Maoriland Worker, Volume 3, Issue 82, 4 October 1912, Page 2
Waihi Strike, Arbitration, and Industrial Unrest.
LABOR AND OTHER CRITICS.
THE GOVERNMENT VIEW: LAW TO
A discussion on affairs at Waihi was commenced in the House of Representatives on September 25 by Mr. John Payne. Our report is "lifted" from the "N.Z. Times."
Mr. J. PAYNE (Grey Lynn) congratulated the Government on what it was doing for the workers, especially ;it Waihi! They were getting just that sort of square deal that they could expect from the party in power The condition of affairs that had arisen ; n Waihi was scandalous for any community called British. He was not in favor of the strike, but it was the only way the worker could use his power. The aim of the United Labor Party—to substitute political action for the strike —was very laudable. There was a feeling in this country thnt the Government was vindictive, and the magistrate at Waihi would not, have given the i 2 Tionttis' sentence if he had not received his secret instructions. (Laughter.; The workers would not go down to the capitalist class. The Arbitration Court could succeed only as long as it was favorable to the working-class. It was [economically false in fundamental principle. ! MINISTERIAL REJOINDER. The Hon. F. M. B. FISHER said that when the present Administration came into power they found a fight going on. not between Capital and Labor, but between Labor and labor. They found a prosperous town depopulated, and a prosperous borough bankrupted ; that great suffering was imposed on woTnen and children, and that a sectino of the community was breaking the law, which had to be observed by every other member of the community. There was not one single man in jail as a result Of the strike who could not be free tomorrow morning if he wanted. The carrying out of the law in this case gave "Ministers no degree of satisfaction ; It was grievous to the Government to see n. town paralysed, and that men should remain voluntarily detained by tlie law, when they could, if they ohose, become free n?nin. ROBERTSON, LAURENSON AND ISITT. Mr. J. ROBERTSON (Otaki) did not think the MivJ-ter was quite correct TTis own t-is tbnf fho strii:- ,, was a blunder, from a tactical point of riow. It wns hardly correct to say -t was a fight between two sections of Labor. It seemed to him that the Waihi Miners' Union in its antagonism to the other union was quite justified, and his conviction was that the other union came into existence with the connivance of the employers of Waihi. The employers had an object in this. He did not think the conduct of the strikers justified the influx of so large a police force at Waihi. The behaviour of the strikers was up to that point. There* was "booing" and hissing of free laborers, and not an election contest passed without the same thing. The law could have been enforced by other means. The means adopted had accentuated the position. The men imprisoned stated that had they given the bond they would instantly have been placed under surveillance. The dispute at Waihi was purely between Capital and Labor, and the police went to Waihi. directly or iudirootly. at the request of those interested in the Waihi Company. The men stated that the police came in to break the strike, ■md to enable the mine to be run by free labor.
Mr. G. LAURENSON .(Lyttelton) said that, the Prime Minister, epeaking in the recent no-confidence debate, had strongly blamed the then Government for not having put an end to the W 7 aihi strike. What had Mr. Massey's Government done? They had aggravated the trouble by taking a most undiplomatic step. He knew something of the question because ho was Minister of Labor when the engine-drivers applied for registration. The Solicitor- General had stated that the men were entitled to form a separate union and there was no power to stop them. Feeling had run high at Waihi and yet not a single brutal act had been committed, nor had there been a single assault. He did not blame the Prime Minister for not ending the strike, but he wanted to impress upon him how careful he should be in regard to levelling criticism at othera, as had been done in regard to the Waihi trouble. There was a lot to be said in favour of the men, who had been submitted to brutal abuse by the capitalistic press. The more force used to bring a strike to an end tlie more the friction.
Mr. L. M. ISITT (Christchurch North) said the position at Waihi was exceeding difficult. It was only a halftruth to say it was a struggle between Labor and Labor. It was a struggle between Labor and Labor connived at ■md fomented by capital. The company wanted to serve its own interests and weaken the caise of Labor. He did not think the strikers were justified in intimidating the engine-drivers by following them to their homes. He thought it was unnecessary to send extra police, but he oould not subscribe to the statement made by Mr. Payne that the magistrate' had been instructed as to what he should do. The Government must maintain the law as it existed, but the right thing to do was for the Government to say they would not keep the men in jail. LABOR v. LABOR. Mr. F. H. SMITH (Waitaki) said f he police were sent to Waihi beoause they were asked for by the people of Waihi in order to maintain law and or'"t. The men imprisoned were not to no to jail, and could bp liberated if they wished. The cause of the strike was a difference between T nbor and Lsbor. The employers preferred to deal with the union working under the Arbitration Act, and that was the source of the whole trouble. Mr. Robertson: You don't know anything about ft. Mr. Smith thought the Arbitration ; Court would not do the good expected i of it. The Government would have I been prepared to release these men but for tho demands made on them that they must release the men. If people
POLAND REVIEWS SITUATION.
thought the Government could be dominated, they were muoh mistaken.
Mr. H. POLAND (Ohinemuri) recapitulated the facts leading up to the strike. In June, 1911, the Waihi Miners' Union made a 12 months' agreement with the owners, but prior to its expiry the engine-drivers took steps to form another union. In his opinion, these drivers did not intend to form the union till the expiry of the agreement. The company refused to expel the engine-drivers, and the strike followed. The ownere insisted that any agreement should be registered under the Arbitration Act, and the Federation of Labor was outside that Act. The dispute was between Capital and Labor, and was oarried on because the owners refused to meet the men unless the latter registered their agreement. At Reeftjn the employers had broken the agreement as it suited them, while in the Ohinemuri district generally the rr.cn had remained loyal to the agreement. Whore they had men out on strike it was only natural to expect an amount of bickering and abuse. Up to the time of sending extra police not one case of assault had occurred, and the magistrate hftd said the conduct of the men had been exemplary. Unless there was occasion, it was not justifiable to send extra police. They should wait until there was some breaoh of the law. Ho did not agree with the magistrate's decision, and thought that it would have been quite sufficient to have entered a conviction against the men. It was a groat blunder to have asked these men to find sureties. It was no use to try by repressive measures to prevent the workers from bettering their condition. The groat majority of the men at Waihi had agreed to the strike. He did not believe in the strike; the condition of working-men could be improved without its means. He thought the co-operative system was the best for the workmen. It was a far better system when the whole of the profit to the contractor should be distributed amo.n<i the men. COMPLETELY JUSTIFIED. The Hon. A. L. HEBDMAN (Minister of Justice) snid the Government was completely justified in sending the ejrtrn police t" Wnihi. There was no other course the Government have taken, after the communications it had received, in order to protect the people. If law and order were not to be preserved, then good-bye to peace and seourity, What would have been said about the Government had any assaults or riot taken place, and there was not a sufficient number of poKce to protect the people? There could be no doubt that whrtt the Government did was absolutely justified, and the Government would always take steps, when the law was broken, to see that the people were protected and justice properly administered. When n man was guilty of conduct calculated to provoke a breach of the peace, he brought himself within the pale of the law. Why should they make an exception of the strikers? If a man were guilty of conduct calculated to provoke a breach of the peace on Lambton Quay,, why should they discriminate? The Government had evidence that additional | police were needed at Waihi to prevent molestation and trouble. It was the duty of the Government to maintain or'W find to administer the law to the letter. MINERS LAWLESS. Mr. J. H. BRADNEY (Auckland West) thought there was no occasion for Labor unrest in New Zealand, where the condition of the workers was so satisfactory. If those in charge of the Arbitration Act had administered it with courage there would not be the present industrial trouble. The law ehould be equal for the whole community, and no discrimination should be made between employer and worker. The 15 men at Waihi vrere quite justified in forming a union, and the others were acting lawlessly in trying to intimidate them. The men who tore the Union Jack to shreds should have been '•sent up" without judge or jury. DELIBERATELY SHIRKED. Mr. A. H. HINDMARSH (Wellington South) said that had the majority of unionists not supported arbitration, in what condition would the country have been ? What had the Government done on this question ? The session had almost passed without reference to the subject. It was evident that this question was to be deliberately shirked by the Premier. The Premier must have some idea on this question, and ifc was his duty to tell these loyal unionists that he was going to bring down legislation on the question. How were the farm laborers treated by the court? An award was refused them. The labor question had to be faced and grappled with. If the Prime Minister could not introduce his Bill, he should give the country the benefit of his thoughts on the question. HARD LABOR ADVOCATED. Mr. A. HARRIS (Waitemata) contended that the Government had done the right thing in regard to the Waihi strike. If they had shown the same spineless attitude as the last Government there might be reason for criticism. He hoped the men imprisoned would be given hard labor and not be allowed to walk about and eat four meals a day. Had it not been for the Federation of Labor they would have had no strike, at? Waihi. The labor agitator was the curse of New Zealand.
Mr. J. COLVIN (Buller) said he had had great experience amongst miners, and had always found them honorable and gentlemenly men. Under the arbitration awards these men and the companies should have been sued, and this was what he blamed the Government for. The Federation of Mine-owners had laid down certain regulations with which the .workers could not comply. Miners always did a fair day's work, but overseers who had been accustomed to drive men in Africa and elsewhere were imported to take charge at the local mines. The miners would not bo connected with anything contemptible. He believed the co-operative system was the best for the workmen. If any fault were to be found it lay with the engineers and the men in charge.