying conditions of work which make such high standard essential. Speaking of trying conditions of work, I feel sure the Court will readily appreciate the locomotive man has got to carry out his duties in all kinds of the performance of his duty but also from the optical and health standpoint.

 

THE CLEANER

It has been indicated that the lowest rung of the ladder of promotion is the cleaning grade, and I deem it necessary to point out that care is exercised by the railway authorities with the object of ensuring that youths of high character are selected. So that in addition to all the other essential features a youth must be of high character, having regard to the nature of his duties. As a cleaner a youngster must in the course of his duties study the various types of locomotive with which he daily has to deal in the shed. He must also acquire a preliminary knowledge of signals and of rules and regulations for train working. This he must do in the course of performing a dirty, greasy, exacting and essential role amid the conditions of smoke, steam, grime, and not inconsiderable physical risk associated with a Motive Power Depot. The general conditions of the job are indeed such as are calculated to frighten away - and do in fact frighten away - any lad who takes it on without any genuine sense of the vocation upon which he is entering.

So the intending footplateman embarks upon his career - learning the rudiments of his future job in the only way in which they can properly be learned - the hard and practical way. In due course, if he satisfactorily undergoes the technical test, he is passed for firing duties. These duties not only constitute a skilled job in themselves but are also a long course of preparation, lasting normally for a large number of years, for the ultimate stage of driver.

 

THE FIREMAN

The fringing of a modern locomotive is a scientific task, which has to be carried out with constant and scrupulous care, in order theta punctuality may be maintained, together with the avoidance of undue strain upon those parts of the locomotive concerned with the maintenance of steam. In passing it may be said also that this principal task of the Fireman is today rendered more difficult and trying by reason of the inferior qualities of fuel which he now has to use.

In order to emphasise mu point that the firing of an engine is work of a highly skilled character, and for assistance of the Court in its deliberations on the present claim, I have submitted, in my Statement Number 2, a few extracts from the latest edition of “Locomotive Management,” by J.T. Hodgson and C.S. Lake - a standard text-book used extensively in the engine men’s mutual improvement classes which are functioning in all parts of the country to asset cleaners and firemen to develop their abilities and their knowledge of the machine, etc.

I think these extracts will serve to make it fully apparent that the fireman’s job is a highly technical one - responsible and of a vital nature in connection with efficiency and economy of operation alike. Further, I think they will show that the job is not only technical but also that, if the twin objectives of efficiency and economy jus mentioned are to be attained, it is a job which requires assiduous attention, concentration, and care; moreover, the amount of bodily effort alone involved in maintaining a locomotive fire at its maximum effective thermal power is at all times considerable, whilst on some engines it is very great indeed. Taken together with the other essential duties performed by the fireman during the course of a run - for example, assisting the driver in the observation of signals, keeping the footplate clear of coals and dust, carrying out certain braking operations at appropriate times, etc. - it makes up an onerous and truly “full time” job, of which I am profoundly desirous that the character and importance should be adequately appreciated.    

 

M.I.C.s

At this point may I again refer to Mutual Improvement Classes which I have already mentioned as being in operation for the purpose of assisting men in the grades of cleaner and fireman to improve their knowledge and to equip them for higher duty? These classes are attended by students in their own time, and are usually held on Sundays. Generally speaking, the accommodation is provided by the railway authorities. The  instructors, who are qualified drivers, also engage in these activities in their free time. Now, the point I would like to emphasise as fully as I can is that here you have a body of people who have got to equip themselves, an in order that they may become efficient and may carry out this responsible job they sacrifice part of their leisure time in order that they might become accomplished. In that connection, Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, I am glad to be able to add that for a very large number of years the Society which I represent has assisted this very praiseworthy movement by contributing a number of models of the working parts of locomotive for circulation among the local classes in the different parts of the country. We do that because of our interest and of our pride.

I thus make special reference to the Mutual Improvement Class Movement at this point in my observation because it is an important example of the locomotive man’s pride in craft, and of the voluntary steps which are taken in their own time by the senior men to pass on their knowledge of that craft and by the juniors to increase their theoretical and technical equipment in connection therewith.

 

THE DRIVER

The duties of the Driver, though in reality, of course, highly technical, are perhaps such as to be more readily appreciated by the public than are those of the Fireman. From start to finish of a run the responsibility rests ultimately upon the Driver for the safety of his train, for punctuality, for smoothness, efficiency and economy of operation. Reaching the driving grade after those many years of arduous training to which I have referred, he brings to his work a remarkable variety of skills. He must have a thorough knowledge of the practical working of the great and costly machine which is in his charge, and a complete grasp of the very numerous and important rules and regulations affecting his work. He must know his route and the swift succession of signals applicable thereto; he must be unceasingly vigilant, ready and able to take a split second decision and to act upon it instantly. By readily adapting his handing of the locomotive to the varying conditions applying at different given moments of a run; by noting from time to time the amount of coal consumed and keeping an eye on water supply; by constantly combining and deducing the net effect of factors such as the nature of the road (including gradients and speed restrictions), the weight of his train, quality of coal, engine condition, and so on, he must at all times ensure that maximum operating efficiency in the circumstances is being continuously achieved, with the minimum of wear and tear and waste. Drivers are also responsible for the examination and preparation of engines prior to their leaving the shed, and for reporting in writing upon their condition on completing the run.

The Driver is thus in all respects, by virtue of his duties, craft knowledge, and responsibilities alike, a key man of out standing importance in the vast organisation of grades which goes to make up the personnel of British Railways.

As to his practical knowledge, the following is a list of subject with which a candidate for a Driver’s position must be thoroughly familiar if he is to succeed in attaining the desired promotion:

Care and manipulation of the engine.

Reading Signals and judgment of distances.

Manipulation of boiler adjuncts and methods of controlling the fire.

Constructional details of the locomotive.

General methods of lubrication.

Methodical examination of the engine and reporting defects.

General knowledge of, and the proper application of, Rules and Regulations.

The construction and action of automatic and steam brakes.

The emergency remedying of failures.

Whilst it does not ale much consideration in order to visualise the very large field of skill and responsibility which, in fact, is covered by these broad and general headings, I have additionally set out in my statement No.3 a selection of the detailed questions which an engine man may be called upon to answer when examined in regard to his duties; and further, as he also has to be fully conversant with Rules appertaining to his duties, I have also given, in Statement No.4, a comprehensive list, by subject headings, of such rules.

These two Statements will in themselves suffice, I think, to demonstrate conclusively how wide is the field of knowledge required of an efficient locomotive man, the range of the responsibilities of locomotivemen and the important part which falls to them as a body of trained key personnel in the service of British Railways and trading public.     

 

THE MOTORMAN

Here it is a fitting that special reference should be made to the Motormen who man the driving cabs of the train on the various sections of our railway that have gone over to electrification during the half century just concluded. Such sections of line are to be found in very different parts of the country, on the Southern, the London Midland, the Eastern, and the North Eastern Regions. The bulk of the electrified mileage is, however, as is well known, concentrated in the Southern Region. to quote approximate figures, out of a total of 900 electrified route miles on the whole of British Railways, just over 700 are on the Southern; and the Southern has about 1,800 electrified track miles out of a total of 2,300.

In these circumstances it is therefore appropriate that my remarks concerning the work of the motorman should, so that they may be confined to typical case deal specifically with the Southern Region. The most characteristic feature of the work of the motorman is its very high degree of intensiveness and concentration. Members of the Court will probably know of the tremendous amount of passenger traffic which the Southern Electric services daily handle, especially suburban traffic, and traffic “ dormitory” towns and London. The routes which are covered in these connections are character sided not only by a multiplicity and constant succession of signals but also by a very high frequency of stops at intermediate stations. The enormous congestion and intensity of traffic at peak hours was recently underlined by the decision to introduce, as an experiment, double-decker coaching stock on the Eastern Section of the Southern Region. It has subsequently been again underlined by the conclusion now officially reached that the double-decker stock does not fill the because, in the words of a Press statement issued by the Railway Executive, “The rials have revealed that the advantage of extra seating capacity is more than out weighed by slower working in passenger stations owing to the longer time required for passengers to entrain and detrain, as the double-decker train affords one door per 22 seats compared with 10 or 12 in ordinary compartment stock.”      

Thus the reason for experimental introduction of double-decker stock and also the reason for its withdrawal alike demonstrate the terrific pressure at peak periods. The pressure upon the motorman is correspondingly high. Nor is this in fact confined to peak periods, as can be gleaned from my Statement no.5, in which I have set out full details of typical turns of duty in respect of Crystal Palace Low Level Electrical Depot on the Southern Region. On examination of submission it will be note from these that the motorman in one case (Turn No.42), in the course of a number of passenger trips and other duties, covering a total mileage of 114, stops and starts at 92 stations, and has to observe altogether no fewer than 321 signals. This is apart from any signals that might be involved in shunting operations and the like. A similar position is revealed by the other turn quoted (No.51).

These examples will serve to illustrate the pressure to which I have referred in a connection with the motorman, due to the fact that the slighter relaxation during the course of his duties, or failure to adhere to the exceedingly rigorous time schedule covering the whole of a trip with its intermediate stops and starts, can very quickly derange the highly co-ordinated and sensitive mechanism of traffic operation. May I add also with regard to peak hours that at these periods the motorman of each train is responsible for the live of a very large number of persons? taking actual seating capacity alone, accommodation is afforded for 772 passenger in a normal 8-car train; and with promised introduction of 10-car trains of new design, seating will be provided for 945 passengers. It will, of course, be appreciated that during peak periods the number of passengers actually carried is far in excess of the number for whom seating accommodation can be provided! Members of the Court will have knowledge of that aspect.

May I further make the point for the information of the Court that the motorman, before selection for employment in that grade, must be a fully qualified steam driver? Having regard to the foregoing facts, I desire to submit and to emphasise that the general conditions and duties attaching to electric working fully justify, in the case of the motorman, the claim which we are putting forward.

Before passing on the the next part of my case, I desire to deal with some of the indebted drawbacks and disabilities which operate in connection with footplate work to a specially marked degree.      

 

IRREGULAR HOURS

In the first place, I would refer to the irregular hours of duty inseparable from the job. This is a drawback attaching to very few other occupations today to anything remotely approaching the same extent. shift working, as it is commonly understood, emphatically does boot operate for the man in the line of promotion, who is liable to be rostered for duty at any minute, quite literally, of the twenty-four hours. It will, therefore be appreciated that the reference here made is not to night duty as such, which is common to normal shift workers, but ti the special disabilities attaching to complete irregularity involved in the case of enginemen, which not only interferes considerably with domestic life but also militates very heavily indeed against any kind of connected social or recreational activity.

Over and above the irregularity caused due to the varying times of rostering, there is this further element, that on certain types of work, no matter what may be down on paper, it is in practice impossible for a man to predict with any degree of certainty at what lime he will finish work or arrive home. In the railway service there is always that uncertainty  The booking-on times shown in the Statement which I have put in numbered 6, which gives typical examples of link working, taken from the North-Eastern and Western Regions respectively, are submitted as an interesting anilluminating illustration of the point which I have made with regard to irregular times of rostering for duty. There it will be found that the signing-on times are set out. They would follow those turns of duty weekly, but even these are subject to alterations if the requirements of service necessitate.

 

DISABILITIES AND HARDSHIPS

Added to this there must also be borne in mind the conditions of dirt, grease, discomfort and physical and mental strain inherent in footplate work, and necessity for taking meals as and when possible in the course of train duties. Noter should also be taken of the necessity for lodging away from overnight on certain types of work. Whilst it is appreciated that progress has been made in respect of the elimination of a number of lodging turns of duty, there remains considerable discontent in connection with this obnoxious type of work. It would, however, be fair to say that be an agreed arrangement practical proposals in respect to double home working are subject to joint national negotiation; but the fact remains that lodging away from home is added hardship to the locomotive men concerned.

Moreover-and very important-there are the grave hardship created under the current conditions for those of our people who, on transferring away from their home depots in order to tale promotion, are facing the appalling problem of finding accommodation for their wives-for the majority a seemingly hopeless task at present, in view of the unfortunate fact that local authorities decline to grant them, key personnel though they undoubtedly are, any measure of housing priority. Some of our people have been waiting for a period of five years living in lodgings away from their people. This is a social problem of grave magnitude within the industry-one which, in fct, the Railway Executive and the Trade Unions have jointly tackled on a national basis; up to the present without tangible result, due to the attitude to which I have referred on the part of local authorities. Meantime, this factor of non-availability of accommodation for transferred staff undoubtedly adds its share to the intense dissatisfaction and unrest evidenced by my members, due to the complete disparity between the wages rates which they are at present paid and the grave disabilities which, no less than responsibilities, attach to their calling.

 

RELATIVITY

I have dealt at some length with a number of aspects of footplate work and conditions in order to make plain irrefutable claim of the locomotive man to a rate of pay which, whether considered by itself or in relation to railway wages rates in general, will more nearly reflect his craft value and status in the industry. In raising now this issue of relativity as the fundament basis of our present application, I am propounding no new or revolutionary theory. What I am in fact doing is, in plain terms, to ask that a sound essential principle, recognised, nationally agreed and embodied in the edifice of railway wages as long as thirty years ago, but vitiated due to more recent developments, shall once more be given practical effect. 

In 1919-20, as a result of protracted negotiations, there was set up for railway staff a wages structure in which it can be said that the relative value of locomotivemen was recognised why the respective scales of pay to be applicable to each of the various conciliation grades were drawn up. Regard was thus paid to the special qualifications, high responsibilities and peculiar circumstances attaching to employment in  the line of promotion; and so a relative position was achieved which, as such, was regarded with general approval so far as the railway managements and the Society’s members alike were concerned. The degree of relativity then recognised remained unchanged for a long period of time. During the last decade, however, I regret to sathat the position in this respect has changed vastly; the effect of various wage adjustments made has been progressively to distort the wages structure. The principle of pecuniary recognition of higher grade work has been increasingly disregarded in the wage concessions made to the staff. It has seemed-and it is the fact-that any changes which have operated have done so at the expense of the standards of sections of staff engaged on the more important duties.

This development is of a kind which cannot fail to be exceeding disturbing to all who have the welfare of our railways at heart. Some of its more immediate and tangible results are today glaringly obvious. As I have already emphasised, I speak on behalf of men who shoulder great responsibilities, and I do not for moment imagine that representative of the Railway Executive will deny that the men in the line of promotion are in a unique position in the railway industry, inasmuch as they must go forward to the position fireman, drive or motorman-or leave the line of promotion. In other words, they embark,as I have said before, on a life’s career: they cannot sit on the fence; they must go forward.

What is indisputably happening so far as locomotive men are concerned is that numbers of them, and particularly of the later entrants, are declining to remain in the service and are going into outside industries where better remuneration is to be had for employment less responsible, less exacting and more convent from a social and domestic standpoint than footplate work. May I quote, as an example in support of this statement, the position on the Western Region of British Railways? The figures brought to my special notice for attention reveal that, based on full establishment as agreed in June, 1948, there were at June 26, 1950, no fewer than 1,459 footplate vacancies; for drivers, 40; for fireman, 526; and for cleaners, 893. They also show that during the first half of this year the number of men in the line of promotion lost to the service of the Western Region through all causes was no less than 590-this figure being made up as follows: drivers, 66; firemen, 450; cleaners, 74. I am sure that the Court will note with interest the special significant support given to my assertion by the figures last quoted, and, above all, by the incidence of the loss. Out of a total loss f 590 men, no fewer than 450 were intermediate grade of Fireman; a fact to which it is surely impossible to attach any significance other than that to which I have referred-the movement of younger men away from the job. I would add that when these figures became available they naturally gave concern to the Employees’ Side of Western Region Sectional Council No.2, a domestic body representing both sides, the Employees’ Side constituting Trade Union people, which covers the grades in question; and they lost no time in making urgent representations in connection therewith. I could deal with other aspects of this matter, because the loss is prevalent throughout the country, and particularly at large industrial centres; but I would like here to say that it has been brought to my notice that because of the standing difficulties, Motormen on the Southern Region have been requested to continue in the service of British Railways beyond the normal age of retirement. A feature of that kind does in my view, Mr. Chairman, speak for itself.

It is my submission today, however, that as matters stand this question of instability and shortage in the staffing of footplate grades is one reaching far beyond the purview of Sectional Councils. Having regard to its causes-which are also the causes of the deep-lying unrest which is all too evident amongst those men who remain in the service-it is a matter for national adjustment through the remedying of grievances, and particularly of the tremendous grievance with regard to the current totally unjust and inadequate rates of pay. The footplateman himself, proud of his job and of the very considerable contribution which he makes in the service, feels strongly that the wages position is becoming more acute with every week that passes.

But let it not be supposed that we are the only people who have recognised the evil results of the distortion of relative rates to which I have referred. I will now quote the strong expression of view put on permanent record in regard to this matter by an important tribunal after consideration of the position as it was as long as three years.

In June, 1947, the Court of Inquiry set up by the Minster of Labour to inquire into claim made by the Unions for improved railway wages and working conditions set this question of distorted relativity in the very forefront of its conclusions as report to the Minister. The Court reported that “The very large amount of evidence and the detailed information contained in the supporting documents has led us inevitably, after the most careful consideration, to one overriding conclusion to which everything else seems to us to be subordinate. We are convinced that there is an urgency need for detailed and exhaustive various classes, scales and categories which make up the complicated structure of railway service.”

They went on today, “...we think that the need for an inquiry to be held is paramount, both for the purpose of ironing out obvious existing anomalies and in the interests of the general efficiency and contentment of this vital service in the future. The object of the inquiry should be, in our view, a comprehensive examination of the grading of railway workers with a view to a more accurate assessment of the relative value of the different types of work performed. A further vital need to which consideration should also be given is the rearrangement of inter-grade margins, so that adequate incentive is given for the acceptance of higher responsibility consequent on promotion, due account being taken of the mobility of labour which is a feature of railway operation and of the difficulties and expense occasioned in present circumstances in any occupation involving transfer from place to place.”

The Court further said, “We are not unmindful of the fact that there is at present before Parliament a measure which will have the effect of nationalising the railway service and co-ordinating the whole of the transport industry. On the eve of changes so far reaching, it seems to us imperative that every effort should be made to ensure that the railways are able to take their due place in the new system with a properly organised labour structure.” Mr. Chairman, these conclusions, I respectfully submit, are not only practical but indeed very concise.

For its own part the A.S.L.E. & F. has consistently and emphatically advanced, in relation to wages, views in line with those expressed by the 1947 Court. I need not say that we desire to see decent and proper wages paid throughout the railway industry, and indeed for that matter throughout all the industries of the country. We are no less anxious to put an end to the method of approach which in our own industry in recent years has developed in relation to wages-the method of approach which is going far to destroy initiative and the desire to go forward to added responsibility-the method of approach founded on flat-rate concessions which has largely destroyed that principle of differentials which surely no less important today to all concerned than it was in 1919, or in 1947, when the Court recommended it, particularly having in mind the special nature and the varying responsibilities attached to the duties performed.

An attempt may possibly be made to argue that the conclusions which I have quoted from the 1947 Court of Inquiry on the subject of relativity were disposed of in the subsequent negotiations between the Railway Executive and the Railway Trade Unions held in 1948-negotiations which, it will be recalled, took place under there very shadow of the Government White Paper on “Personal Incomes, Costs and Prices.” May I say, in anticipation of any such argument, that the answer is twofold: first, that our protest against such a proposition, a protest which was made most emphatically, is formally written into the wording of the 1948 agreement, because we knew full implementation had not taken place-and all Unions were involved in the protest: and, secondly, that the simple facts of the current situation themselves amply demonstrate that this fundamentally important question of relative margins, as visualised by the 1947 Court, has in no wise been effectively dealt with.

Notwithstanding this unsatisfactory position, it can truthfully be said that, since the February, 1948, Agreement, locomotivemen have exercised the utmost patience and restraint in an extremely difficult situation and in spite of all provocations. During the period in question, one of almost three years, our member (apart from those in the cleaning grae who have received the recent concession-and they are not a tremendous number-consequent upon the award of3s. 6d. per week to lower paid workers) have no advance of pay. Only the Cleaners in our line of promotion have received any advance whatsoever since this agreement arrived at which operated from February1, 1948. In that time they have watched their position further worsened both in the relative and the absolute senses-relatively as compared with workers in outside industries, and absolutely by reason of the steady increase in living costs, to which I will again refer in a few moments.

I have mentioned the facts of the current situation, and in relation thereto I desire to make particular reference to two of the documents which I have put in. May I now draw the attention of the Court, first to my Statement No.7 which indicates the total increase which has taken place since September, 1939, in the weekly rates of pay of Drivers, Motormen, Firemen, Assistant Motormen and Engine Cleaners, respectively, up to the date of the original application made by us? That, of course, was July 14. The increase in shillings per week at each step in the various scales is shown in the third column, whilst the percentage increases are set out in column 4. I would here make the point, by the way, that the rates of pay ay September, 1939, were virtually the same as those laid down in the National Agreement of 1919.

The second document to which to which I wish to call attention at this stage is one prepared by the Railway Executive and submitted by them in August, 1949, to theBoard of Conciliation set up at that time by the Minister of Labour, to deal with various claims which had been put forward by the Railway Trade Unions to the Railway Executive, and which were then outstanding. The document in question was published as an appendix to the Board’s Report, copies of which I have furnished to the Court for the convenience; it is Appendix 7 to the Report, and will be found commencing at page 94 under the heading of “Rates of Pay of Railway Staff at various stages since 1939.”

By taking my statement and the Railway Executive document in conjunction, a most interesting and significant comparison is revealed; a comparison which I want to stress on behalf of my Society as being one to which we attach the utmost importance as an illustration of our case in regard to the fundamental principle increases which have taken place in the rates of the various grades since 1939, we find that, instead of increases in maximum rates of the order of 70, 80, 90, 100 and 110 per cent., which have been conceded to the general run of grades other than Drivers, Motormen and Firemen, the increase in the maximum rate of the Driver and the Motorman has been only 53.3 per cent., the lowest of all in the conciliation grades, and such increase in the case of Fireman only 62.5 per cent. In view of this contrast it is not to be wondered at that footplatemen today all over British Railways hold-to the view that the skill, responsibility and arduous labour involved in their calling are neither appreciated nor decently recompensed. May I emphasise that it is the sober fact that the top-rated Driver or motorman-the man normally emptied on duties highest in grade and responsibility-has actually received since 1939 the smallest percentage increase of any of the conciliation grades, whilst in only a single instance has any other conciliation grade received a percentage increase as low as that of the top-rated Fireman?

But there is test another aspect of the matter which I should like to bring to the notice of the Court, and to which I would invite special attention because it demonstrates once again how clearly untenable is any argument to the effect that the negotiations of 1948 did, in fact, secure the adjustments in inter-grade margins recommended in paragraph 100 of the Report of the 1947 Court-that is today, the paragraph from which I quoted a little earlier on in the course of my remarks.

The last column of the Railway Executive document, on the extreme right-hand side, shows the percentage increase since July 30, 1945. The increase in this case consists of the flat rate of 7s. 6d. per week, following on the report of the Court of Inquiry of June, 1947, plus the additional concessions made by the Railway Executive in February, 1948, in negotiations arising from the Court’s recommendation.

If one turns to the increase for the top-rated Driver or Motorman and the top-rate Fireman, which will be found in the final column on page 98, and are among the lowest at 9.1 and 8.8 per cent., respectively, and then glances at the other increases in the same column, it will be readily seen that whatever the 1948 Agreement did, it certainly did not deal in any effective way with the question of distorted relativity; and accordingly it can readily be appreciated why the strong protest, to which I have already referred was entered upon the Agreement in question, and why the 1948 adjustments are regarded by us as totally unsatisfactory, bearing in mind the ostensible purpose and intention of the negotiations. May I make a further very important point in connection with the figures for July 30,1945, as given in the extreme right-hand column? It will be noted on page 98 that the percentage increase of the maximum rate of Fireman already quoted, 8.8. per cent., was the same as that received by the grades which were on or near the adult minimum of 45s. in 1939. It must, however, be borne in mind that since the appendix from which I am quoting was prepared, the grades last mentioned have had a further increase due recent concessions of 3s. 6d. per week. This, of course, has had the effect of further distorting the position and so has gone still further from the intentions of the 1947 Court in the matter of relativity. The point I have to make briefly on that is this: The adjustment made by the 3s. 6d. recently awarded will bring the percentage increase to 12.94 per cent., but against that for the key personnel on whole behalf I am speaking, in the case of Firemen it is 8.8, and in the case of Drivers it is 9.1, a featue which I feel sure will be clearly understood.

 

THE DRIVER AND THE FITTER

In dealing with comparative increases, should like also to draw the attention of the Court to a further glaring ill stance of loss of true relativity; tills time, a case which, whilst it has reference to railway employment, does not concern a conciliation grade. I refer to the Locomotive Shed Fitter, who belongs to the shop grades nnd whose rates of pay are governed by separate agreements. In 1939 the relative positions of the Loco- motive Shed Fitter and the top-rated Driver in the matter of weekly rates of pay were as follows: Fitter, 68s. 6d. per week; Driver, 90s. Today, the two rates reveal a total disappearance of even a semblance of any practical differentiation, being in the case of the Fitter, 137s, 7., and in the case of Drivers, 138s. 

 

A MAJOR ISSUE

The figures which I have presented clearly show the distortion which has taken place in the railway wages structure so carefully built up thirty years ago. They are also sufficient in themselves to explain the unrest and discontent so prevalent today throughout the ranks of the footplate grades and Motormen. They are largely deplore wastage, particularly of staff in the earlier stages of the footplate career, of which I have already quoted an instructive example from the Western Region. It is only to be expected, and only in accordance with human nature, that should be profoundly affected, profoundly disquieted by the feeling that the special nature of their craft, the irregular hours, the duties performed in all weathers, the lack of normal facilities for social life, all involved to a unique degree in the locomotiveman's job, are being recognised less and less with the passage of time, as is indeed concretely evidenced by the fact to which I am here drawing attention-the fact of the steady and seemingly relentless dwindling of the former differential. 

In this connection, I would unhesitatingly say that those responsible for railway management today are presented with a moral and psychological issue of a major character-an issue which I submit needs in the general interest to be faced and the situation remedied with the minimum of delay.

Whilst it is appropriate that, in dealing with this vital aspect of our claim, I should thus take the situation within the railway service as the basis of my submissions, should like additionally to refer to the position so far as employment in outside industry is concerned, and in this respecit wiIl, of course, be appreciated that, aftemarking time for nearly three years during which one section after in other of workers iother industries have gone forward for, anhave-as is common knowledge-received increases in rates of pay, the man in the line of promotion has naturally become greatly  perturbed and now feels that the time has arrived when his position should receive urgent and reasonable consideration. 

In view of facts such as these, it can he readily understood why such numbers of our young Fireman are saying today that in comparison with all that the job involves there is little to look forward to. It can moreover, be appreciated how the position of a skilled and responsible body of meperforming an essential duty in the railway service has been adversely affected; and I repeat our submission that a return should be made without delay to the operation of sound and accepted basic principles in the determination of wages rates.

The policy of “ tinkering” with the railway wages structure without heed to maintaining relative standards-and indeed he progressive reduction of those standards towards parity with the remuneration of less skilled, less responsible, less arduous and exacting jobs-is felt by the Society which 1 represent to be utterly unjust, utterly wrong, and fraught with dangers for the future. It is a policy of which my members are today unanimous in demanding a reversal.

In this connection the feelings expressed at the Society's annual conference last May and at the recalled conference in October, and also the general unrest revealed in a host of letters and resolutions received at my office, demonstrate unmistakably that frustration and disappointment are rising to a head. Hence our present claim; a claim which; in my submission, is more than justified even if considered solely on the verimportant basis with which I have just been dealing. I accordingly express the sincere hope that the Report of this Court will be such as to give to the men in the line of the promotion that measure of equity, common justice and encouragement which has been so conspicuously absent in recent years so far as wage concessions are concerned.  

 

NATURE OF THE CLAIM

Coming now to our claim itself, I feel that, having regard to its straightforward nature and the fact that it is so self explanatory, I need not take up much of the time of the Court in elaborating unduly upon its details, particularly having in mind that I have already dealt so fully with the responsibilities attached to the locomotive man’s duties and other associated matters. Our claim will be found set out in full in my Statement No.1 in which I also show for convenience of reference the rate in operation at each stage when our application was originally submitted. It will be observed that we are not proposing any change in the existing incidence of periodical advance from minimum to the maximum; we are simply asking that at each step in the scales there shall be an increase representing in approximate terms an advance of 15 per cent. So far as the footnotes to the various proposed scales are concerned, those merely repeat what in fact now in operation under existing agreements.

May I now draw attention also to may Statement No.8, which, com parsing September, 1939, with July, 1950, shows on a rate and percentage basis what would be the effect of concession of our claim? I feet that a glance at column 4 of this statement, giving in terms of percentages over 1939 the increases now claimed, will suffice to show that the effect would be, broadly speaking, to bring the rates of pay of the men in the line of promotion back at least into some degree of that true relativity which, as 1 have sought so strongly to emphasise, and for the reasons which I have advanced, is a task necessity for the wellbeing of the service today and in the years to come.

 

COST OF LIVING

My observations so far will, 1 trusthave made it plain that our claim fundamentally rests upon the basis of recognition of craft value and the need to encourage staff to take responsibility by reverting to something more in keeping with former inter-grade differentials. It is, however, nonetheless fitting and necessary that some observations should here be made respecting the cost of living as affecting the body of men whom I have the honour to represent.

The United Kingdom Index of Retail Prices at November 14, 1950, stood at 116 in respect of all items included in the calculation (prices in June, 1947, being taken as 100). As regards food only, the figure at that date was 125; for clothing only it was 123. Turning for a moment to wages, we find in the "Ministry of Labour Gazette” for December, 1950, that, again taking the level of June, 1947, as being 100, the index of weekly rates of wages foprincipal industries and services in the United Kingdom stood at 113 in November, 1950. On the same basis the wage level of the top-rated Driver and Motorman is now at the figure of 102.98, and that of the top-rates Fireman at 101.73 - quite a disparity. This in itself is of important significance in relation, among other things, to the cost-of-living figure of 116 which I have just quotes. no less significant is the position revealed if one goes back to the pre-war situation for purpose of comparison, by working from information given in the “Monthly Digest of Statistics” issued by the Central Statistical Office, and from the Treasury National Income figures. By doing so we find that the rise in prices for all consumers' goods between 1938 and the end of the second quarter of 1950 amounts to 92 .per cent.; and this calculation is supported by the statement made in July last by Sir Stafford Cripps that, assuming that the pound sterling had a purchasing power of 20s. in September, 1939, such purchasing power had by 1950 fallen to a figure of 10s. 6d.

On the latter basis, that is to say, a purchasing power of 10s. 6d. for the pound sterling, it is in fact therefore correct to say that the current maximum weekly rate of the Driver, at 138s., is equivalent to only 72s. 5d. in terms of pre-war purchasing power-equal, that is, to a sum of 17s. 7d. less than the pre war maximum rate of 90s. Similarly the current sixth-year weekty rate for the Fireman, at 117s., represents the pre-war purchasing equivalent of 61s. 5d ;: or 10s. 7d. less than the appropriate scale rate as obtaining in 1939.

In view of the great importance of this matter, I have handed in a statement, numbered 9, in which has been set out in detail the purchasing power on this basis of (a) the weekly rates of pay of men in the line of promotion in July, 1950, and (b) the weekly rates which are proposed in our claim. I have also shown the appropriate 1939 rates at each stage, and on comparison it will be seen that the effect of concession of our claim would be, broadly speaking, to restore the wages paid to something very like the 1939 rates in terms of purchasing power.

This statement, NO.9, therefore, gives, in fact, eloquent testimony to the modesty and reasonableness of our claim, inasmuch as, from the standpoint of the cost-of-living, its effect would be confined, speaking in general terms, to thaof repairing breaches in the standard of life, rather than seeking to build a higher standard at this juncture; and so even if it had no other basis, on these grounds alone our claim, in my submission will merit concession in full.

Figures such as these are, as a matter of fact, sufficiently eloquent to speak for themselves. There is, however, on other aspect of the cost-of-living question which deserves also to be brought to the notice of this Court mainly in relation to the item of food, for which, as has been indicated, the latest official figure stands at 125. 

The provision of proper and adequate hot meals for a locomotiveman is not only a constant "headache" for his wife or mother, but it also involves an important element of extra strain upon the family budget. The varying times of booking on and off duty liable to occur at any minute of each of the 24 hours in the day necessarily mean that the man is unable on many occasions to take meals at the same times as are necessary to meet the needs of the rest of the household. Thus it very frequenlly happens that meals have 10 be separately prepared and cooked for him alone a process which naturally involves important additional expense over and above the food and fuel expenditure normal to a worker’s family. Therefore, even if the Ministry of Labour index is regarded as adequate with respect to ordinary cases (which according to a recent Parliamentary question and answer is apparently subject to doubt), it does not, in fact, reflect the extra needs of the locomotive man’s household in respect of the element of food and of the other domestic costs involved. Here am content to leave the subject of the cost-of-living-the figures which I have quoted are both striking and, I submit, conclusive as to the justice of our claim.  

 

SUBSIDIES

Before i close my submissions, there are certain observations upon another aspect of our claim that, with the indulgence of the Court, I feel it incumbent upon me to make in the interests of the men whom I represent. Transport matters in genial, and railway matters in particular, have lately come in for a good deal of extra prominence in various quarters, both in some sections of the Press and in public discussion. Quite a number of economists, financial, commercial and industrial people, and journalists have in recent months been examine, and making knowing their views upon, such questions as fares and rates, integration, centralisation and so forth. Many differing points of view on such topics as these have been put forward and hotly argued. (In passing, may I say, however, that whatever else the disputants disagree about, there is, so far as my knowledge goes, a significant unanimity as to the thoroughly unsatisfactory nature of present wage levels in the railway service.)

The point to which I wish to draw attention is one of Considerable Importance, and one which the people to whom I am referring seem for the most part either to overlook or for some reason to avoid. The word " subsidy" has been cropping up here and there in discussion. What is not mentioned, however, is the fact that a subsidy is and has for a considerable time been in operation; not, however, a subsidy to the railway industry, but a heavy and continuous subsidy paid indirectly day in and day out by the railway industry to the other industries of this country. It is in all conscience obvious enough that such is the case when, as in the present instance, you have a transport organisation having on the one hand increased its passenger fates by 55 per cent. and its freight charges by 81 per cent. over pre-war, and yet on the other side of the account having to cope with costs considerably more than twice-as high as the general level obtaining in 1939. In order to substantiate my point I would call attention to paragraph 2;00 of the 1949 British Transport Commission Report. I will read the appropriate extract: “The prices that the Executive had to pay for commodities continues continued to rise during the year, the index figure for selected items in general use reaching 145 per cent. above pre-war at the end of December, as compared with 134 per cent. at the end of December, 1948,

No one in his senses will deny the desirability in principle of maintaining railway fares and rates at the lowest possible level, in the general economic interests of the country as a whole is to benefit by restriction of fares and rates, then at least this should be achieved by some means which does not involve calling upon a comparatively small section of the population-that is to say, upon the railway workers-to bear the cost by continuing to forgo decent and proper standards of remuneration commensurate with their duties. In the view of those whom I represent in all parts of the country, the principle of calling upon the staff thus virtually to subsidise the rest of the community is a thoroughly vicious one. In our submission it is a principle which, in the interests of promoting harmonious and efficient co-operation inside the service of British Railways, should cease to operate and should be substituted by methods more in keeping with elementary justice and with the dictates of reason.

 

LET JUSTICE PREVAIL

In concluding my statement to the Court I desire to express my thanks for the courteous and attentive hearing which has been accorded to me. May I add that the members of the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen belong to a group of grades who are inheritors of a particular and a very long and fine tradition of service; a tradition of pride in and devotion to their job-a job which is at one and the same time a highly skilled craft and an arduous calling, exacting from those who follow it, as I have endeavoured to show, a high degree of physical endurance, mental concentration, social inconvenience and domestic sacrifice. Today those men, for reasons which 1 trust I have made clear to this Court, are profoundly stirred by a strong sense of injustice. No self-respecting man who knows he is doing a job worthy of the fullest rerngnition and rcspect can look on and see that job progressively cheapened and seriously underpaid without strong feelings of dissatisfaction and of determination to press to the utmost for his position to be rectified.

In these circumstance, Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, it can be imagined that the proceedings of the Court are being followed with the greatest interest by the locomotive men of British Railways. I therefore sincerely trust that the submissions which I have made will assist the Court in reaching a just and equitable conclusion which will ensure that good will on British Railways which is so essential to the nation and to the community at large.

 

 Locomotive Journa

A Modern Magazine for Locomotive Engineers anFiremen,

 and ElectriTrainmen

Vol. 64 April, 1951 NO.4

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

THE SETTLEMENT

BRITISH RAILWAYS

Last month as we net to press a position of further deadlock had been reached so far as our wages claim for men in the line of promotion on British Railway was concerned. Our Branches have been notified by Head Office circulars of subsequent developments.

For the convenience of members we reproduce on another page details of the settlement which was eventually reached in the evening of Friday, February 23, after intensive renewed negations with the R.E., following action by the Minister of Labour arising from the impasse mention above.

It should be noted that whilst the wage increases obtained represent broadly at 7.5 per cent. advantage generally, the increase to Drivers and Motormen on the top rate is one of 8.3 per cent. Further, the fact that the increases this time are on a percentage and not a flat rate basis accords with the policy of relativity which the A.S.L.E. and F. has consitenly champion. Having regard to the present financial structure of the Transport Commission (a matter which continues to receive the active attention of our E.C.), and to the fantastic nature of the commitments imposed upon the Railway Executive thereby, we are confident that our members’ verdict will be favourable as to the settlement achieved after what have been truly termed “marathon” negotiations.

During these discussions-as was the case at the Court of Inquiry and earlier-the subjects of efficient working and economy were well to the fore; and credit is due to the clear and consistent policy of our Executive Committee for the fact that ultimately agreement was reached for the wages issue to be resolved separately, whilst at the same time provision was made for the setting-up of a Joint Committee to review the question of more efficient and economical working. The words of the proviso in the latter connection are also set out in this number of the JOURNAL for the information of members.

We desire to add that in our discussions with Mr. John Elliot, Chairman of the R.E., and Mr. W.P. Allen, Labour Relations Member, it was plain to all concerned that a new atmosphere was existent at national level. This is a good augury for the future, and we do not doubt that it will find healthy reflection throughout the whole extent of British Railways,  with a determination on the part of all concerned to co-operate in the task of making nationalisation a success, since its failure would react to the serious detriment of staff and public alike.

 

 

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