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


The dilution of labour - Mr. Lloyd George in Glasgow, 1 Jan 1916

image from Red Clydeside collection

The purpose of the government's dilution policy was to increase productivity and output of munitions by importing unskilled male and female workers into engineering and shipbuilding works. The skilled workers in the factories and shipyards however were concerned that this would open the door for employers to exploit the Act by substituting cheap labour for time-served skilled workers.

In December 1915 the Prime Minister, Lloyd George, came to Glasgow to address a meeting of workers and shop stewards in St. Andrews Halls. He hoped to explain the government's proposals for dilution and in the process allay the fears of the skilled workers that the Act would open the door to exploitation by employers.

An official account of this meeting, written by government officials, was passed to the national press and published. However, this account failed to mention both the workers, opposition to dilution and the hostile reception received by the prime minister. Incensed by the lies and the gaps in the government's version of events, Forward published the true account of proceedings at the meeting. Almost immediately Forward was suppressed by the government and banned from future publication. Also suppressed were two other socialist publications, John Maclean's Vanguard and also the Clyde Workers' Committee's own paper, The Worker, both of which reproduced and published the original Forward article.

Source: Gallacher Memorial Library, Glasgow Caledonian University Special Collections and Archives