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UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
AT LOS ANGELES




GIFT OF CAPT. AND MRS.
PAUL MCBRIDE PERIGORD



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LIBRARY



INTERNATIONAL LABOUR
LEGISLATION



Navigia atque agri culturas moenia leges

usus et impigrae simul experientia mentis
paulatim docuit pedetentim progredientis.
Sic vmum quicquid paulatim protrahit aetas
in medium ratioque in luminis erigit oras.
Namque alid ex alio clarescere et ordine debet
artibus, ad summum donee venere cacumen.

Lucretius : de Rer. Nat. V. 1448.



INTERNATIONAL
LABOUR LEGISLATION



H. J. W. HETHERINGTON, M.A.

PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY AT THE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, CARDIFF



METHUEN & CO. LTD.
36 ESSEX STREET W. C.
LONDON



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First Published in 1920



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TO

MY FATHER and MOTHER

WHO
IN PRIVATE AND PUBLIC DUTY
HAVE PROVED THE WAYS OF
NEIGHBOURLINESS AND PEACE



PREFACE

Aj the close of the International Labour Conference,
l\ at Washington in November, 1919, Mr. H. B.
•^ •*■ Butler, the Secretary-General of the Conference,
suggested to me that I might write its history. Since, how-
ever, an official verbatim record of the proceedings is to be
published, it seemed a more profitable expenditure of the
time which I could give to this task to attempt not so much
a detailed examination of the debates and transactions of the
Conference, as a brief exposition of its pro\dnce, structure,
and achievement.

I have therefore written this short account of the Inter-
national Labour Organisation, of which the Conference is the
legislative authority, and of its relation to the purpose and
fabric of the central instrument of the new international
order, the League of Nations. My main desire has been to
stimulate interest in these embodiments of the international
idea, and to awaken, in what measure I can, pubHc concern
for our responsibility towards them.

The greater part of the book is expository, first of the con-
stitution of the Organisation, and secondly of the circumstances
and enactments of the Washington Conference. But I
have allowed myself some freedom of analysis, comment, and
even of criticism. I have also added some observations on
the general problem of international labour legislation. It
will be understood, of course, that no officer of the Labour
Organisation, and for that matter no one else, has any respon-
sibihty for what I have written.

Four appendices are given which may be useful for refer-
ence : (i) the text of Part XIII of the Treaty of Versailles,
which is the Charter of the Organisation ; (2) the Hst of the
Delegates to the Washington Conference ; (3) the Conventions
and Recommendations passed by the Conference; and (4) a
list of the members of the Governing Body of the International
Labour Office.



viii INTERNATIONAL LABOUR LEGISLATION

It will be agreed, I think, that hopeful as is the initial
achievement of the International Labour Organisation, the
most significant thing about it is that there exists even now,
in this distracted world, a sufficient community of will and of
interest to make its estabhshment possible. Its constitution
bears the marks of the divisions that still persist within this
common will : and those who framed the Charter of the
Organisation did well to take account of them. The growth
of a living spirit of unity among men, and of agreement in the
ways of promoting human good, cannot be forced. This
kingdom is only impaired by violence. But this elaborate
system of checks and balances is not itself the ideal. Its
creation settles no single problem ; it provides merely the
environment \vithin which men's minds and wills may meet
and work together, not only in the solution of particular diffi-
culties, but to the creation of a more confident, more generous,
and more universal attitude of mind, that shall be free to
create and to sustain a more just and flexible and yet more
stable international and national social order. The good will
must incarnate itself in Hving institutions ; it can grow only
by means of outward embodiment. The supreme function
of the Labour Organisation and of the League is just to serve
as such a temple of the spirit of mutual care and service, and
thereby to give that spirit room, and power, and opportunity
for growth. Achievement is the best of all educational
disciplines : and the Labour Organisation has important
and specific tasks to undertake. But far more important,
because far more fundamental, than any particular achieve-
ment is the development of that common will and under-
standing which, if the achievement is won in the right way,
it may sjanbolize and strengthen. One's great hope for the
Organisation and the League is that their success will be as
much in the inward task of focusing, supporting, and
instructing the common will and hope of men for justice
and peace as in the sphere of outer enactment. It is a
battle of the spirit that has to be won.

I have to thank Mr. Butler and Mr. E. J. Phelan, of the
International Labour Office, for reading and criticizing my
manuscript, and for much friendly assistance in every way.
With characteristic kindness. Sir Henry Jones has si)ent much
more time on the essay than its modest pretensions deserved :
his criticism has helped me greatly. I should also wish to
take this opportunity of expressing my indebtedness to the



PREFACE ix

Council and Senate of my College for so readily granting me
the leave of absence which enabled me to accept an invitation
to join the Secretariat of the Washington Conference.



H. J. W. Hetherington



University College, Cardiff
April, IQ20



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

PREFACE - - - - - - Vii

I. THE GENERAL PROBLEM OF INTERNATIONAL

LABOUR LEGISLATION - - - I

II. THE STRUCTURE OF THE INTERNATIONAL

LABOUR ORGANISATION — THE CONFERENCE - 21

III. THE STATUS AND SANCTIONS OF THE ENACT-

MENTS OF THE CONFERENCE - "37

IV. THE WASHINGTON CONFERENCE - - "44
V. THE PRELIMINARY TRANSACTIONS - - 50

VI. THE CONVENTION ON HOURS OF WORK - "59

VII. UNEMPLOYMENT - - - - "74

VIII. THE EMPLOYMENT OF WOMEN - - - 8l

IX. THE EMPLOYMENT OF CHILDREN - "91

X. THE INTERNATIONAL LABOUR OFFICE - "97

XI. CONCLUSIONS - ... - 104

APPENDIX I. PART XIII OF THE TREATY OF

VERSAILLES - - - "113

APPENDIX II. LIST OF THE DELEGATES OF THE

WASHINGTON CONFERENCE - - I29

APPENDIX III. THE CONVENTIONS AND RECOM-
MENDATIONS PASSED BY THE CON-
FERENCE . . - . 1^4

APPENDIX IV. MEMBERS OF THE GOVERNING BODY
OF THE INTERNATIONAL LABOUR
OFFICE _ - - - igo

INDEX . - -.. igi



INTERNATIONAL LABOUR
LEGISLATION

Chapter I

THE GENERAL PROBLEM OF INTERNATIONAL
LABOUR LEGISLATION

THE year 1919 saw the inauguration of a system of
international legislative, administrative and judicial
institutions, to which was committed the task of
creating and sustaining a more wisely ordered and stable
scheme of international relations than that of the pre-war
era. One element of this system, the Inter-
The Congress national Labour Organisation, achieved the
of Paris. distinction of entering into active and not
unhopeful life before the year had closed. On
January 25th the Peace Conference, in session at Paris,
appointed a Commission on International Labour Legisla-
tion. On April nth a Plenary Session of the Conference,
receiving and approving the report of the Commission,
authorized its incorporation as Part XIII of the Treaty of
Peace. On October 29th, in pursuance of the terms of the
Treaty, the first International Labour Conference assembled
in Washington.

That the first international body to come into effective
operation was expressly concerned not with political questions
of the old order, but with problems of industry and with the
conditions under which the ordinary citizens of the world
work and live, is significant not more of the shifting of the
centre of interest in our modern civihzation, than of the new
estimate which statesmen are inchned or compelled to place
on the views and requirements of the working population.
The cynic and ideahst can each find in these simple outer
facts justification for his reading of human motives and
human history : and it is part of the business of this book



2 INTERNATIONAL LABOUR LEGISLATION

to furnish the materials on which a judgment may be based.
The time has not j^et come for any final, or even definite,
estimate of the significance of the estabhshment of the new
Organisation. Its future depends on the play of forces far
larger than any which it itself can control. But its brief
history is, in its own way, an illuminating chapter in the
enterprise of constructive intemationaUsm, to which our
generation is committed : and incomplete though it is, it is
worthy of record.

The problem and the spirit of the Peace Conference have
by now been copiously canvassed : and only the broadest
and most obvious features need engage us here. \Vhatever
may have been the private inclination and ambition of the
chief plenipotentiaries, they were made \dvidly aware of the
full tide of two conflicting movements in the world, with both
of which they were bound to reckon. The one was the resurg-
ence of the spirit of nationahsm, jealous of every restraint on
national sovereignt3^ The other was the spirit of intema-
tionaUsm, born of the perception that if, in future, the world
were to be delivered from the disastrous cataclysm of war,
it was imperative to end the tradition that every matter of
policy should be left for final determination to the untram-
melled jurisdiction of the separate Sovereign States. The
two currents of opinion might conceivably have been recon-
ciled, and each have reinforced the other. But that was a
task for which the circumstances in Paris were not propitious :
and which, in the event, proved to be beyond the resources
of the Conference. The adjustment between them assumed
the form of compromise and balance ; and it was in this spirit
that the Conference framed the new instrument for the regula-
tion of international affairs — the Covenant of the League of
Nations.

We have not here to ask whether the authors of the Coven-
ant achieved all that was genuinely open to them, nor, except
as concerns our immediate interest in the Labour Organisa-
tion, whether or not they rightly discerned the conditions
under which the League could discharge the functions com-
mitted to it. It is sufficient to record — ^what, when all is
said, still remains an ineffaceable event in the progress of
mankind — that in all matters which might affect the peaceful
relations of one State with another, every signatory of the
Treaty of Peace accepted an obUgation to restrict, in some
way, its hitherto unHmited right to decide its o\vn policy.



THE GENERAL PROBLEM 3

Among the matters which were held thus to be of more
^than purely national concern, was that of the regulation of

working conditions. The reasons for this
The genesis decision are clear enough. It was not merely
of the Labour aji idealist impulse expressing itself in the
Organisation, desire for the achievement of a more humane

and generous standard of life over the whole
world, and anxious to mobilize to that end all available
resources and experience. No doubt that impulse played
its part. But besides that, to any sober calculations of
the causes of war, it has always been plain that these causes
are usually, in part at least, economic. ] W^ien Napoleon
urged his ragged battalions to the conquest of the Lombardy
plains, he touched one of the primeval springs of human
conflict. Great differences in standards and modes of living
are as potent to cause mistrust and enmity between nations
as between individuals or classes. Often enough, no doubt,
such differences are the outcome of inevitable differences
in the natural endowment of countries or of peoples, which
are not remediable by any process of external adjustment.
On the other hand, even on this fundamental ground, men are
not entirely without resource. For, in the face of such natural
differences, it is still true that over any large area, within
which there exist tolerable freedom of communication and
homogeneity of civilization, standards inevitably tend to
approximate. They approximate simply because popula-
tions tend so to adjust themselves and their relations as to
equahze the access of the sources of wealth. The method of
making these adjustments has hitherto been partly by migra-
tion, and partly by violence — the forcible transfer of some
part of the economic resources of one country to its rival.
There is little doubt that, if men have the will to apply it,
a more excellent method is practicable. [ It should be possible,
first to prescribe certain common minimum standards for all
countries, and then to facilitate, by peaceful exchange, a
redistribution of material, skill and population, so that at
least there is no intolerable privation anywhere in our civiliza-
tion, and a rough equation is maintained between the resources
of any group and the demand which it has to meet. It is
a difficult task, soluble only by organised intelligence and
good-will. And there is in it scope enough for the full service
of an International Labour Organisation.
This, perhaps, is the broadest and most profound aspect



4 INTERNATIONAL LABOUR LEGISLATION

of the work of the Organisation : and it is significant that,
very early in the proceedings of its first assembly at Washing-
ton, it came in sight of these problems of the adjustment of
the flow of workers from one country to another, and of the
distribution of raw materials among the industrial nations of
the world. ^

But there are other considerations which indicate how the
condition of the working population may affect the world's
peace ; and, apart from all questions of the comparative
wealth of different countries, implicate all in the internal
economy of each. Our modem civilization is extraordinarily
sensitive. No considerable unrest can occur in any part of
it which does not draw to itself the eyes and hopes and fears
of different classes in all other coimtries. No new sort of
social experiment can be undertaken without affecting social
relations everywhere. Whatever may be thought of their
pohcy, it was a perfectly sound instinct that led the Allied
statesmen to believe that the existence of a Bolshexdst
Russia would react on the political fabric of every other
country. And it is clear enough that, if major transforma-
tions take place in any national economy — as, sooner or later,
they must where any great part of the population is living
below an attainable standard of human well-being — they
take place at the risk of international war. Hence the
justice of the declaration of the Treaty of Peace, that " condi-
tions of labour exist, involving such injustice, hardship and
privation to large numbers of people, as to produce unrest
so great that the peace and harmony of the world are
imperilled."

Moreover, it is clear that the rate of progress of any one
country in the direction of improving working conditions is
not independent of the rate of progress in others. Within
certain limits, higher standards of Uving reflect themselves
in higher costs of manufacture. It is true that an improve-
ment in the standard of H\dng is often accompanied by a
greater producti\aty, and almost always by a greater skill
in the finer forms of manufacture. High wages do not neces-
sarily mean high labour costs. Nevertheless, at our present
level of skill in industrial organisation, it does not often happen
that full advantage is taken of " the economy of high wages."
That would matter comparatively httle if each nation were
a self-contained economic unit. But, in fact, all nations depend
^ See pp. 75 et seq.



THE GENERAL PROBLEM 5

to some degree on foreign trade : and fluctuations in the
volume of foreign trade have a profound effect on the stabil-
ity and prosperity of national industries. No industry which
depends on a foreign market, and no industry which is subject
to competition, at home or abroad, from a similar industry
in another country can regulate its poUcy, or determine the
conditions under which its operatives work, entirely without
reference to the conditions prevaiUng elsewhere. The quite
legitimate fear of inability to meet the competition of foreign
industries, working under less favourable, but less costly,
conditions, often serves to prevent or to delay the adoption
of desirable improvements. Hence, again, the Treaty might
fairly hold that " the failure of any nation to adopt humane
conditions of labour is an obstacle in the way of other nations
which desire to improve conditions in their own countries."

It is true that a certain school of economists, or rather of
political theorists who base their doctrines on what they take
to be the teachings of economic science, are
Alternatives not persuaded that these facts furnish any
and prior occasion for concerted national or international
experiments, regulation. The theory is that by leaving
I. Non- all adjustments to the direction of the natural

interference, play of economic interest, each country would
find itself engaged in that branch of production
for which, by endowment or inheritance, it was best fitted :
so that by exporting the surplus of its " natural "
manufactures or products, and importing what it lacks, it
would contribute to, and share in a maximum productivity
of the world as a whole.

It is unnecessary to enter into the philosophical or historical
merits of such a theory. Clearly, it has only a somewhat
remote relevance to the actual tendency of the world's practice.
Every State to some degree insists on controUing its economic
life, with a view to certain extra-economic ends — its national
self-sufficiency, for example, or the maintenance of a stable
numerical balance between urban and rural population, or
the encouragement or restriction of industries which are held
to be socially advantageous or otherwise. For reasons good
or bad, the regulation of industry by national authorities
is a permanent feature of our civiUzation. And the attempts
to solve the various problems which have just been indicated,
will proceed along hues of regulation, and not of non-inter-
ference. The choice before us is not between international



6 INTERNATIONAL LABOUR LEGISLATION

regulation and no regulation at all ; but between regulation
conducted exclusively by separate national authorities, with
an eye solely to their own interest, and regulation designed
and carried through co-operatively by aU such authorities
in consultation with each other, and aiming at the welfare
as much of all groups as of any single one.

The instrument which nations have normally employed to
control the direction of their economic development has been
the Tariff : and the use of the tariff has been
2. Tariffs. (very properly) defended by many of those
who were most eager to maintain and to improve
the standard of life of industrial workers. It is plain that,
if all other means fail, a tariff on imports (or a bounty on
exports) may enable an industry to maintain better standards
for its operatives in cases where the competition of the pro-
duct of less favourably circumstanced workers abroad
would either weaken the industry or lower the standard.

The tariff, however, is an instrument which suffers from
certain obvious defects. From the point of view of inter-
national peace, there is a permanent menace to friendly
relations between States in the existence of an instrument,
the use of which may at any moment destroy a great part
of a neighbour's trade, and which is always capable of being
employed by one State in such a way as to discriminate
against another. It is inevitable, especially in the absence of
any kind of competent and authoritative international
organisation, that even where in a particular tariff proposal
no discrimination or aggression is intended, the suspicion
of it is easily provoked.

And, from the point of view of the separate States, and
especially from the point of view of the workers in each State,
there are disadvantages in the fiscal instrument. The political
consequences of tempting various industrial interests to
bargain for concessions to themselves are plain. But there
are purely economic disabiUties. A tariff secures a market to
a group of producers, and thereby guarantees that their
industry can support a particular standard of life for the
operatives. But it does so by raising prices to a point at
which, normally, the great majority of producers in the country,
good and indifferent alike, can profitably market their output.
The results are twofold. Prices may easily rise to a level
which the worker believes to neutraUze the advantage secured
to him by this system. And, inevitably, in the profits of



THE GENERAL PROBLEM 7

the more favourably situated employers there is a consider-
able margin of rent which (except perhaps in the case of a
monopoly) there is no certain way of transferring to the
workers. The workers find, therefore, that a tariff system is
apt to strengthen the position of the employers more power-
fully than their own : and though they may make their
inferences without any very exhaustive analysis, they find
confirmation of their belief in the fact that, on the whole,
the poHtical and economic entrenchments of capital are
stronger in protected than in unprotected countries.

It is natural then that the Trade Union and Labour move-
ments have, as a rule, preferred to approach the problem of
safeguarding their national standards from
3. Inter- another angle. Their instrument has been
national international Trade Union action. Their belief

Trade Union was that if the Trade Unions concerned with
action. particular industries could agree on, and enforce,

international minima, then international ex-
change could be left, in the main, to take care of itself.
At all events the standard of Hfe of the workers in any
industry within a particular country would not be threatened
by the pressure of competition of much less favourably
circumstanced workers elsewhere.

Therein, of course, Hes the germ of the idea of safeguarding
industrial conditions by international organisation. It was
comparatively easy to advance from this position to the idea
of an international legislature, composed not only of trade
unionists, but of all the interests concerned, which should
prescribe minimal industrial standards. Evidently, if such a
body could be constituted, and especially if it were given such
a status that its enactments received the authoritative
support of the different Governments, the position would be
much more secure. The decisions of an international trade
union conference, in the nature of the case, can hold only in so
far as the national unions are able to enforce the agreed policy
on their own Governments and employers. The decisions
of an officially constituted international conference would
depend on no such hazardous condition, and might well
come into effective operation without any preliminary
struggle.

Experiments in this direction had been made before the
war. Various unofficial international bodies had attempted
in connexion with particular problems to promote



8 INTERNATIONAL LABOUR LEGISLATION

The begin- uniform or similar legislation in different
nings of countries. Thus, between 1910 and 1914, the
International International Association against Unemploy-
Organisation. ment, with its sixteen national sections in
Europe and America, arranged various con-
ferences to consider Unemployment and kindred subjects.
Mr. Louis Varlez, the Secretary of the Association, is now,
appropriately enough, a member of the staff of the
International Labour Office. Similarly, since 1889, there
has been in existence an International Permanent Committee
on Social Insurance, a body concerned with the study of the
principles of sickness and accident insurance, and their
application internationally. The most important of these
bodies, however, was the International Association for
Labour Legislation.

This Association did much useful work in the exploration
of the possibihties of international labour legislation. It
conducted — largely through its separate national sections —
a good deal of research, publishing the results in a periodical
bulletin. It assisted also at the inauguration of the first
large experiment in the international regulation of working


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Online LibraryHector James Wright HetheringtonInternational labour legislation → online text (page 1 of 18)