Paul Salveson explains how the the 1911 strike came to an end

Resource Type: Audio | Posted on 22nd July 2011 by Liam Physick

Paul Salveson details how the Prime Minister, Herbert Henry Asquith, panicked by the effects the national strike was having, proposed a deal whereby the government would try and get the unions recognised by the bosses and set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the unions’ grievances. The union leaders, feeling this would be the best deal they could get, accepted, and though some workers stayed out, the strike then fizzled out

Interviewee: Paul Salveson

Interviewee Gender: Male

Interview Transcript

And this strike lasted a mere three days, and by the Friday of that (audience member coughs), the government was absolutely terrified, Churchill was saying, you know, was clearly mistaken, panic, as the Home Affairs Minister, Asquith himself was thinking, well, you know, the, the railway company, certainly the management think the basic service going, no trains are running, the whole economy is grinding to a halt, there were stories of vegetables rotting in the goods yard at Edge Hill, just across from where we’re sat now, it was a very hot summer, so something had to be done, so Asquith got the union leaderships back together, promised them a better deal, it wasn’t certainly what they wanted, they said, well, OK, we promise that there will be no victimisation of strikers, there’ll be, we will do, make our best endeavours to get unions recognised, and there will be a Commission of Inquiry, not quite a Royal Commission, something that would be a bit more hands-on, to address some of the problems that have been raised, and there would have been an immediate meeting with the conciliation board, which had been set up a few years earlier, which no one was very, very happy with, they weren’t very conciliatory. So, the union leaderships decided, “This is probably the best that we’re gonna get”, rightly or wrongly, and a lot of the members thought they were wrong, and they called the strike off on Saturday, and the trains were running normally by the following Monday. Some of the bigger centres, including Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, passed unanimous resolutions opposing the calling off of the strike, but generally, across the country, I think the, if you like, the temple of militancy was much lower, and so the railway obeyed what the union leaderships were saying, and went back to work. What actually came out of it, I think the biggest gain of the 1911 strike as far as railway workers were concerned was that they’d effectively received de facto recognition. That meeting on the Saturday, for the first time, the railway directors came and sat down in the same room with the railway union leaders, chaired by Lloyd George, so Lloyd George was very pleased with himself and there’s a story of him, sort of, bursting into the, No. 10 saying, “I’ve done it! I don’t know how I did it, but I did it!”, you know, he was very, very pleased with himself, and so, the strike had, it was all over, in most senses, by Monday, some strikes carried on, on tramways, Liverpool tramway workers stayed out for several days longer, but the railwaymen, yeah, with varying degrees of reluctance, went back to work.

Tagged under: edge hill station, railway workers, edge hill goods yard, 1911 strike, trade unions, winston churchill, david lloyd george, herbert henry asquith

Categorised under: Work & Industry

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