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Employers' Meeting.

On Saturday afternoon, a meeting of employers of labor was held m the Orange Hall. The meeting was called by advertisement, and two o'clock was the hour fixed for beginning business. It was fully half-past two, however, before a beginning was made ; but when proceedings did open, the hall was crowded to its utmost capacity, fully 150 people being m the room. Many trades' unionists were among those present, and there was a good attendance of farmers. On the motion of Mr Hugo Friedlander, Mr C. J. Harper took the chair, and I expressed his pleasure ai< seeing so large a meeting of representative farmers. It showed that they were alive to their own j interests, and there was no doubt the ' trouble brought about by the Maritime Council m Austialia would affect the farmers here m a short time. The time at which the trouble had come on was opportune for the farmers, as all fcheir grain was sold ; had it been otherwise, they would have been m a terrible fix. They were mcc that day to discuss the matter c«olly and calmly, and to look the labor crisis m the face. Farmers had a right to protest against this disturbance, aa they were all working men m a sense, and their produce was the backbone and foundation of the whole fabric of the colony's commerce, and this fabric was now jeopardised by the extraordinary conduct of the seamen. He would not waste time m going over the reason of all this disturbance, but would just mention that t^here had been much talk about mediation. He could not see what there was to mediate about. Labor had full right to form itself into unions—farmers had the same right; but every disturbance such as this must affect the whole trade of the colony, and very materially affect the farmers. The news that day from Lyttelton was very satisfactory. Ships were being loaded by free labor, not as speedily, to be sure, as they wOuld have been m the ordinary state of things, but the work was going on satisfactorily. Still, they ought to be prepared for any emergency, as if they did not exert them-1 selves they might be left m a very nasty .position. Farmers were not ready to unite to look after their own interests. ; That had often been subject for regret m connection with agricultural meetings, at which it was always difficult to get an attendance. He hoped to see meetings held frequently at which agricultural matters would be discussed. But m regard to the matter more immediately m hand, he had to move —(1) " That this meeting strongly disapproves of the unwarrantable action of the Maritime Council m calling out labor without any grievance against New Zealand employers, and those present promise every support by labor or otherwise to! prevent the trade of the country from being paralysed." This was a very general resolution, but the time may soon come when they would have to contribute labor to prevent themselves from being very seriously hampered by the gross tyranny they were being subjected to. He had yet to learn that the laboring classes had much to complain of m New Zealand. He himself had always paid fair wages— the men's own prices m fact—and when a man got his own price he could not grumble. In speaking to any motion at that meeting, he hoped speakers would be brief, and avoid as far us possible any personal or other remark likely to raise any ill-feeling. Mr G. W. Leadley seconded the motion. He agreed with the remarks of the Chairman, and hoped no expression of feeling would occur nor personal remarks bo made, but that the subject they had met to consider would be discussed coolly and dispassionately. So far ;is he could sco, from the public papers, the Union Shipping Company, doing businens m New Zealand waters and carrying on .m intercolonial trade, thought it advisable to join an Association on the other side. That action was resented both on the other side and here, and had brought about the strikes. That w;is the ro.il cause so far as lie could see | why this colony had been involved m so much trouble. If those involved m the trouble were put to any very largely increased outlay, that increase they would endeavor to recoup themselves, and it must ultimately come out of the pockets of th*e farmers. No sovereigns were to be dug from the bottom of thesea—all their ' wealth was got f rom the soil. He had had several conversations wirh men who were on strike, and had heard from them that there existed a few minor grievances among men working on small coasting vessels, as to time, etc., but these could have been remedied without involving the trade of the colony m all this trouble. It seemed to him to resolve itself into this : If labor unions here were entitled to join with labor bodies over there, it w;is right for shipowners here to join with shipowners over there. He cpnld see no right that either side had to object to the other affiliating with Australia. But the question for those present was that every farmer and farm laborer, and every storekeeper too, must m the end bear the cost of all this trouble. Mr James Brown, Netherby, Wakanui, objected to the motion. The Maritime Council had been quite justified m acting as it had done, and the Unionists had behaved nobly, and acted quite within the law. It was time for labor to unite and defend itself against the treatment it had been subjected to. If they had read the report of the Sweating Commission they would have seen how young people had been sweated, and how they had had to work for money that was not sufficient to live on. In the case of Whitcombe and Tombs, the Typographical Society were perfectly justified, m the attitude they had assumed towards that company. All the other offices m Christchnrch were quite willing to pay their men Union races, and work on Union lines, and when Whitcombe and Tombs declined to do so they could only expect to have the Society against them. It was the same with the Seamen's Union, and, unless these Sooie* ties united with each other and federated for their mutual protection, they must be powerless, As a farmer, he himself had had to run the gauntlet of bad seasons and shipping rings, and he was now asked to take part m shipping produce. He had done his part m regard to grain, and he declined to do any more. It would be more m keeping, he thought, for capitalists to throw m their influence and urge the withdrawal of the Shipping Company from tha Shipowners' Association. He Avould move as an amendment.— " That this meeting is of opinion that the present difficulty m the shipping trade of the colony has been largely brought about by the attempt of the Union S.S. Company, and certain employers of labor to crush unionism, the poor man's weapon of defence—and that the most satisfactory Avay to end the difficulty would be for those capitalists to comply with the present demands ,of labor, submit the matters m dispute to arbitration, and endeavour, by Legislative means, to fjq justice to, bo,th parties, and sp prevent suclf an qocvjrrance from t^ljii^ place m the future." Mr P. McGulre seconded. Mr Hugo Friedlancler would not have troubled the meeting with any remarks, but for the misstatements made by the mover of the amendment. He had seen the Secretaries of several of these Associations, and they had all said they had no grievance, but, belonging to the Maritime Council, they had had to obey orders. The farmers of the colony hud had a hard time, but they hadgot over it, 1 and everybody was doing very well, and was managing his own business, when th^s labor trouble came on and disorganized perythjn§f. ' He had no

objection to the men having unions ; he had always been able to work with them ; but it was the Maritime Council itself that first began the affiliation by federating with the Australian labor system. As to Whitcombe and Tombs, that firm's name had no right to be dragged into that meeting. He was not m any way connected with Whitcombe and. Tombs, and they had never done a shilling's worth of work for him; but there waa another side to the question of that firm's position, which m common, justice ought to be stated. That firm had taken up a class of work which had hitherto been sent out of the colony, and to be able to do this work, so that they could compete with outside, they had employed boys and girls to do the. work upon it. The Chairman, before putting the amendment to the vote, wished it to be I understood that the meeting was one of employers of labor, and only employers of labor would be allowed to vote. The vote was then taken, when the amendment was voted for by the mover and seconder only, and the motion was carried almost unanimously. Mr Donald Williamson would propose the next resolution as follows :—(2)"Thak an Association be formed called the Ashburton Farmers and Employers Association, the object of which is to secure for its members unity of action and protection of their just interests, and with a view to affiliation with other kindred Associations, and that this meeting resolves itself into a Committee to carry out the object of the Association." He felt himself man awkward position, because on all occasions when: the rights of labor had been discussed, he had taken the side of labor. He was doing so now, for it seemed that the labor party's heads were running away with them, and the leaders were running away with the men's liberty. He hadspokenwith several railway hands, who regretted that they had joined with this Council; but having done ao, they were bound m honor to come out. The trouble, as had already been stated, began on the other side, for here there was no grievance between the Union Shipping Company and their men. The officers had joined the Seamen's Union, and the shipowners had declined to treat with the officers while they were affiliated with that Union. The officers, however, had declined to withdraw. On the other side, it was thought if they were able to keep out New Zealand produce, they would be better able to fight capital on the other side, and so the Unions of New Zealand were called out. He was quite with the Unions for the protection of the interests of the men ; but now' it seemed that all sorts of interests were drawing together for mutual protection. The Maritime Council had no right to dictate to the Shipping Company that they must not unite with the only Association they could unite with, while they themselves had united with Australia, and this dictation had very greatly jeopardised their cause. 'He rather fancied if the Maritime Council had known at the beginning what they knew now, their action would have been different. The result of the Maritime Council's action had been disastrous. The Woollen Factory here was stopped, and important industries all over the Colony had been brought to a standstill, while traffic on the railway had been very seriously reduced, not for want of men, but simply for want of business. All this agitation meant a rise m freight, and farmers had too much to pay as it was, and many good men had gone to the w;ill. If anything could be done to save the laborers from themselves there would be good done. It did not require much foresight to see that, as a result of all this turmoil, many workers must be thrown out of employment, and if any•thin<f could be done to end the trouble, much misery mould be averted that now seemed inevitable. He had been a worker all his life, and he believed that he did now as much work as many members of these Unions. (Laughter.) It was much to be regretted that any attempt, such as the present agitation, should ever have been made to set class against class. Mr A. E. Peache seconded the motion m a short speech. Mr James Brown believed the farmers had no grievance at the present time, and the best they could do at this crisis was to remain neutral, The motion was carried unanimously. Mr Hugo Friedjander said there were a few business men m Christchurch who, having the courage of their opinions, had taken action m face of much opposition and opprobrium to help to carry on the trade at the Port. He felt the employers m this county would only be doing a graceful thing if at that meeting they passed a resolution acknowledging the efforts of these gentleman. He would therefore move—(3) "That this meeting desires to express its admiration of the moral courage and determination shown by Mr Stead and others m the prominent part they have taken m carrying on the shipping at Lytfcelton during the present crisis, and accords them a well-earned and hearty vote of thanks." Mr Somerville seconded the motion, which was carried unanimously, as well as a further resolution asking the Chairman to forward to Mr Stead a copy of the third-resolution. Mr Duncan Cameron, Springfield, was much pleased to see the third resolution passed. He had been at port last Thursday, and had there seen thousands of sacks of potatoes lying exposed, and m a very perishable condition ; and piles of sacks of grain but poorly protected, were also lying there waiting for shipment. ■He had nothing against the men. Most of the. men he had ever employed were always willing to come back to work with him, and he always got along well enough with his hands, But the men were as much interested m the sale of this produce as those to whom it belonged, for it was by its sale that they were paid their wages. Many men would be glad to earn the wages the lumpers earned. He understood the earnings were as high as £3 a week all the year round. Work was going on very well now, however, and the Tekapo had got more grain aboard last week than had been shipped m any week for the last eighteen months. (Groans.) It was a pity to see the produce, (the gift of a kind Providence), that had been grown and gathered with so much labor and anxiety, lying exposed m a perishable condition at Lyttelton, and m danger of being lost at the last moment. The Chairman thanked the meeting for their behaviour towards him, and stated that as work was now going on satisfactorily at the port, it would nob be necessary to give effect to the second resolution. Should it become necessary to give effect to it, he would make it his duty, as Chairman of that meeting, to call together another meeting to do so. Mr Brown having moved a vote of thanks to the Chairman, which was carried by acclamation, the proceedings closed, •

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Bibliographic details

Employers' Meeting., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2512, 8 September 1890

Word Count

Employers' Meeting. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2512, 8 September 1890

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