The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 2 (June 1, 1928)
Co-operation and Goodwill
Industrial America has taught us that “Co-operation” and “Goodwill” are something more than mere platitudes. We are apt to use these terms with a somewhat hazy idea as to their real meaning in industry. I understand the terms to mean, briefly, the acting and working together of the two great sections concerned in industry—the employers and the employees—and all the factors which serve to maintain a harmonious association of these interests for the common good. The old antagonisms are dying in the world of industry, and there grows an increasing disposition to order our industrial relations along co-operative lines.
A passage taken from the Trade Union Mission report on American industry will serve to emphasise this point:—
Far more significant is the determination to drop the attitude of enmity and aloofness that has hitherto been maintained in relations with management and to offer, in its place, active and practical co-operation. If they are to undertake to persuade their members to put forward their utmost efforts, they must, in return, be enabled to ensure for them a full share of the extra wealth created by the extra effort.
The American captain of industry agrees entirely and absolutely with the foregoing; and more than that, he puts into actual practice what he agrees with, reasoning that co-operation needs a favourable environment before real fellowship can operate.
It is held in some quarters that fundamental modifications in the control of an industry are necessary before real co-operation can operate. This is the view of Professor Ramsay Muir, in his book, “America the Golden.” Great and far reaching changes have been made in the control of industry, not altogether because either side wanted it, but because it was found to be a payable proposition.
This brings me to the question of co-operation and goodwill in our own industry—the Railways. We have the authority of the Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge University, that, other conditions being equal, the efficiency of a Government enterprise is likely to become just about as great as the efficiency of a private business of the same size.
We in New Zealand must, if we are really sincere, drop the old order of following precedent. I believe the men in the service will respond to the right treatment—that they are willing to co-operate just as employees have done in America, but require concrete evidence from the management that their co-operation is needed for the success of the railway business. We do not believe we should take from the industry that which obviously the concern cannot afford to pay, but rather that we should be given every chance, every facility to assist in putting the industry into such a state of efficiency that it could afford to pay higher wages than obtain to-day. This, I take it, is the very keystone of practical co-operation.
Lord Haldane in his evidence before the Royal Commission on the coal mining industry, gave particulars of a successful experiment where young men chosen for their youth and capacity were put through a special course of intensive training in subjects far apart from their ordinary jobs. They were able, in consequence (and in the face of the tremendous difficulties of a great war) to undertake and carry out satisfactorily the business organisation and transport of immense quantities of munitions and food to the firing line in France. It was a bold experiment, without precedent in Britain, and it worked.page 45
Co-operation and goodwill can, by their practical application to our own industry, make the way easy for experiments here. We have the intelligence. All that is needed is opportunity to express it in constructive work. The educational facilities provided by the Department are, of course, a step which, given encouragement and support, may yet grow and develop into a powerful agency for real good.
How can we replace indifference with a generous enthusiasm for service? After all, that is the real question. It seems to me that we have first of all to create the psychology of enthusiasm fostered and nourished by a true understanding of the principles upon which co-operation rests. Unless this understanding can be developed, co-operation and goodwill will have no practical utility.
Our task, then, is not to discover some wonderful new method of “running industry” that will set free the latent powers of men, but simply to apply common sense methods to the problems of our own day.
The Goods Express Train In The South Island.
In its issue of 12th April the “Otago Daily Times” prints the following appreciative letter from a correspondent in reference to the despatch of furniture by the goods express in the South Island:—
Sir,—I wish to congratulate, or add a word of praise to the Railways Department upon running a goods express train from Invercargill to Christchurch. Being in the south last week, I had occasion to pack a quantity of furniture for transit to Temuka (177 miles). It was placed in the goods shed on Saturday at 3.30 p.m. and on my arrival at Temuka on Monday I was more than pleased to find the packages had arrived before me. A smart bit of business on the railways’ part! Formerly, it would have taken four or five days, or even longer. This express goods train should be well patronised by business people and others.—I am, etc.,
J. Brenner.page 46