In 19214 85.9 million working days were lost in industrial disputes, a figure surpassed only once in British history, in 1926, and then only in the unique circumstances of a general strike. The bitter climate of industrial relations during 1921 is perhaps not difficult to explain. Since the end of the war the unions, strengthened by amalgamation and federation, and inflated by vast membership increases, had pushed up money wages and cut the length of the working day. Labour’s offensive continued long after the brief post-war boom collapsed, and money wages did not reach their peak until early in 1921, when prices and employment levels were already falling at an alarming rate. In these circumstances the labour offensive led directly into a capitalist offensive, as employers sought to force down labour costs and so recover their profit margins. But the unions were strongly entrenched in industry and determined to retain as far as possible their post-war gains. Head-on clashes between capital and labour thus occurred along almost the entire industrial front, the most dramatic being the national lock-out in the coal industry.
KeywordsShort History Coal Industry Royal Commission Labour Party General Council
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