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The turbid ebb and flow of publicity has of late relegated the British strike to a secondary position. None-the-less, many disputes of primary importance remain to be settled, after the momentous first step of calling off the general strike unconditionally.
Even the problem of getting the workers back to their former jobs involves both time and a high degree of executive ability. Credit is due to Premier Baldwin who, against the opposition of his own party, brought pressure to bear on employers to take back the strikers on the old scale of pay. Without such intervention, a universal lockout might easily have succeeded the general strike, an eventuality appalling in the possibilities presented for violence. By his move, the Premier prevented a martyrdom of labor which would have done much to secure it the sympathy lost upon instigating the enormous walkout.
Even as it is, the trade unions are legally in an insecure position. Having broken contracts in order to engage in the orgy of sympathy, judges may decide that the associations are liable for the damage done their employers by the delay. If such a decision were made the financial power of labor would be crippled for years to come, a possibility jeopardizing the vast improvement of the working man's position.
More probable is it that the moderates will restrain the legal offensive against labor even as they have restricted the direct attack. In trade unions when they apply themselves only to local conditions, one finds a valuable counter-irritant to capitalism. In the matter of hours and wages, the union aids in striking a fair balance with the employer.
While the government has been busy seeing fair play among general industries, it has pursued an equal policy of moderation in that seat of all trouble, coal mining. Premier Baldwin's conciliatory offer seems in a fair way to be accepted by the associated Trade Unions, if not by the more radical leaders among the miners. Certainly, the Premier's proposal, based on the Coal Commission's report represents a solution which will protect the public as well as the two rival factors of production. The subsidy, which drains the common treasury for the sake of a single class, will be continued only until the industry can be reorganized along efficient lines. Then the better paid miners will have to accept a cut in wages.
This moderate offer, unsatisfactory though it is from the human standpoint, is probably the best practical plan for placing the coal industry on a sound basis. With British fondness for the workable solution, the disputants will in all probability accept the Premier's offer in principle. Anglo-Saxons have no desire to chase immaterial utopias.
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