BEARING THE BURDEN.
Observer, Volume XXVIII, Issue 32, 25 April 1908, Page 2
BEARING THE BURDEN.
The Employers and the Blackball Strike.
EVER since the inception of the Blackball strike, the attitude of the Government has been pitiable in its weakness and vacillation. Although the Arbitration Act decrees that certain pains and penalties must be exacted from those who initiate or participate in a strike, and also from any who aid and abet a strike, the Government has', in this instance, failed to enforce those penalties either on the strikers or on those trades unionists and labour bodies which, by active support, aided and abetted the strikers in their unlawful action. True, the Blackball Miners' Union was fined £75, but that fine has not yet been collected, nor can it be said that there is any prospect of it being paid. Even more vacillating and absurd was the attitude taken up by the Government in relation to the action of the labour bodies who have been steadily aiding the strikers with monetary assistance.
The Attorney - General and the Minister for Labour have, by means of a legal quibble and a sophistry with which the ordinary layman is unacquainted, decreed that the strikers, after' the initial act of striking 'has been accomplished,' are no longer liable, , and therefore that the charge of any
subsequent aiding and abetting on the part of the labour bodies cannot stand. This amazing piece of reasoning was apparently trotted out in order to save the face of the Government. Undoubtedly, such reasoning was bound to find favour in the eyes .of the strikers and their friends, but the employers, being, of course, evil-minded individuals, harbouring dark designs on the welfare of the down-trodden working man, viewed this latest exhibition of eccentricity on the part of the Government " with considerable consternation.
Thus it came about that Mr W. Pryor, organising secretary of the New Zealand Employers' Federation, stated last week that the federation had been urged to take a test action against the unions for aiding and abetting the Blackball strike. The federation could not institute proceedings, as only a party to the dispute can do this, but if the Blackball Company instituted such proceedings the federation were prepared to employ counsel and bear the expense. From this statement we may deduce the amazing fact that, through the supineness and iimidity of the Government, the employers find themselves called upon, in protection of their own interests, to institute the proceedings that should have been instituted by the Government.
Of course, this is a very carping and captious attitude for the Employers' Federation to take up. Employers in this happy Dominion haveno rights, so what profiteth it them to seek to protect that which is non-existent ? It is true that the Arbitration Act was originally supposed to afford mutual protection to employer and employee. But since the Government, by their attitude towards the Blackball strikers, and their aiders and abettors, have conclusively proved that that Act is for the sole benefit of the employees, it is idle for the employers, however evil-minded they may be, to contend that they have any rights. In future, if they x wish to prolong their miserable and wholly undesired existence, they must do so by their own efforts.
The employers, who, strangely enough, appear to have a certain amount of intelligence, have recognised this fact. They have seen that the Government is afraid to put the law in motion against the aiders and abettors of the Blackball strikers. They have recognised the fact that the Government has miserably failed to enforce the provisions of the Arbitration Act at a time when such an enforcement was an absolute essential to the industrial welfare of the Dominion. They have seen that such interests as they had are being ruthlessly cast aside in order that the insatiable appetite of Labour might be pandered to. And, seeing these things, they have evidently come to the conclusion that, as the Government refuses to assist them, they must assist themselves. Thus does a beneficent Government encourage the investment of capital, and thus does it show its incapacity and fear to carry out the laws of its own making. Truly, an ignominious spectacle.