A Plimsoll line for Labour? : the statutory minimum wage question in British politics, 1910-1939
This study charts the development of statutory minimum wage policy between 1906-1939. Unlike other works touching upon the minimum wage theme, this study makes extensive use of trade union and employers' organisation records. Indeed, the fate of official minimum wage policy can only be understood by giving full consideration to the views of the two sides of industry, especially with regard to the inter-war period. The sensitivities of employers' organisations and the TUC played a crucial role in influencing the character of government policy in this field. Trade boards, representative of employers and workers within a strictly defined low-paying sector, were a 'lowest common denominator' minimum wage policy that suited the interests of representative organisations on both sides of industry. The TUC, never wholly comfortable with the notion of government 'interference' in the unions' sphere of wage-rate determination, recognised that in sectors where organisation was difficult to foster, a legal minimum rate could help safeguard the wage standards of all workers, including the higher-skilled. Likewise, employers may have been wary of 'red tape'; but those suffering from undercutting by non-federated rivals appreciated a basic legal 'floor' to wages. Thus, in those sectors where voluntary collective bargaining could not ensure minimum standards, both sides of industry could embrace trade boards as a substitute. Thus, in seeking to account for the absence of a uniform national minimum wage until 1998, the attitudes of both sides of industry, and the TUC in particular, should be borne in mind as much as inertia on the part of government. Chapters One to Three provide a chronological analysis of the development of minimum wage policy between 1906-1918. Chapters Four and Five cover the inter-war period, dealing with the vicissitudes of trade boards and the unsuccessful fate of 'universal' minimum wage policies, respectively.