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Sunday, 21 April 2013

George Livesey & profit sharing. Preamble

In the late 1970s I completed a study of the South Metropolitan Gas Company's profit sharing scheme set up by the Company Chairman, George Livesey,  for an M.Phil thesis.  The following page gives the summary, contents and acknowledgements. Hopefully it will be continued with the study itself.
Mary Mills
In 1889 the South Metropolitan Gas Company set up a profit sharing scheme. This was instituted in the same year both of the founding of the Gas Workers Union and a concurrent dispute in South Met.'s works. The scheme and its relationship to unionisation need to be explored. Throughout its history the gas industry had been engaged in a dialogue about its policies on profit and price with both central and local government. Within the London gas industry, South Met., with a management dominated by George Livesey after 1871, had an innovatory and often contentious role.

The profit sharing scheme continued and flourished in South Met. and was widely copied throughout the industry. A consultative process was set up which was extended to cover direct elections to the Board by the workforce.

The scheme was used by the Company in such a way as to impose a discipline on the workers, designed not only to limit their behaviour in the workplace but to incorporate them into the property owning structure and prevailing value system.

In a wider setting it can be seen as an attempt by a statutory Company to alter its nature within the joint stock system to meet criticisms concerning the private ownership of a public utility. This thesis will argue that George Livesey’s concern with the conflicts of society, as he saw them, led him to use the mechanism of the sliding scale, originally concerned with gas pricing, to build what he saw as a partnership between capitalists, customers and workers.

Brief Biographical Note on George Livesey

Father - Thomas Livesey, clerk at South Met. from 1842.
George Livesey was employed by South Met. (as office boy) from 1846, Assistant Manager 1857.Chief Engineer/Company Secretary 1871 (on his father's death). Retired to join Board November 1882, Chairman of Board 1883.
Directorships in other gas companies.
Numerous patents.
President British Association of Gas Engineers 1874. Member Inst. Civil Engineers. Numerous papers to professional institutes (mainly on gas purification processes and gas holder construction). Involved in foundation of professional bodies leading to the setting up of the Institution of Gas Engineers. Many professional offices. 1882 Birmingham Medal for Services to the Gas Industry.
Evidence to numerous commissions and committees of enquiry concerning gas industry affairs. Member Royal Commission of Labour 1892-94. Member Royal Commission on the Poor Law.
Founder member of the London Band of Hope and President 1906. Vice-president London Municipal Society 1906. Close connections with many temperance organisations.
Knighted 1902.


I would like to thank Harry Reid for helping me to contact ex-workers at South Met. and also the Secretary of Greenwich Town Social Club. I would also like to thank the staff at the Industrial Partnership Association for letting me photocopy the 'Interview' document, the staff of the library at London Research Station for access to periodicals there, the staff of the Press Department at SEGAS Katherine Street for loan of periodicals and some original documents, the staff of the library at SEGAS Old Kent Road for loan of documents, the nameless tenant of 'Shagbrook' for papers and introductions, and in addition staff at many archives - GLC, Greenwich Local History Department, John Harvard House and the Marx Memorial Library.



1. Introduction
2. Background - the gas industry
3. South Metropolitan Gas Compant Ltd. - Political Background
4. South Met. Internal Policies
5. Unionisation
6. The Strike of 1889
7. The Co-partnership Scheme
8. The Co-partnership Scheme - Its influence
9. Conclusion

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