Historical Studies in Industrial Relations

Cash Wages, the Truck Acts, and the 1960 Payment of Wages Act

Historical Studies in Industrial Relations (2020), 41, (1), 85–108.

Abstract

From the mid-1950s until the early 1960s, there was an ongoing tussle between British employers and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) over whether to repeal the (1831-96) Truck Acts which established the right of manual workers to be paid in cash (‘coin of the realm’) and regulated employers’ ability to fine them or take deductions from their wages. Many employers advocated repeal, insisting that truck legislation was ill-suited to the modern economy, interfered with freedom to contract, and impeded more efficient forms of paying wages. Organized labour, through the TUC, countered that these laws protected workers from arbitrary deductions and prevented employers from imposing unpopular methods of paying wages (such as by cheque or bank transfer). This dispute resulted in the minor reform of the 1960 Payment of Wages Act.

The (1959-61) Karmel Committee, which studied the contemporary operation of the Truck Acts, recommended repeal, though keeping some protection, but there was disagreement about who should be covered and what should be protected. The TUC, near the apex of its power, had proved the efficacy of the law and, given the inability to reach consensus, the government eventually dropped the subject for a generation.

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Author details

Frank, Christopher