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A meeting of railway employes was held in the Oddfellows’ Hall, Rattray street, yesterday afternoon at three o’clock to consider the provisions of the Railway Employes Compulsory Insurance Bill. There were fully 200 men present; Mr Lewis Harris being voted to the chair. The Chairman explained that he had obtained two copies of the Bill from Mr Fish, and after reading it he saw at once that it was a very intricate measure. Mr Fish said that if the railway men did not want it carried there was not the slightest fear of it passing, and he promised to give what assistance he could to prevent it becoming law if it was not approved of. He then took the Bill to Dr Fitchett, who gave his opinion on several matters connected with it; and ho had, on that advice, drawn up certain resolutions for submission to the meeting. They traversed the whole measure, and were so framed that they would give no offence to the Commissioners or to anyone else. Great misconception existed regarding different clauses of the Bill, one being that having reference to the time of service. On that point Dr Fitchett said: “ All employes’ time of service counts from date of entry into tho railway service in computing allowances or pensions.” With reference to clause 8, ho (the speaker) would mention a case of injustice which might arise. A guard was receiving 10s per day for say ten or fifteen years, and had paid into the fund 3s 4d per week, or 13s 4d per month. Through old age he had become incapacitated to act as guard any longer, and was offered and accepted a post of, say, crossing-keeper at 5s per day. Now, on finally retiring from the service, he could only claim retiring allowonce according to the lower scale of pay. Therein injustice was done.—(Applause.) Then, respecting clause IS, about which there was a deal of doubt as to its correct meaning, Dr Fitchett said: “ The Government can insure the life of any employd, pay the premiums out of the general fund, and place proceeds of said policy into general fund. If an employd is already insured he can, if he likes, hand his policy over, but he is not compelled to do so. Should he die his executors would receive full proceeds of policy.” He (the chairman) pointed out the hardships which would be inflicted on tho men if this clause were carried into force. The Bill as a whole materially affected their rights, and they were justified in objecting, in a temperate manner, to it, He hoped, after what had transpired at that meeting, and also at Christchurch, that the Railway Commissioners would see the folly of trying to thrust the measure on them. (Hear, hear.) It was known to all of them what had occurred in Christchurch, and one resolution that dealing with the proposal for a union—should, he thought, certainly be taken up here.—(Applause.) At present no union among them was in existence, and, in consequence, acts of injustice wore done and men suffered, and they had to put up with it merely because there was no union among them. He was pained to hear that in the locomotive department a certain petition had been signed for no other purpose than to sow disunion among all the employes. Those who signed it had no right to do so ; they should have come to that meeting if they were going to object to anything. He pointed out the necessity of taking action to form a union, The labor market throughout the world was now in a complete state of revolution ; men were beginning to see that union was invaluable, and he was pleased and proud to think that his townsmen in the East End of London were the moving force causing this revolution throughout the world, —(Loud applause,) Mr Sligo, as one of those who took part in getting up the petition that Mr Harris had referred to in tho locomotive department, wished to say he thought his remarks wore rather harsh and uncalled for.—(Cries of “No, no!” and “Order!”) Mr Harris said the petition was got up as a countermovement to the present meeting, but such was not the case. Those who were getting up the petition were not aware that it was intended to call that meeting. The petition was simply for the purpose of trying to prevent the enforcement of a measure which wasthoughttobesoundesirable. He feltquite convinced that the meeting was premature

and if a petition had been got up pointing out objections to any particular part of the Act, and signed by each of the different departments, and forwarded to the Commissioners, that would have been sufficient to prevent an Act being passed that was so undesirable to the interests of the employes as the Railway Insurance Bill.—(Cries of “No, no.”) If the Commissioners still wished to enforce the Bill after that had been done, the employes would have been justified in calling a meeting of the present kind.—(Cries of “Too late 1”) He would like to know how they weie going to tell who were in favor of suppressing tho enforcement of the measure, —(Cries of “All, all!” and “Read the petition I”) The petition whibh emanated from the locomotive department simply pointed out that the men were not satisfied with the provisions of the measure, and it asked that it be not enforced. It also referred to a number of objections that Mr Harris had pointed out. It was not, however, a counter-petition to the one before the meeting.—(A Voice : “I should like to hear it read.”) An Employe : I think tho petition should be read, so as the meeting could judge of it. I think it is a device of the enemy to split the camp.—(Hear, hear.) Mr Forsyte said the object of the meeting was not to discuss that petition or any other; it was to discuss this contemplated Act, and it would be well if they proceeded with the matter in hand. He went on to say that there was a clause in the Act relating to the appointment of a Board of Commissioners, two of which would be appointed by the Governor to draw up rules and regulations which would be equivalent to the rules and regulations of a friendly society. Now, he thought it was scarcely possible that Commissioners in Wellington would be in touch with the employes in Dunedin. They would, therefore, be quite incompetent to draw up rules and regulations affeeting the moneys that the men hero earned. That was a very objectionable point in tho Act. Ho thought that a man who had earned a few shillings oughtto be able to spend them in whatever way he wished, —(Applause.) The Chairman then read the following resolutions which he had prepared:—

Whilst recognising the wisdom of insurance against sickness, accident, old age, and death, this meeting considers the Government Railway Employes Bill unsatisfactory in the following respects(l) Most of the employes are at present either connected with friendly societies or insured In life offices, and it is both unnecessary and oppressive to compel them to contribute to the fund contemplated in the Bill. (2) Tho Bill does not provide for allowance during sickness or accident. In this respect tho advantages of tho Bill cannot compare with the advantges given by friendly societies and it will be absolutely impossible for the employes, at their present wages, to keep up their payments to the friendly societies, and at the same time make the payments required by the Bill, 13) The provisions of the Bill are objectionable in the following respects :—( a) The sum payable at death of employes should nut be limited to one year’s pay. (hj) The contributions in subsection 2of section 5 are excessive. (c) Section 7 is unfair, inasmuch as an who has contributed to the fund should be entitled to a refund upon quitting tho service, no matter for what reason he may quit it. (d) Section 8 opens the door to abuses. For instance, a man discharged from the service in consequence of permanent incapacity from accident or ill-health is entitled to a pension for life, even though after discharged he may completely recover from this accident or ill-health. Again, it is unfair that men discharged on account of old age, but who have contributed little or nothing to the fund, should be entitled to a pension for life out of the fund. (c) As to section 9, on the death of a pensioner his legal representative should not receive anything by way of one month’s pay f or each year of service; and again, the sum paid to the legal representative of an employe should not be limited to twelve months’ pay. (f) As to section 17, the employes should get the full benefit of any surplus, and it should not be paid into the Consolidated Fund.

Mr Forsyth proposed that the resolutions as read be adopted in Colo, They were very carefully worded, and those present might rest assured of this: that if they temperately maintained their own rights and privileges they would never lose the respect of their employers. The motion was seconded, and carried unanimously. It was decided to forward a copy of the resolutions to the Commissioners,

Mr Sligo said before passing on to the next business he should like to say something with reference to the petition to which ho had before referred. If no mention were made of it it would certainly not be signed unanimously. The Chairman : We don’t want it signed,

Mr Sligo said he would like to make a suggestion with regard to the matter, so that a number of men might not be placed in a false position. He would ask some unbiassed persons to see this petition and state whether they were satisfied that it was not a counter movement to the present one, and that it was fairly worded; so that those who had thrown out some very sarcastic and scurrilous remarks about it might make the amende honorable.

An Employe: Withdraw tho petition first.

Mr Sligo : I don’t see any necessity for withdrawing the petition.

Another Employe stated that ho learnt from a very reliable source that the petition was not against that meeting. A Voice : The petition would not be nearly so good as a meeting like this.— (Applause.) Mr Sligo took exception to this remark. If they got the petition signed by nearly every man in the different departments it would have been more satisfactory than holding high mass on Sunday afternoon,— (Hisses, and laughter.) The Chairman had called the meeting on a Sunday, and he was responsible for it being held that day. The reason he called it then was that it was the only day that the bulk of the working men could bo got together. The only men not present were those who were forcibly absent on the Port Chalmers train. He was certain that if the meeting had been called on any night during the week there would have been 100 men who would not be able to be present. He proceeded to say that the question now to consider was the formation of a union. The Chairman read the resolution he had prepared, in reference to the proposed union, as follows: “ That it is the opinion of this meeting that the employes on the Otago section of the New Zealand railways should form an amalgamated union, and federate with the Amalgamated Society of New Zealand Railway Employes at Auckland, and support any action that society may take to federate with other labor organisations throughout the Australasian colonies.” It was moved and seconded, without any hesitation, that the resolution be approved. An Employe hoped the union in Dunedin, if formed, would not support the Auckland union, if what he had beard of them was true. Within the last month he was told by two men who had been up there and had seen the Auckland union—if it was called a union—that money was always taken from members, but their names were not given in as members of the union. He had that on the authority of two gentlemen, well known to most of those present, and he placed the utmost reliance on what they said.

The Chairman said if that were the case tho Dunedion Union need not affiliate with the one in Auckland, but at the same time they were not debarred from forming a union among themselves. Next week he intended to start for his annual week’s holiday, and had thought of going to the lakes ; but, if the meeting desired it, he would take a run up to Christchurch, and learn from the union men there what steps they were taking. He would also inquire as to how the Union was carried on in Auckland, If it was true that they were not working openly, the Dunedin Union could annul the constitution and start on a fresh basis altogether. His idea was that the Union should not be a friendly society, but that everyone should pay a certain sum into the Union, and the amounts so contributed should be for no other end or purpose than to fight the general battle of the whole.— (Applause.)

Tho resolution was carried nem. con,

It was agreed that the chairman visit Christchurch as a delegate from that meeting, and obtain what information there he can ; to report on his return.

The railway employes at Invercargill held a meeting yesterday to consider the Insurance Bill. The Press and public were excluded, it being the intention of the men to intimate their decision to the Commissioners direct.

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Bibliographic details

RAILWAY EMPLOYES’ INSURANCE BILL., Issue 8049, 28 October 1889

Word Count

RAILWAY EMPLOYES’ INSURANCE BILL. Issue 8049, 28 October 1889

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