The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 6 (October 24, 1926)
The establishment of committees of employees in the workshops for the discussion, at stated intervals, of shops problems with the management, is a development of the welfare activities of the Department the importance of which cannot be exaggerated. The obvious mutual advantages of such committees suggests the question why they had not been introduced years ago. But Leagues of Employers and Employed, like Leagues of Nations, are (to use the language of the horticulturist) plants of slow growth, and require years of assiduous cultivation before they become things of vigour and definitely fixed in the soil of reality. It is enough for our purpose that they have become so fixed. If there is one thing more than any other which disgraces modern industry it is surely its disputes—bitter, destructive, and very largely preventable. In, our study of the origin of the disputes of industry we not infrequently discover that they arise from grievances which a little frank discussion between the parties concerned would have removed. Such a state of affairs is bad business and is creditable neither to one side nor the other. Now the work in which we are engaged as railwaymen is of the most vital importance to the life of the community. It is essential, if we would efficiently perform that work, that we be not hampered by the retarded or sluggish working of the machine due to faulty operation or to grievances between ourselves and the Department which such faulty operation might engender.
In a business which has assumed such proportions as ours, no controlling officer, however penetrating be his vision, can have a knowledge of all the matters which influence for good or ill the smooth and efficient working of his department. This is particularly true of the workshops. The men themselves, however, in virtue of their more intimate and continuous contact with the operations of the various jobs have a knowledge of details, of methods and procedure, of matters irritating and distracting to themselves as well as to the Department which could be represented to the manager and remedied to the advantage of all concerned. In the aggregate these problems constitute a serious source of waste, of inefficiency, and dissatisfaction. Up to the present time, because of the limitation of the manager's and foreman's information and authority and the non-existence of a recognised appointed committee in the shops for the representation of the men's problems and difficulties very little was or could be done in the direction of discussing and remedying them as they arose. All this will be changed when the Workshops Committees commence to function. As the jurisdiction of the committees will cover the consideration, and, if necessary, the representation, of every question affecting the men individually and collectively in the pursuit of their work in each shop, it will surely be the men's own fault if they have any legitimate grievance that remains unremedied. A determined effort should be made to put the axe to the root of every practice detrimental to the efficiency of the workshops and the common interests of the men. It remains for the men to make themselves articulate through their committees to the end of removing existing disabilities—and disabilities in prospect—so that our workshops will become models of what workshops should be. It is a splendid opportunity and provides, at last, definite machinery for improving existing conditions.
In the large shops in Britain and America Shop Committees have achieved remarkable success and enjoy a prestige with all parties that is not likely to be shaken. No less an authority than Sir Henry Thornton, President of the Canadian National Railways, is, at the present time, assisting the introduction of an organisation (analogous to our Shop Committees) throughout the great railway system he controls. He has joined with the President of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in supporting a plan whereby in the workshops of their respective systems the men and the management co-operate to increase production, decrease waste, promote safety, sanitation, and welfare work generally. So successful have such committees been on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad that since 1923 there have been no fewer than 2,180 joint meetings of management and men. What is perhaps more interesting is the fact that over 14,000 specific proposals were brought up at these meetings, of which 11,300 have been adopted in the shops.
It is to the innumerable questions associated with methods of procedure in carrying out the various jobs, with the tools required for the purpose, their quality, variety, and speedy replacement—a considerable item in time and displeasure costs—with the elimination of waste (which should include study of the waste of time and materials occasioned through avoidable machining—a significant item—waste of page 19 time and human energy due to laborious filing and chiselling for which machines have been made—and waste due to paucity of equipment in the machine shops—bolts, plates, packing, tool borrowing, grind-stone facilities for machinists and turners, and so forth); unsafe practices, sanitation, ventilation, heating, lighting, cleanliness and orderliness of the shop, the smoke and dust nuisance, subscription lists, the accessibility of jobs and material, the provision of seats on automatic machines—which would be surprisingly beneficial in diminishing fatigue, and incidentally, the accidents due to this cause—it is to these questions, amongst others, to which our shop committees could turn with the prospect of profitable discussion.
The purpose of shop committees is to facilitate such discussions and to remove every obstacle which operates against the comfort and safety of the employees concerned. The ideal of these committees should be extended to every branch of the Railways—“For Better Service.”
Social life is, and must be, a system of compromises; and whoever does not, consciously or unconsciously, act on this truth finds perpetual difficulties in his way through the world.
Newmarket Workshops Rugby Football Team, which defeated Petone Workshops by 13 points to nil, thus winning the Myers Cup for 1926
Back Row:— Calcanai (Referee), R. McDonald, J. Elliot, H. Tate, G. Sherlock, M. Judd, H. Hunt, J. Davidson, L. Jouning, W. Bee, J. Carnahan (Manager)
Front Row:— B. Lawrence, T. Townsend, G. Bevin, D. Lockie (Captain), R. Steer, J. Clarke, R. Cameron, N. Lipscombe (Vice-Captain)