Last night a meeting, attended by between 300 and 400 men, was held m the Oddfellows' Hall, to hear addresses by Messrs F, S. Parker, of the Trades 1 and Labor Council, Cbristchurch, and i W. Lundon, Waimate, President of the Amalgamated Shearers' and Laborers' Union. The meeting was held under the auspices of the last-mentioned organisation, a branch of which was recently formed m Ashburton. Mr David Thomas occupied the chair, ,and, on rising to introduce the delegates, was received with loud applause. He said that as Mayor of the borough he had been asked to preside, and did so. It did not, however, follow that he identified himself with the views that might be expressed—not at any-rate until he had heard them. He saw no reason, however, why men should not form themselves into unions for their. own protection. (Applause.) He introduced : Mr Lundon who, after expressing his pleasure at seeing the large attendance, and his gratification at having the privilege of coming to Ashburton to aid m organising a branch of the Union m this district, went on to give an outline of the Union's history m much the same terms as he had used on th^e occasion of the first meeting held m connection with it m the Orange Hall, and which we reported pretty fully at the time. The Society now numbered 1300 members. Mr Lundon said he had been a shearer since he was sixteen years of age, and had put through his • hands many thousand sheep, so that he had "some experience of the work and the grievances of those who followed it. He had seen the price of shearing labor often reduced until it had reached 15s a hundred. But for the Union the figure would have been down to 12s 6d m his county (Waimate). He thought 15s was not by any means a high figure, and the men had resolved'to dp their best to keep the price from falling below 15s. Then there had been trouble with the agreements. These were m too many cases all on one side, and were rather bonds than agreements. ■ One clause was that when a man left a shed before the shearing was finished, he forfeited all the wages he had already earned. This was unfair, as it was frequently impossible for a man to shear his sheep to the satisfaction of the manager (which another clause provided), and it was far better that man and master should part m peace when this occurred, and the man get what he had worked fqr up to the time of leaving. He instanced a case m which a man sued his employer for unpaid work m the shed, and the Court at Oamaru had given judgment for the man. Sheepowners could boycot as well as Trades Unions. ;, Some men refused to shear wet sheep %t Hakaterdmea, and were offered the alternative, which they accepted, of leaving the shed. They were boycotted out of every shed they applied to m the district, because every employer had been told about this, and men had been sent to identify them as the men who had declined to shear the wet sheep at Hakateramea. Another grievance was the accommodation iri too niariy cases provided for the men. He instanced the case of a model estate on which the stables, pigsties, and outhouses generally were of first-class character, and excursionists often, came and were shown round the model place. But the men's places were carefully avoided by those who were acting as guides. If the men's quarters were shown he was quite sure the visits of the excursionists would cease. He mentioned a place where he himself had gone to work, and the accommodation was so extremely rough that he preferred to ride nine miles every morning and night rather than make use of it (Mr Lundon here exhibited a fork that had been supplied to him by the clerk with which to eat his food. It was a piece of No. 10 fencing wire, neatly twisted so as to leave a loop at one end and two prongs at the. other). When he was supplied with that fork he was told that he would forfeit a shilling or sixpence—he did not' remember which —if he did not return it. He preferred to retain the fork as a curiosity. He had seen farm hands' wages reduced from 20s to 17s 6d, and it was just the same at threshing machines, and they would go down more unless the men combined to prevent it, New Zealand had been painted as a perfect paradise for working men. It was all right enough for men who had come to the colony early m its history, and had saved some money from the good times, but for men who had to live wholly by their labor the situation was m many cases deplorable. The law price of produce had been cite/1 as a reason why fair wages could x\dt, be paid ; but he. had seen 8d a,n hour paid m the harvest field when wheat was selling at 4s a bushel, It was not the case that all farmers paid poor wages. Several farmers were members of the Union and two were trustees of it, and there were many who paid good wagea indeed, Bui the men who paid poor wages and ground, down their 'workmen were the men who had called the Union into existence. To work for such men at from 20 per cent to 40 per cent less than that paid by the good employer was an injury to the latter and to themselves. He urged working men to stick closely to the Union, and m fche choice of leaders to select only- men who are careful, thought^], and: level headed; not rash m,en, who would join the Union pii Saturday and demand a rise on Monday ; but men who had at heartj fch.e welfare of their wives and ohUdren and their f ello wmen. (Applause,) Mr F. S, Barker,'who spoke, at considerable length and with great fluency, h,egfl,n, hj waking a comparison between the treatment of the Unionists of to-day and the old Chartists of 57 years ago. The latter had been looked upon as the scum of the earth for daring to hint at reforms, and one of the reforms they had tried to bring about was union, of labor to protect itself. Me did not come there to foment discard between employers and employed, but to. cement,, if he could, good fellowship antf a proper understanding between them. Working men were only meeting to secure for themselves what was just and right—fair remuneration for their labor. Strikes w«re always to be deprecated, and vast- as the sword was the last resort of nations when all other means of amicable settlement, had failed, so were strikes the last resort of [the Unions. But when arbitration was declined, and before a strike was resorted to, the federation of labor had another Weapon to use —the boycott, Mr Parker ; gftve an instance of the wonderful effect of ; this weapon recently m Lyttelton, when a number of public houses were boycotted for selling the beer of a certain brewery.. The boycott very soon sent a deputation of hofcelkeepers to Christchuroh to clear up the difficulty. The ; boycott was now m force against the firm, of Whitcombe and Tombs, and the Maritime Council had done one. of the finest things m the world by deciding to try the ejfoet of this before resorting to the final weapon—a general strike,, Th*t firm was now boycotted, over, the whole of New Zealand, and the decision to be content with this, mode of warfare had been arrived at; wty after much careful and anxious thought and many sleepless nights. The battle was not pver, by/* vy-oujkl be fought out to the bitter tend, and yet it would never have been waged but far the stubbornness of; one man ill the firm fought agastnst. Ije urged the members of the Union to remember Mr Lundon's advice about the choice of leaders and; to select only sober, moral, moderate men ; bub nob m the working of the Union to ignor the usefulness of vanng men—rather make use of their youthful energy and zeal and get them to work m the interest of the Union ii* the true spirit, Jtew
Zealand had been painted m rosy colors as a colony for working men, but he could tell them of many homes m Christchurch m which Jiero were to be .seen pictures of of abjech poverty—not through drink, out simply from want of work. He knew infit.-uico.i m which men had had no employment for nine months, and surely this ought not to be ;n a young country like New Zealand. Mr Parker concluded with a strong appeal to the men to unite for defence—not defiance ; so that when from Auckland to the Bluff there was a complete union of labor, fair treatment afc the hands of employers was bound to follow. (Loud applause.) In answer to a question, Mr Parker explained that Unionism did not interfere with the right of a man to employ whom he pleased, so long as union rates were were paid and union conditions observed. ■ Votes of thanks having been given;to the delegates and to the Mayor, th» latter, m reply to Mr Parker,, stated that he was a believer m Unionism, and although he did not know where the capitalist ceased and the working man'began, irithesfjtimes, he claimed to be a working mail m principle. (Loud applause.)'; New members were then invited to join th© Union,' and the public meeting closed.
Permanent link to this item
LABOUR MEETING., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2499, 23 August 1890
LABOUR MEETING. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2499, 23 August 1890
Using This Item
See our copyright guide for information on how you may use this title.