Frat Cain


The Wage War Against Incomes

(July 1965)

From Socialist Review, 1 July 1965, p. 3.
Transcribed by Ian Birchall, Nina Kidron & Richard Kuper.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Most official trade union journals are boring, uninformed chronicles of union proceedings. Few interpret the world from their members’ point of view. They prefer to ignore both. Not so Data Journal, organ of the Draftsmen’s and Allied Technicians’ Association. An exception in this genre of tedium, its last issue (June) is even more interesting than usual.

A three-page editorial set out to explain why the Association opposes the Incomes Policy. It starts baldly enough: “DATA is strongly in favour of economic planning. But it is not in favour of stringent planning in relation to wages and salaries whilst the rest of the economy remains virtually unplanned.”

And so it must be under capitalism, since “Wages and salaries are determined by negotiation and bargaining: Any changes in their magnitude are subject to discussion in advance of the changes being made. Profits, in contrast, are not subject to negotiation. An employer does not have to negotiate: with his workers to secure and increase in profits.”

The facts are there to prove ??? In the first four months following the Statement of Intent (January–April), gross profits declared ??? 12.2 per cent and dividends after tax 15 per cent. So much for controlling profits under the present Incomes Policy.

So back to what might be controlled, wages. But are workers really earning so much as to ??? the country’s competitive position? The journal gives a ??? and emphatic “no.” Between 1958 and the third quarter of last year, hourly earnings in manufacturing went up by 43 per cent in Britain, compared with 81 per cent (nearly double in Italy, 64 per cent in West Germany and 60 per cent in France. Earnings per unit of output went up fifteen per cent here compared with 26, 17 and 21 per cent in the same countries. Today, wages (including social benefits) are lower in Britain than in France, ???, Italy or Germany. Yet their exports have been increasing at double the rate ours have.

In sum, “It simply is not true, as a generality, that British engineering exports are being priced out of the market. It is even less true that British exports are in danger because of rising wages and salaries.

On the contrary, if anyone is “failing the nation” on exports, it is the bosses who refuse to re-equip key industries for the task – machine tools, steel – and their government (including the present one) that refuses to unbuckle the immense arms burden (heavily weighted as it is towards expenditure in foreign currency) and refuses to abstain from colonial “confederations.” Quite rightly, they [? The writers of the editorial] see Britain’s economic mess as a political problem – domestic and foreign – and see no reason why workers should be made to pay for policies they do not sanction. There’s more, some good – a sharp etch of anomalies in the government’s policy – some not – a weak invocation of the UN Charter. But the whole is more than the sum of its parts, and adds up to a model for trade union journals and their editors.

Last updated on 18 February 2017