Red Clydeside: A history of the labour movement in Glasgow 1910-1932


Government publication entitled 'Rules for constituting and regulating Munitions Tribunals', 1914-1918

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The desperate need for munitions during 1915 was an early realisation of the need for direct government intervention in the economy and gradually large sectors of manufacturing industry came within the scope of the Munitions of War Act of 1915. The 1915 Act made the disruption of war production through strikes and industrial action illegal. All differences were to be solved by compulsory arbitration through local munitions tribunals, which had the power to appeal against the refusal of employers to grant leaving certificates, and to impose fines on workmen who attempted strike action or hindrance of munitions production.

It has been argued by some historians that far from undermining trade unionism the intervention of the state during the First World War actually enhanced it. The government, involved in a 'war of production', was forced to recognise the strength of the trade unions in a reduced labour market and from early 1915 onwards the government negotiated with national trade union leaders to facilitate greater output.

The government also assisted union growth by requiring some employers to recognise unions for collective bargaining. The much greater role of the state in the economy also led to national wage bargaining in other industries important for the overall war effort, industries such as gas supply, flour milling, chemicals, soap and tramways.