(Leeds, early March 1914)
It’s well over two months since the dispute ended, but the repercussions of the winter strike by workers at Leeds Corporation are still being felt.
The city had ground to a halt in December when over 4,000 council workers stopped work to back their claims for an across-the-board pay increase of two shillings a week: gas supplies were limited, only a skeleton tram service was running, street lamps weren’t lit and waste wasn’t collected.
Extra police had been drafted in to Leeds from neighbouring towns and a Special Committee of Conservative and Liberal councillors had been given powers to deal with the dispute.
The dispute over, members of the Leeds Branch of the Workers’ Educational Association, vote by a large majority in early March to chuck out their president, Dr Michael Sadler, who’s also the vice-chancellor of the recently-founded University of Leeds.
Why? Because some 200 of the university’s 600 students had been recruited by the Conservative-led council as part of its (successful) efforts to break the strike. Gasworkers’ Union leader Walt Wood tarred them as blacklegs.
“It was decided by a large majority to depose him (Sadler) from the presidency, his action during the strike being considered directly contrary to the interests of labour, and calculated to seriously prejudice the work of the Association,” said a report in the Leeds Weekly Citizen.
“Moderate advance” for chief constable
While Sadler is being ejected from the post, the powers that be are meeting to decide another pay rise.
The West Riding Standing Joint Committee is discussing a proposed £200 increase (up from £900 to £1,100 a year) for the Chief Constable, Maj. Llewellyn William Atcherley.
Not everyone on the committee is convinced.
“Why, when workmen asked for 2s a week advance, did the employers get the Universities to help them defeat the men’s object on the grounds that they were asking for something unreasonable?,” one alderman is quoted as saying in the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“Major Atcherley’s salary worked out at £2 14s and 9d a day, and that there was not one man in every 5,000 in the West Riding getting as much in a week as the major gets in a day. If the present proposal was passed, it meant that, reckoned on seven days a week, he would be receiving £3 5s 9d a day, or £23 a week. It was only a question of a moderate advance of 11s a day!”
The pay increase was approved.
A former soldier who fought in the Boer War, Atcherley was back in uniform by September 1914, spending the war as a Lt Col in charge of salvage operations, recycling material damaged or abandoned at the front.
The war over, he returned briefly to his police job in the West Riding before being promoted to the Home Office to work as an Inspector of Constabulary.