The industrial action of 1889 in South Met's works was directly related to the profit sharing scheme. The company had already granted the eight-hour day to its retort house workers and was resisting demands for overtime payments in respect of Sunday working. The profit sharing scheme was introduced with the condition that participants must sign an agreement which would have the effect of making strike action more difficult. The dispute was called because the company would not withdraw this condition. It was essentially a dispute about union recognition and about the Union's right to organise within the workplace. The Gas Workers' Union saw the scheme as a direct challenge but were unable to argue effectively that their right to organise was more important than the rights of individual workers to determine their own contracts.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
It is important to say here that this was written in the late 1970s - before the publication of a considerable body of work by Derek Matthews - his PhD thesis on the early gas industry which highlighted some of this material, and a series of articles including an extremely important one on profit sharing issues. I am grateful to Derek for subsequent discussions - and sorry that I haven't heard from him for many years.
Co-partnership Journal, South Met. Gas Co.
'A Century of Gas in South London". South Met. Gas Co. 1922