LONDON, May 4, 1926 (UP) -- Great Britain embarked today on an experiment of forceful settlement of an industrial dispute, which may easily create a billion-dollar loss before it is ended by the defeat of one side or the other.
The general strike, involving directly 5,000,000 workers, their 15,000,000 to 25,00,000 dependents, and to a lesser degree, the remainder of Britain's 47,000,000 population, is unique in industrial history. There are no standards whereby it may be judged.
"No human mind could imagine the cost of the strike to the nation," Sir Alfred Mond, one of Britain's foremost industrialists and politicians, said today. He waved the billion-dollar figure aside and put the cost beyond human comprehension.
"Certainly," he continued, "It will cost an enormous amount of money, but it is impossible to give a near estimate, as the cost depends on the length of the strike."
Mond's words indicated the enormity of the problem confronting the nation. The 5,000,000 breadwinners have stopped the source of their incomes, but hunger, sickness, the need for shelter, recreation and clothing go on. It is significant that the Trades Union Council, which is directing the strike, has no extensive plan for feeding and financing the strikers. This indicates the council's belief that the strike will not last long. Even the council has not estimated the wage loss to the strikers.
"Labor's daily wage loss must run into millions of pounds sterling," Mond continued.
"The minimum average wage paid the lowest class of mine workers under the national scale which expired Friday midnight works out to $12 weekly, which is the surface man's average. On the other hand, some men, such as coal cutters, draw a weekly pay check between $25 and $40 according to the amount of coal cut. They are paid on piece work.
"The wage paid to coal cutters may be regarded as the maximum," Sir Alfred continued.
Starvation would confront millions of British workers if the strike were prolonged beyond three weeks.
When the strike began at midnight, the Trades Union Congress had $20,000,000 in its war chest. The scheduled allotments to strikers is 20 shillings, about $5, per worker per week, with a small allowance for dependents. This war chest would provide funds fro prolongation of the strike approximately one week beyond the day when the individual strider's reserve should be exhausted. It is estimated that the average individual striker could hold out for a fortnight on his own reserve funds.
Beyond the three-week limit, probably depend on whether or not labor's co-operative stores would extend credit to the strikers.
In the event of a prolonged strike this question of extension of credit by the co-operatives might become the turning point for the workers.
The attitude of labor toward the duration of the strike was revealed to the United Press by Herbert Tracey, one of the labor's spokesmen.
"I know nothing of definite plans for provisioning the strikers," he told the United Press, "beyond the declaration of the general council of the Trades Union Congress that the congress stands ready to advance funds to needy unions as requested until the last penny of the reserve is expended. The congress will also aid financially in the establishment of soup kitchens."
Under the law, strikers are not entitled to a penny of the government relief paid to otherwise unemployed persons, so the financial limits of the striders endurance seem fairly definitely defined except for the possible "soft-heartedness" of the British government. In the event of the starvation point being reached, it is expected the government might conceivably place free food at the disposal of the strikers.