SHORTAGE OF RURAL LABOR.
Maoriland Worker, Volume 9, Issue 349, 16 January 1918, Page 8
SHORTAGE OF RURAL LABOR.
Paragraphs appearing in the daily press in all parts of N.Z. emphasise the fact that military conscription has made, more than justifiable inroads upon the essential labor forces in this country. The "Weekly Press" of 21/11/17 juotes the "Otago Daily Times" as folows:— "Although the school holidays are ret at least a month distant, it seems that, owing to the desire to utilise the services of lads during the shearing season, a number of boys will probably be leaving school next week for work in the country, and week by week more will follow. The Director of the Technical School has a number of boys going to stations at Gladbrook, Omarama, Matakanui, and farms in different parts of Otago. This is in accord with a decision of the Board, which does not intend to prolong the holidays, but to allow those pupils free who have to take up positions before the end of the year." A month or two earlier the Canterbury Threshing Mill Owners' Association wrote the Minister of Defence requesting him to release troops from camp to assist in gathering the harvest. The Association received an unsympathetic reply, the Minister "regretting" that the Military Service Boards were the only authority empowered to grant exemption from military service. . In Wellington recently the chairman of the Efficiency Board said that hundreds of applications had been received from schoolboys for farm labor. A number had been placed, but according to the chairman farmers' wives objected to the extra trouble in looking after the boys. The Board insisted that the boys should not be employed singly, should be properly accommodated, ani should not live with the farm hands. On December 28 the "N.Z. Times" published the following telegram from Christchurch:—"Present indications point to a scarcity of labor for harvesting. Already 2/6 an hour is being paid to men for grass-seeding, and 2/- an hour for general harvest work." Fearful of having to pay decent wages under the pressure of their long-time ally, the law of supply and demand, the farmers in certain parts of North Otago are advocating an approach to industrial conscription by the legal fixation of rates much below the Satural standard. In the issue of the "Otago Daily Times" for 8/1/18 is the following par:—"About 25 farmers were present at a meeting held at Tokarahi on Friday night to consider the harvest question as regards labor and the price to be paid for it (states the "North Otago Times"). It was unanimously resolved that the following' telegram be dispatched to the Ministers of Labor and Agriculture: 'That this meeting of farmers, representing 3798 acres of grain land, urges you to decree and publish in all newspapers that harvest wages be 1/6 per hour and found this season. Reply urgent.' It was explained that mill hands' wages had not yet been fixed by the mill owners." With the farmers in Canterbury paying 2/- an hour for harvesting, the endorsement by the Ministers of the 1/6 rate supported by the Otago cockiee would seem to indicate that the "law" of supply and demand can be suspended in favor of the rich and to the disadvantage of the worker, in which case the "law" would have little claim to be regarded as a "law" at all. Members of the A.P.TJ. are urged to fix their minds on this point, that if the 2/- rate is considered fair under Canterbury conditions, it should be paid in Otago. The Otago cookies will receive as much for their grain as their Canterbury brethren, and it is a certainty that they will hardly strive to make the toil any easier. Besides, as the cockie never hesitates to take advantage of the "law" of supply and demand when it suits himself, the workers would be lacking in spirit "and good sense if they refrained from actlog likewise when conditions favored them. They should demand the 2/-rate everywhere. It is the A.P.U. rate, and if the cockie gives forth yelps of pain when he has to pay it, there Is always this justification for treating his agony callously, that he never sheds a tear when the public protest against the tribute he has made it pay ever since the war began.