Luton iron workers in national strike

[Beds & Herts Tuesday Telegraph: September 23rd, 1919]

The strike of the members of the Friendly Society of Ironworkers, the Coremakers' Society and the Iron and Steel Dressers' Society, which commenced on Saturday, has its effects on the Luton district, where there is a branch of the first-mentioned society. There are about 230 members in the district, which includes Hitchin and Letchworth.

The workers principally affected are the heavy moulders, and the strike will have its effect in the engineering and shipbuilding industries, and also in connection with railway work. There are possibilities, too, of a sympathetic strike on the part of others in the works from which the strikers are drawn, that is if the Government does not intervene and settle the dispute.

Meantime, the strikers are confident that the works will have to be closed down in the near future, stating that the stocks in hand will not permit of a continuance. If this is so more men will be thrown out of work, and it is understood that one local firm have given their labourers a week's notice.

Practically all the ironfounders of the town have men out on strike, although the Diamond Works being engaged on a different class of work to the others, have only three men absent.

The cause of the dispute is one of wages, the strikers demanding 15s a week more for men and 7s 6d for boys, this being to meet the increased cost of living. At the present time the approximate weekly rate for a man working 47 hours is £3 14s 10d.

We are informed that some of the Luton firms have made offers to the men but, as the matter is a national one, nothing can be done until the question as a whole is settled.

The local arrangements in connection with the strike have been made by Mr Fred Pell (President) and Mr H. Jackson (Secretary). Outwardly there is little indication that a strike is in progress, the men having left work in the ordinary way at the expiration of their notices on Saturday, and now they simply await a settlement in order to resume work.

Interviewed by a Telegraph representative, Mr Pell said he would like it to be clearly understood that there was no local grievance in addition to the national one. There might be some misunderstanding as to the position of the members of the Friendly Society of Ironmakers in relation to that of other Unions in the town. The other Unions were working under their own conditions, but the ironfounders were going on what they termed their national programme.

They considered that they were a little below the position attained by the other societies connected with the engineering trade, and the members were determined that the moulders' standard should be brought up to that of the workers belonging to the other societies.

They were not breaking any agreement. They gave three weeks notice and withdrew from the wages agreement, the higher officials of the Society supporting them in the action they had taken.