BROWSINGS FROM KAITANGATA.
Maoriland Worker, Rōrahi 3, Putanga 54, 22 Poutūterangi 1912, Page 10
BROWSINGS FROM KAITANGATA.
Cancellation—Talk of a Rival Union— What has Arbitration Done?—The World Process.
Wβ have arrived at an interesting stage in Kaitangata. On March 6 the cancellation of our registration as an industrial union under the I.C. and A. Act was due to be gazetted. Ouco more there are rumours in the air of the formation of an opposition union, which is to register under the I.C. and A. Act and so prevent tho Kaitangata employers from bdng (compelled to grant the miners that increase which is long overdue to them in wages. Now, in regard to this movement, there are a few points that it is well to put to tho minors hero, at the same time asking them to ponder tho issues raised, and then to act as their intelligence prompts. It is an accepted truth Unit unite > 3 strength j therefore, any movement having division as its object must bo a weakening factor to the workers as a body. If you weaken the /x)wer of the woykers, then it muet follow that the position of the employer is just so much strono;or in proportion to the amount of division in our ranks.
Looking at tho question from this point of view, it is evident that tho employer will welcome anji/hing which will sot us workers quarrelling with one another) because while we are divided ho is able to make practically his own terms, whoreas if wo present a united front, ho is compelled to concede to us a hotter return for our labor than ho ncod if we do not have intelliffflnrn enough to realise that in unity is strength. Tlinn, again, as to the supposed merits of the Arbitration Court, what, I ask, has it done for Kaitangata during the last 10 or 15 years P For one thing, the hewing rate is now 2d per box less than it was iomo years ago ; certainly, tlie coal then had to bo filled with tho haro. while now it is filled
with the shove]; the latter is, in some cases, a more payable; iinplenUfent for the minor than tho n'afu. But how about those raon who are working in pilJar and head coal, and who fill hundreds of boxes with lumps that are thrown in by hand ; the change from harp to shovel do-es not necessarily mean an increased earning power to thorn when it is accompanied by a reduction of 2d. per box on the hawing rate. So, therefore, I maintain that the regime of the Arbitration Court has been accompanied by a reduction, an tho whole, of tho earning power of the minors. Any advantage it may have conferred could have been just as easily maintained by the miners without the Court if thoy were only united. It is not possible for any supporter of the Arbitration Court to prove that we can gain any improved conditions from that institution over and above what we now have, unless the employer first gives an indication that ho is p repaired to concede them. If that is so, and all the recent history of the Court supports tho contention, what is the use of being tied up to the Arbitration Act, unless we are desirous of having the employer in a better position to dictate terms than, we workers are?
That raises the question as to who it is that should dictate the terms that should govern the buying and selling of any commodity, under the system we are now living in. Wo find, if wo go to tho butcher, the baker, the grocer, etc., that thoy dictate the terms to the buyers as to what price we have to pay for what we buy. )i we say we will only give, say, a penny loss for a loaf of bread the bakers say: "Oh, no, my price ie so-and-aa; if you do not like to give that price, you will have to go without; I cannot afford to sell it at the price you offer. 1-
But we worKers find- -tluit the only thing we havo to sell usually has tJie price regulated by the buyer. In other words, we have to work for the wagee tho employer is prepared to give; we have to sell our labor at the price our employer, who buys our labor, is prepared to give for it. That is tho position unless we present the same united front to our employers that they, on the other hand, aro now, more and more every week, showing to tho consumers of ttho products of our labor. Wo find that capital is combining everywhere. Look where you will, we find trusts, monopolies, combines, all for the purpose of squeezing from tho consumer as much as is possible. Employers aro combining over the whole world to enable them to squeeze as much work as they oan from the worker for the lowest wage the worker can be compelled to accept. In face of this, the worker must, if he wa-nts to hold his own in tike battle, do exactly the same as the master class are doing: he- must got into one big classconscious union. Then, aaid then only, will the workers as a body bo able to assert their rights, and demand tho amount they are entitled to receive for their labor. The day of tihe small shopkeeper is fast drawing to a close and giving place to the big corporation. It is but a part of the evolution of the system, and just tho same the effectiveness or the small craft unions has disappeared. Their day is done also, and they must give place to the One Big Union, composed of all workers and organised for the purpose of making an injury to ono worker, no matter who he is, the concern of all. The individuals who take on the job of trying to stop tho process of evolution have engaged themselves in an undertaking that is as impossible as it is foolish. They may make a diversion and causse a little bit of delay to the process of evolution, but they might as well try to stop the tide from flowing. Then to the worker who mads his daily paper and keeps himself informed on all matters that are happening in tho industrial world, must come the thought—that is, if ho does think— why is it that in overy capitalist paper 1 road I find the same story? They aro always praising tho Arbitration Court as a means of settling labor troubles—why is it that the same papers aro universal in their condemnation of the N.Z. Federation of Labor? If tho worker ponders a while ho will also recollect that in a political campaign, when a Labor or a Socialist candidate is standing for Parliament, these- same papers will not advise their readers to support either a Labor or Socialist candidate if there is a Liberal or Tory in tho field. Why do they act thus? Simply because it is in the interest of tho class they represent to do so. We all admit that fact, so w'hon we find the same newspapers extolling tho Arbitration Act, wo must deduce the samo reason. And tho reason why they condemn tho Federation is because tho employers are afraid of it, because t<he Federation is out to protect the worker from the greed of tiho employing class. And tho employers do not want tho workers to become as strong or stronger than they (ttho employing class) are. Why, you men of Kaitangata, yon can rest assured that if it was against your interests _ to havo broken away from tho Arbitration Act and to join the N.Z. Federation of Labor, you would have found your employers telling yon what a wise step you had taken. Thoy would have told you that tho tactics of the Federation wore all that was good and that the Arbitration Act was the invention of a fool. But do you find them doing this? I doubt if you could find one official of the company but who apparently ie a great supporter of tfli© Arbitration' Court aa a roasmst of settling
' labor troubles. (A suggestive word that of "settling." When used as above it puts oho in mind of t3)c way the lion settled his dispute with the lamb.) hi fact, if report speaks truly, one of the officials of the opposition union. is an employee of the company, who, although ho has been several years iJi the service, yet he never was a member jf the Otago Coal-miners' Union, so far as can. bo ascertained. Yet now that there is talk of forming an opposition union, and a ohance of causing the workers to quarrel among themselves, we find that a man who never caused his employer a moment's uneasiwes so far as unionism is concerned,»iß supposed to be a prime mover in a matter that is bound to damage tho cause of tho miners in Otago. Why? I ask. Why this sudden conversion to iiniionism?
Of course, Rome workers support the Arbitration Court because ifliey allow others to do tJieir thinking for them, and really know no better. However, if we coukl manage to get the miners to come along and listen to a few addresses on the same lines as that given by our Editor the other night, it is a sure thing that they would start thinking, and once we workers start to use our thinking apparatus all will be well. So, Mr. Editor, you cajx rest assured that we appreciated you, and will welcome you again. Come along and prove to a few of our workers here that unity is strength because some of our boys have forgotten that such is the case. If we have diffaronees of opinion, let us ventilate them inside our union, but don't let us divide and be thereby an easy target fo rour commo nenemy as a class. SPECTATOR.