The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. MONDAY, JUNE 16, 1890. A STATE LABOUR TRIBUNAL.
The means finally resorted to by the Maritime Council in order to bring the Shag Point Coal miners strike to an end have been sharp and ■"decisive. The proprietors, remaining obdurate, and refusing all offers for a peaceable settlement, the Council resorted;,to. coercive measures, the nature of which caused the mine manager and his-em-ployers to realise the full strength of their opponents. Having driven the dissatisfied handful of* miners from their mine and from their homes, the coalmine owners resolved to drive them out of the distinct by keeping the mine closed for a time. Had the struggle been simply confined to_ the. masters and their men, there is no. doubt, capital being in a position to wait, labor would eventually have lost the day. But an ally appeared in the shape of the Maritime Council, representing nearly all the Trades Unions in the colony. This body, with praiseworthy moderation, attempted to bring about a friendly settlement. This failing, instructions were issued to all the Unions " not to handle any goods belonging to the coalmine proprietors, Messrs Ross&GlendiningandMcKerras and Hazlett." As the proprietors, in addition to being coalmine owners, are also large soft goods importers and general merchants, .this, style of argument was unanswerable, and an unconditional surrender was the result. Under instructions from the Maritime Council wharf laborers would refuse to handle goods belonging to the offending masters ; seamen would refuse to sail in ships carrying said goods ; railway servants, would refuse to book, handle, or drive engines on which the goods were consigned; and the mass of the population, who form members of the respective Unions would refuse to buy from or in any way deal with the offending masters. In fact a general and gigantic strike, paralysing trade, •would have been the result had the masters not decided to yield to the men's wishes and take back into their employ two men, alleged to have beer wrongfully discharged; The magnitude •of .the effects likely to arise from a dispute so trifling will cause thoughtful men to pause, and ask whether it is wise in the best interests of society and the uninterrupted course of trade, to allow differences of this character to remain in the hands of the masters and men immediately- concerned. Under present conditions, judging by the experience of the Shag Point strike, a bumptious and domineering manager or an equally bumptious and domineering set of employes have it within their power, by perseverance in an unreasonable effort to gain a trifling pecuniary advantage, to cause widespread loss and disaster to thousands who have not the slightest interest or concern with the matter in dispute. Is this right 1 is it reasonable ? We think not. What appears to be wanted is an independent tribunal, appointed by the State, to whom all disputes, not likely to be.satisfactorily settled by the masters and men, shall be referred. This ti-ibunal, thoroughly untrammelled and free from all partizanship, could collect evidence from masters and men alike, and its decision would be final. Under some such condition as this labor disputes would be confined to the immediate locality where they originated, and legislative measm'es could be taken to have the finding of what we might call a State Labor Tribunal enforced both by masters and servant?. "With the right of labor to use every means, except physical force, to wring from capital a fair share of the profits of production there is no question ; and it is one of the healthiest signs of the times to see labor assuming the position which rightfully belongs to it. But care must be exercised not to dethrone one tyrant only in order .to set up another. Not that we would stigmatise the action of the Maritime Council as tyrannical in bringing about a termination to the Shag Point Coalminers dispute. On the contrary, the Council acted throughout with sound judgmentand moderation, but espoused, as was only natui'al, the cause of the laborers. But it is questionable whether the Council, being the elected representative body in the cause of labor, is the correct tribunal to whom to entrust the final adjustment of disputes between masters and men. Capital, as well as labor, has its rights, but these rights are not likely to receive justice at the hands of a Tribunal elected from the ranks of their opponents; and when, as is now apparently the case, this Tribunal is in a position to enforce its conditions, whether right or wrong, and this at the sacrifice of the peace of' society and the welfare of trade, it is imperative that the State shall step in, find while fav.oring neither one disputant nor the other, make provision for a settlement of labor disputes without involving the whole population in gigantic labor strikes over every petty grievance between masters and men.