THE HUNTLY DISPUTE
Observer, Volume XXIX, Issue 20, 30 January 1909, Page 2
THE HUNTLY DISPUTE
Another Sop to the Labour Cerberus
IT has long been the proud boast of this Dominion that, under
the existing labour laws, a strike is an impossibility. This has furnished the text for many a homily delivered in the Old Country concerning the superiority of New Zealand as a place of residence for the working man. It has been remarked by some close observer of men and things that ' ' distance lends enchantment to the view." Certain it is that, during the last few years, strikes have been the rule rather than the exception. It has been held by certain parties that the Huntly miners, by refusing to return to work until the four alleged blacklegs were discharged were not guilty of striking. If this action did not constitute a strikej we should be very pleased to learn what does.
The visit of the Hon. Roderick McKenzie, the new Minister for Mines, was hailed by employer and employee alike as lending promise of an early solution of the difficulty. Unfortunately, both parties were doomed to disappointment. Although the miners have been reticent on the subject, it is understood that Mr MoKenzie suggested that the dispute should be referred to a special board of conciliation. If that was the only panacea that Mr McKeruzie was in a position to prescribe for the solution of the problem, he might as well have remained in the South.
The directors of the Taupiri mine, with the remembrance of the eccentric judgment delivered by Dr. McArthur as chairman of the special board of conciliation " set v- to deal with the last tram strike, stated emphatically and naturally that they would not consent to submit to the adjudication of any such irregular 'tribunal. And they were perfectly justified in coming to such a decision. They had before them a "horrible example" in the shape of Dr. McArthur' s judgment — a judgment that, . while doubtless gratifying enough to the Tramway Company's employees, placed the directors and manager in a most invidious position. Under the circumstances, is it at all likely that they iwjouldi consign themjselyes Jbo the tender mercies of a special board of conciliation P
And, m any case, why should such* a proposal be made ? The Government has already passed legislation to deal with such a case as this. It has been decreed, in terms of the- Conciliation and Arbitration Act that was passed by Parliament last session, that a dispute such as this, may be referred to a Council of Arbitration. This, therefore, is theonly legal procedure. To refer thematter to a special board of conciliation would be clearly flying in the face of the legislation that has been passed by the Government. And if the Hon. Roderick McKenzierecommended the adoption of thiscourse of procedure, he stultified the Government in the Cabinet of which he holds a portfolio
It will be interesting to see what steps the Government takes in connection with these miners who refused to return to work, and who made hostile and cowardly demonstrations outside the houses of the alleged blacklegs. Surely it is time that the truckling to labour on the part of the Government was terminated. If not, it is certainly only right that Sir Joseph Ward and his colleagues should openly declare themselves a Labour Government. Liberalism, if we read the word aright, means "equal rights to all' men. But, apparently, Liberalism according to the present Government means " everything to Labour, and the devil take the employer. s*"5 *" 1 hi* i is the only inference that can be drawn from the action— or inaction—of the Government with reference to the conduct of the miners in the recent crisis.