Association of Jute Spinners and Manufacturers

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Association of Jute Spinners and Manufacturers

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The Association was founded in 1918 and its origins lay in the weekly informal meetings of producers in the Chamber of Commerce. Discussions at these meetings may have been on any or every aspect of the trade from the price of goods to wages paid, types of machinery and new developments. The Association was initially founded as a cartel to protect the prices of members' products. However, the founders rapidly saw the potential of a large and strong employers' organisation. Committees were set up to investigate every aspect of the trade and manufacturing process and the Association rapidly became the representative of all members in negotiating with employees - organised unions or otherwise. This also had an advantage for the unions in that no matter which firm employed their disputing members, they negotiated with the Association and any agreement was binding on all member firms and union members. The prinicple was that not only did the Association allow firms to avoid damaging price-cutting competition, but by joint representative negotiation with employees it helped avoid strikes over parity in wages. In many ways the Association's industrial relations were ahead of their time. Indeed the Dundee jute industry led the field in the use of work-study projects with the co-operation of the unions. This led to the introduction of a points system for grading jobs, and payment for them, on a scale according to difficulty and time required to perform each specific function. Consequently when the Equal Pay Act was introduced the Association's member firms had little problem in adjusting, as their pay scales were based on the difficulty factor of each operation, and they were among the first to convert to equal pay. The Association set the prices for jute goods until challenged by the monopolies commission under the Restrictive Trade Practices Act. Although the Association eventually won their case, fighting it was financially ruinous and they abandoned price setting. From an early membership of fifty-six spinners and manufacturers in Dundee and Tayport alone, by 1982 there were only four spinners and four manufacturers of jute in the entire UK.


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