The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 1890. THE RAILWAY COMMISSIONERS.
We are pleased to observe that the Railway Commissioners deny the statement that they intend to " boycott " ;i Napier newspaper by withholding advertisements, because the newspaper m question saw lit to adversely criticise their action m connection with the present labor crisis. When the statement was first made we did not give credence to it, as, though the Commissioners may have committed many errors of judgment since taking charge of the State rail-1 ways, we have always given them credit for a sincere desire to conduct the business of the department on purely business principles. If the railways are to pay, railway arrangements must be freely advertised m all newspapers, irrespective of what opinions are expressed m tiie leading columns. This being so, it would be sheer madness to withhold advertisements from any newspaper having a circulation or importance which would give that publicity which the business of the department requires. The Commissioners have not been guilty of an act so suicidal, and we are glad of it. In dealing with the railway servants, however, the Commissionei's, we are sorry to say, do not seem to be actuated by the same good sense and judgment. The manner m which railway servants are being dismissed and admonished during the present crisis is, to say the least of it,' provocative, and calculated to precipitate a strike, the disastrous results of which would require to be felt to be fully understood. Fortunately the railway servants are, as a body, a set of men who will not aefc rashly or imprudently, and it is because of this fact that a railway strike has not occurred. The dismissal of the four men at Christchurch—virtually for taking j part m the proceedings of a Union which the Commissioners only a few months previously had consented to recognise—has not mot with public approval, and is admitted, even by those who are inclined to support the Commissioners, as an error of judgment which has created a public feeling against the Commissioners, and a corresponding sympathy for the men and their Union. The Commissioners appear to be acting on the belief that a railway strike must occur m New Zealand sooner or later, and that the sooner it comes and goes the better. This opinion has been freely expressed by those who support the Commissioners m their attitude towards the railway servants. The Commissioners and a few others, having settled it entirely to their own satisfaction, that a railway strike muM occur sooner or later, think it^ could not occur at a better time than the present, when the grain and wool season is practically over. Of course, if tiie Railway Commissioners are right m their view that a railway strike must occur m the immediate future they are quite justified m forcing the hand of their servants, and pi'ecipitating a battle when it suits themselves. We think, however, and we are not alone m the opinion, that a, railway strike can and will be averted altogether if judgment and discretion is exercised on both sides. The railway servants, «o far as can be judged, by the utterances of their leaders, have not the remotest desire to strike, but wish to obtain a redress of grievances by peaceable and diplomatic means. The mistake that is being made by the Commissioners and a few others is m taking it for grouted that the railway servants are only postponing a strike until the middle of the grain and wool season, when they will make exorbitant demands, and paralyze trade, unless these demands are granted. We do not believe a word of this. The railway servants must know, unless they are devoid of all sound judgment, that by adopting a course so high-handed they will lose all sympathy and support of the public. Without public sympathy the cause of the railway servants cannot succeed, and we must give the men credit for realising this. If a railway strike occurs during the present crisis, it will be because the men have been forced into it, owing to the mistaken judgment of the Commissioners ; and we would earnestly urge these gentlemen to refrain from further interference at the present juncture, .and by an unconditional reinstatement of all discharged railway hands, allay what irritation has already been caused. An act such as this on the part of the Commissioners would do more towards deferring a railway strike to an indefinite period than anything we can think of, and would assist to restore the friendly feelings which should always exist between the Countirisioner.s and their fellow employes. It should be the aim of all the staff -from the engine firemen to the chief Commissioner—to work amicably together m order to make tiie railways a payable property to the colony, and a credit to those m whose charge they have been placed.