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reason for an increase in wages. Employers are, for the same reason, largely on the defensive, and endeavor to counteract arguments on the cost of living by claiming that the industry will not stand such an increase of wages as is being demanded, because of outside competition or the low profits being received by employers. Owing perhaps to the fact that there has been until recently little statistical evidence of a reliable sort tending to show the extent of the increase in the cost of living, such evidence as the workers have presented has been of a sporadic sort, based largely on their own experiences. Probably it has been none the less effective for that reason. More than once I have heard employers admit after a worker had read a statement as to what he had been able to purchase with his wages that one could not blame him for asking for an increase in wages. On the other hand, I have also heard the employees reluctantly confess that in view of what employers have said concerning the competitive conditions in their industry, they must content themselves with a less increase in wages than they had believed they were entitled to. On the whole, one who has attended many meetings of these boards goes away with the impression that both employers and employees leave these boards with a much better understanding of the conditions which the other side has to meet than could be obtained in any other way than through these face-to-face informal conferences.
Mr. Aves has expressed the opinion that there is a great need for statistical information concerning such factors as prices of raw material, house rent, and the like, which could be used by the boards as evidence of the claims made with reference to the cost of living or the cost of production. Such evidence is of great value
1 Aves, op. cit., p. 20.
to a judge of an arbitration court and nearly all the judges of arbitration courts in Australia and New Zealand have at times expressed the need of accurate information of this sort to guide them in reaching a decision in regard to wages. It is doubtful, however, if it would be of much value to the wages boards, where the process is one of bargaining and of mutual concession rather than the reaching of a decision based on evidence.
The boards may, if they desire, take evidence from other than members of the boards concerning matters which are in dispute. The taking of evidence does not consume a very large part of the boards' time in Victoria, nor did it in South Australia while the latter colony had the Victorian system. But in New South Wales the taking of evidence consumes more time than any other one thing in the boards' work, and the determinations finally reached are based more on the evidence taken than upon the results of the conferences between representatives of employers and employees. The importance attached to the evidence taken by the New South Wales boards in making an award, as compared to that shown by the wages boards in other states, is a clear proof of the fact already stated that the New South Wales boards are in reality judicial tribunals rather than conciliation boards. The evidence taken in the wage boards usually relates to details of the trade and is intended for the information of the chairman. Such information is usually a matter of common knowledge to the members of the boards, who are engaged directly in the trade.
It seldom happens of course that either side obtains all that it is requesting at a board meeting. Generally there is a compromise, and a wise and tactful chairman is always waiting for the opportunity to suggest a com
promise which he has reason to believe will be acceptable to both parties. In the early stages of the conference the parties on one side of the table generally attempt to convince those on the other side of the justice of their demands. Failing in this, the arguments, towards the end of a conference, as has just been said, are usually directed toward securing a favorable vote from the chairman and are therefore directed to him. Some chairmen pride themselves on their ability to secure an agreement among the parties without the necessity of casting a deciding vote. Rev. A. R. Edgar, for many years chairman of the clothing board, as well as other boards, has told me that he has never yet been obliged to cast the deciding vote. At times, where an agreement has seemed impossible he has adjourned the board meetings until the parties have informed him that they were able to report an agreement. While such results are not infrequent, it commonly happens that the chairman must practically make his position known, - that is, he must indicate how far he is willing to go in the matter of an increase in wages, - before the two parties can be made to come to an agreement on this vital issue. The most experienced chairman of the wages boards in Victoria has told me that he is seldom obliged to give a deciding vote, but I have noticed in board meetings over which he presided that after a lengthy discussion, when apparently all the arguments on either side had been presented, he would announce that he was willing to agree to a certain wage or other arrangement. Generally this was a compromise between the proposals made by the two parties, and it was then left for one side or the other rather reluctantly to make the motion that such an arrangement as the chairman had suggested be made, whereupon the other side would accept the proposal.
The wages boards in Victoria and Tasmania and until recently at least those in South Australia and Queensland are therefore true examples of collective bargaining, since the agreements are reached as a result of full presentation of the claims of employers in a trade collectively represented and those of the employees in the same trade also collectively represented. The chairman, altho possessing considerable power, is bound to exercise it with discretion if he is at all inclined to bring about a determination which will satisfy in a measure both parties and which will permit the industry to continue without interruption. The boards in New South Wales, on the other hand, do not convey to the visitor the impression of being conferences wherein employers and employees make their own bargains. The taking of evidence, the inquiries made by the board members, the extended arguments presented by representatives of the two sides with a view to influencing the board's decision, all give the appearance of a judicial tribunal. This impression is heightened by the knowledge that in most cases the parties may make an appeal direct to the arbitration court. As a matter of fact, the conciliation councils in New Zealand, while not pretending to the name of wages boards, far more resemble the wages boards in Victoria than do the New South Wales boards. Indeed, in many respects, the conciliation councils are better examples of collective bargaining than even the Victorian boards; for the chairman in such councils has no deciding vote and when an agreement is obtained it must be reached by the two parties alone. One must not be misled by this fact into reaching a conclusion that a chairman might be dispensed with under the wages boards plan. The wages boards' experience under the 1902 amendment to the Victorian law, which took away from the chairman the
right to vote, clearly showed the impracticability of such a plan. The real reason why the conciliation councils in New Zealand are able to reach an agreement in the majority of cases is the fact that both parties realize that if an agreement were not reached the case would automatically go to the arbitration court for final adjustment and, generally speaking, employers and employees prefer to settle their own differences.
M. B. HAMMOND.
OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY.