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THE SWEATING SYSTEM., Issue 7960, 16 July 1889
THE SWEATING SYSTEM.
A NEW DEVELOPMENT. In the first week cf April of the present year a meeting of journeymen painters was add, and a resolution then passed that a society of journeymen painters should be formed. The following rule was suggested and forwardod to the master painters for consideration:—"That no member of this society be allowed to take contracts or sub-contraots or in any way act In opposition to the interests of master painters." The Committed appointed at the meeting accordingly prepared a oiroular containing the clause quoted and accompanied by the following explanation, which was submitted to the masters of the trade:—" By doing this (the passing of the rule) we are of opinion that it will cause an ire provement in trade, and be of profit to the employers, as well as more permanent employment to the men Of course, to carry this out to a successful issue, we will require tho cooperation of the employers, who on their part will be asked to employ only society men, and when engaging extra labor that preference be giveD, as far as practicable, to society men. These are the main features of our proposals, and with your help, gentlemen, we hope to carry out, and thus put a atop to that pernioioua system of petty contracting whioh has done so much harm to the interests of both masters and men. We might also state that all the masters who have bten interviewed on the subject have given the scheme their entire approval, and some have offered to subscribe liberally to the fund?, which are to be used only as a benefit fund for distressed members." Since the formation of the society, however, matters have not progressed satisfactorily, and a meeting was held at the Coffee Palace latt evening for tho purpose of considering what steps it would be advisable to pursue. The president of the Booiety (Mr J. Knowles) oooupied the ohair, and nineteen members attended.
The Chairman said that, as one of tbe members of the Committee appointed to interview the master painters, ho might state Jhat he had left the whole matter in the hands of Mr H, B, Smith, who had endeavored to obtain a meeting of tho masters, but bad failed, mainly owing to the fact that some of the painters employed a large amount of boy labor. From the masters he had interviewed he had reoeivved every courtesy, especially from Mr Swan, but one and all complained of some establishments, whioh they named, employing too muoh boy labor, and had urged on him the desirability of forming a union. Speaking personally, hs decidedly favored the proposition, and considered that if a union were not formed, and at once, they (the journeymen) would live to regret it. The gentlemen to whom he had referred had given him to understand that if a painters' union were formed they would give it their cordial support. He strongly advised those present to disestablish tbe present society, which bad never progressed from tho first, and fo:m a union instead Mr J. Millar also intimated that several master painters whom he bad interviewed had firomieed to support a union heart and soul.— Hear) He strongly commentej on the action of Mr Fish and his manager, and moved to wire to Mr H. S. Fish requesting him to inform the Dunedin Painters' Society as to whether it was according to bis instructions that a member of the society was offered 5s per day." The Chairman advised those present not to do thing* rashly. They did not know whether the man referred to had paid any money into the so i»ty ; and if he weie not a society man they would be pliced in a rather ridiculous position. Mr R. WATSON did not think there was anything ridiculous about the matter; there was nothing laughable in asking Mr FL-h that quettion. Peihaps the latter was unaware that the sum stated had been offend— (Deiwive laughter.) Well, Mr Fish would be able to tell them. At any rate it was a very sensible proposition. Mr Millar said that the man referrei to represented himself as being a journeyman painter, and it was a question as to whether they should treat him as a member or not. Mr W. Noel : It does not matter a single etraw whether he is a journeyman or a society man. What we want to know is whether it was with Mr Finn's permission that tho man was offered the wages stated. Mr Millar amended his resolution by deleting the words "member of the society" and substituting "journeyman." Mr Fobbtth thought that before the discussion terminated the Committee's report should ba dealt with. Mr Bmith had intitrated that it was impossible for him to pay 9s per day while other masters were paying ss. It was opposition that he could not contend with, unless bymaking a oorrespondirg reduction in the rate of wages. He moved—" That tbe report of the Committee be taken as read and adopted."
This was seconded and carried ncm. dis. The Chairman asked whe'.her the oorrespondenea re the Boeiety and Mr Fish should be published in the papers ? Mr Miilar explained that, in moving in the diroction he had done he had been actuated by the fact that there was some doubt existing in the minds of members as to whether it was Mr Fish or bis manager wbo had offered 5s per da; as wages. They would surely receive an answer " Yes" or " No." As to the matter of the establishment of a union it could easily bs seen that the society never could succeed. Mr Millar's motion as amended was put and oarricd.
The Chairman explained that if a union were formod a wage would be fixed, and no member wouid be allowed to tike less. If nonunion men were employed the uoion men in the came establishment would bo called out They would then compel masters to give employed a fair wage. Mr FoRRTTit: That's similar to the rule of the present society. Tho Chairman : No, not at all. In the one it is purely a matter of honoi between the two paities employer and employod that tho usual rate of wages will be maintained; in the other it is a specified tule—a command as it were. As it is, there were men working at the Pxbibition building who were not receiving the usnal wage paid to journeymen painters, and when they jhare finished work there they will place their service* on the rrarket, and the consequence will be that we will have to accept the same reduced piioe for our labor. There are Tailoresses* Union, Bakers' Unions, and several similar organisations ; why then can we not have a painters union ? Ido not say that we should form a union at once, but we ought to hold a public meeting and endeavor to bring matters to a definite issue
Mr MiILAB suggested that *hey should not go in for general strikes. It would be the best plan to call out the union men during a dispute, and pay them strike wages by making a levy on other members. If they had been mem* bera of a stronj, union at the present time, thoy could dictate to Mr Fish instead of him diotating to them. If they let this chance go by them, they would shortly be living ike Chinamen on 5s per day. The men were bangiDg back; tboy were frightened. Now, all the masters denied paying reduced wages to men; who then were the guilty ones? Mr J. Fhith thought tha*, regaiding the quostion of reduot d pay, this ciroumstat ce was worthy of consideration: If any person could take up a contract at the same price aB Mr Fish's tender, and yet be able to pay his employed 9s per day, it was a disgrace that any man should be allowed to employ men at 5s per day.—(Hear.) If they had stated that the wages must be 9a per day, why did they stultify themselves by stating in a circular that they were in no ■way to oppose the masters? Mr Millar said th<*t Mr F;sh knew, when he spoke to them about forming the society, that the ruling rate of wages was 9s per day, and in tbe faco of that it was now alleged that he employed men at considerably reduced rates. Tho Chairman taid that in one establshment the masters bad simply laughed at him and the society. Unless the members banded themselves together, and secured a reversion of the present stat< of things, they would regret it in tte end. He suggested that a public meeting of the painters should be held to disouss the question. Mr Watson was of opinion that a lame number of persons did a lot of talking on the streetp, but when it came to joining a union and paying an entrance fee they told a different story.—(Laughter.) Mr Millar suggested that painters in tbe North should be made aware of the state of the trade here.
One of those presont protested against tbe remarks made by some members. They seemed to infer that those at present in employment at Mr Fish's establishment should leave and allow their positionstobe "jomped"byothers.—(No.) Ho and another present worked at Mr Fish's as journeymen, and both received 9a per day. It waß eventually decided to invite all pair.t«rs to a public meeting, to be held on Friday evening next, for the purpose of considering the proposal to form a painters' union.
THE SWEATING SYSTEM., Issue 7960, 16 July 1889
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