The Ashburton Guardian. Magna Est Veritas Et Prævalebit. SATURDAY, AUGUST 16, 1890. THE WHITCOMBE AND TOMBS LABOR DIFFICULTY.
The labor party has kept its own counsel as to the course to be pursued m the Whitcombe and Tombs struggle. The recent ultimatum of the company placed the possibility of a peaceful settlement beyond the region of hope. Some hope of a peaceful settlement was warranted when the company consented to lay the terms of arbitration before the shareholders. These terms were simple m the extreme, and their only effect would have been to compel Messrs Whitcombe and Tombs to conduct their business on the same labor basis as the other master printers of Christchurch. This was nob an unreasonable request to make—it was simply a peaceable effort to bring about fair competition m business, and a fair day's pay for the laborer. The shareholders of the company construed this request to be an unwarrantable interference with their liberty to conduct their business as they deemed fit, and the gauntlet was thrown down. That th« challenge thus thrown out to the labor party has been taken up there can be no doubt, and the present position may be considered as simply the lull before the storm. The labor forces are being put m order for a short, sharp, and decisive struggle, and Messrs Whitcombe and Tombs and their allies are also preparing to fight to the bitter end. With what side the victory will lay it is of course, at this stage, impossible to foretell. The labor party are strong and powerful, and if the struggle is confined to Messrs Whitcombe and Tombs, will, without doubt compel the firm to yield. But other masters and merchants have rallied around the standard of capital, and as these wield considerable influence socially, politically, and commercially, the front presented to the labor party is a formidable one ; and is all the more so, as the wage-earners cannot distinguish their friends from their foes. A pitched battle is inevitable, and its consequences to both sides will be serious. Meanwhile business and trade, m Dunedin and Christchurch especially, 1 ins been paralysed, and prices are rapidly rising. Anxiety has been pictured on the faces of almost all business men, and wage-earners were m dread uncertainty as to the moment they would be called upon to cease work, and fight m the cause of " a fair clay's pay for a fair day's work." Already the mental strain and suspense has proved too much for one unfortunate employee, and we doubt not, that many others were almost distracted. There, is however, ;i gleam of hope to be gathered from the fact that, whatever move the Martime Council may make, it will not be m the direction of the immediate enforcement of the " complete boycott." From this position the labor party, acting upon the advice of many friends and well-wishers, have In the meanwhile receded, and the sinews of war will be directed against the firm and its supporters, before unoffending business men and the community generally are called upon to share m the consequences of the struggle. What the nature of the next labor movement, after this, may be, cannot be foreseen, but, judging from the letter published by Mr Millar m another column, whether the means to be, used are or are not successful, the general boycott will not be enforced m this struggle. The letter of Mr Millar published m another column, displays the conciliatory spirit which has characterised the Council's action throughout, and while displaying firmness m upholding the rights of labor and the necessity for fair pompetition, is devoid of weakness, The spirit of moderation shown by the Council has won for the labor party considerable public sympathy, and it is reassuring to know that, m New Zealand at least, the control of the labor movement is m competent hands. The Leflud^rs of the movement are men who will not precipitate a struggle, and should a fight be fprced upon them, they will endeavor as far as possible to save disastrous consequences to the public. Unfortunately the same moderation and good judgment has not characterised, the action of Messrs Whitcombe and Tombs, and m the coming aomhfrt, single-handed, they enter the lists with a njjncVtty of sympathisers and well-wishers,