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


Government publication entitled 'Munitions of War Act', 1915

image from Red Clydeside collection

In the early stages of the First World War the British munitions industry had great difficulty producing the weapons and ammunition needed by the armed forces. In order to counter these production failings the government passed the Munitions of War Act in 1915. This Act gave government the power to take direct control over those factories engaged in war production under the Defence of the Realm Act and in doing so to suspend trade union practice for the duration of the war (in accordance with the Treasury Agreement).

The Treasury Agreements were agreed between Government and official trade union leaders and transpired into the abandonment of all independent union rights and conditions, including the right to strike, for the duration of the war. The employers were allowed to 'dilute' labour, employing unskilled workers in normally skilled jobs, to meet the growing labour shortage and the insatiable demand from the front for men and munitions.

The Munitions of War Act gave the Ministry of Munitions extensive powers which also stretched into the economy as a whole. The Ministry's aim was to encourage good industrial practice and to encourage manufacturer's to adopt the latest methods and machinery. Industrial specialisation, research and development, production analysis and modern systems of financial control were also positively encouraged.

Source: Weir Papers, Glasgow University Archives