MR RONAYNE'S EVIDENCE.
. BONUSES TO INVENTORS. (By Telegraph.—Press Association.) ' CHRISTCHURCH, Monday. The Addington Workshops inquiry was resumed to-day. The chairman (Professor Scott) said that certain points had cropped up during the hearing of evidence, and had again arisen during the investigation by the board of the evidence, and he had therefore asked Mr Eonayne (general manager of railways) to appear and elucidate these points. Replying to the Board's question, Mr Ronayne stated that the Hon. Mr Jenkinson saw him on several occasions, and made suggestions in regard to concessions to boilermakers. In some cases these were considered reasonable and given effect to. The foreman had power to suspend men from duty, but had no power to dismiss. Mr Ronayne described the manner in which tha work done by the railway employees is yearly reviewed. It was possible that a foreman might recommend a man and overlook his deficiencies, rather than appear before the Appeal, Board, but the close supervision exercised by workshops' managers and locomotive engineers rendered such a contingency a remote one. Mr Ronayne also described at considerable length the staff system, and detailed reasons for its adoption, the principal one being to ensure uniformity in method of engaging labour, and in the imposition of punishment for breaches of the regulations. In respect to offences, they were reported to headquarters and dealt with by the punishment board, consisting of the chief mechanical engineer, chief engineer, chief traffic manager, and stores manager. This board, after considering reports from the local officer, made recommendations to the general manager, who generally adopted their recommendations. By this means uniformity of punishment was ensured. As to the probation period in the case of casuals, before th ,y were transferred to the permanent staff, Mr Ronayne stated that the local officer was given an entirely free hand, and was allowed to exercise his judgment. It was stipulated that incompetency on the part of employees was to be reported at once. By circular, officers had been instructed that it was not intended that men should complete their probationary period if they proved to be incompetent. In the interests of the department and of the apprentice it was necessary to have a probationary period for apprentices. The period of apprenticeship was in almost all cases five years, and as that period was generally short enough the department did not encourage the transfer of apprentices. When an apprentice had completed his time his services were received, and if he had made satisfactory progress and was recommended, he got the minimum rate of pay for journeymen— viz., 9/6 per day.
There were 234 tradesmen at Addington, continued Mr Ronayne. Of these 175 were in the first grade, and received from 10/ to 10/6 per day; 59 were in the second grade, and received 9/6 per day. Included were 46 lads who had served their apprenticeship at Addington. Tliere were seven sailmakers and 122 strikers and holders, of whom only 36 were in the second grade. There was no superfluous machinery employed. In connection with the staff system, he gave the following figures regarding wages:—Expenditure at Addington: 1905, f 58,149; 1906, £59,728; 1907, £67,576; 1908, £74,663; 1909, £88,393; total, £348,809.
Quite a large number of applications had been received for rewards for employees in respect to improvements in machinery for appliances, added Mr Ronayne. A large number of the devices submitted were by no means original, but might not be in use in New Zealand railway workshops at the present time. In any ease, where it was clearly proved that a man had noticed something that tended to cheapen the cost of work, he (Mr Ronayne) was prepared to recommend the Minister to grant a special bonus. It was the invariable rule to recognise any special devices introduced by men in the second division, but tradesmen or the chief mechanical engineers got no special recognition for devices introduced or invented "by them.
The chairman then asked Mr A. L. Beattie, chief mechanical engineer, a number of questions. Mr Beattie stated that comparisons were regularly made of the cost of work at the different railway workshops. It was not always practicable to make such comparisons owing to the variation in the price of material locally supplied. The results of such comparisons ran fairly close. There was a proposal to rearrange the workshops machinery and to either electrify it or drive it by a suitable producer (gas apparatus), but up to the present time action had been delayed on account of the large outlay involved. The matter was still in view.
In reply to the chairman, Mr Hampton said that he would be prepared to address the Commission on behalf of workmen to-morrow morning. The chairman said that Mr Beattie's address would be taken after Mr Hampton's address.
The inquiry was adjourned" until 10 o'clock to-morrow morning.
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