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CONCILIATION BOARD., Issue 10437, 5 October 1897
THE TAILORS’ DISPUTE. At yesterday’s sitting of the Conciliation Board to inquire into the dispute between the Dunedin Operative Tailors’ Society and the master tailors of Dunedin the following firms were nob represented : —Messrs W. Aitkea and Son, T. F. Feltham, J. A. Kirby, F. Smith and Co., Stokes and Sons, Todd and Brown, G. M. Wilkie, and Bennet and Griffen.
The statements of the master tailors were proceeded with, as follows : Mr John M'Donald did not understand the log, and never worked under it. He paid weekly wages, and he did not think any who worked for him had much cause to complain with regard to the wages they were getting. He thought a good tailor deserved £3 a week. In Dunedin there were three classes of tailors—low class, medium, and high class tailors. All three classes employed girls, men, and boys mixed up together ; and if the point were conceded with regard to tailoresses pressing their own work it would mean that the medium class tailors would have to throw their girls out of employment, and their customers would immediately patronise the tailors who professed to have better class hj nds and to do better class work. With regard to apprentices he would like to see something done about then. He thought that there were about thirty or forty young men in Dunediu who had only half learnt their trade, and were not fib to go into a shop and do a job. If something was not done in the way of indenturing apprentices he presumed that it was only a matter of time when there would be no tailoresses at all. He did not object to the conditions with regard to apprentices, but there should be one to three weekly-wage men, with the right to add apprentices to their staffs every two or three years at the outside. He had no objection to a man belonging to a union, but he would prefer to employ whoever be I'-ked. Forty-eight hours was a fair week’s work for a man.
Mr Smith (Craig and Smith) was in favor of three weekly wage men and one apprentice to three men, and thought that if apprentices were indentured it would be better fur them if they grew up. He did not object to union men getting preference of work, and thought £2 10s for a week of forty-eight hours was a fair minimum wage. He quite approved of overtime being paid. Messrs Scott, Arthur, Sheppard, and Jenkius generally agreed with what had been said by tho previous speakers. Evidence was then called in support of the operatives’ demands. Robert [Wright, examined by Mr Young, deposed that he had been over thirty-four years in Dunedin, and over forty-five years at the tailoring trade. Ho had beer, except for nine months, engaged on piecework. He thought piecework was the most equitable system. He had almost made arrangements to leave the trade on account of the team system. There was not a living wage in it now. Females were as capable as plenty of men were of pressing their own work. They could use 71b or 81b irons, as be had done himself. Pressing was notveryhard work,,but it was disagreeable work. Females might take a little longer time over it than men would, but they would do the work quite as well. Under the team system apprentices had hot a fair opportunity of learning their trade. Mr Young: Do you think forty-four hours a sufficient number of hours to work a week? Witness: The fewer the better. (Laughter.) He was working fifty hours a week at present. By Mr Crombie : Witness and Mr Young both worked in Fred. Smith and Co.’s. By Mr Gale : Witness had made coats for the late Isaac Martin and for Milligan in Dunedinj and regularly at Home. To the Chairman: Witness had been paid under the 1879 log. He did not know the details of the log proposed by the union. To Mr Millar : Witness thought the team system was largely responsible for the number of improvers who were knocking about. Walter Muir, employed by J. Hendry and Son, said he was working at trousers and vests with the assistance of a boy. They could turn out ten trousers and vesta a week, making repairs as well. He pressed for three girls also. He had received £2 5 1 a week for the last three or four weeks. Prior to that he had received £2 a week. He supposed his assistant received 10s or 12s a week. He had.-never worked piecework. He did not think females could do the heaviest part of the pressing. If girls were taught to press he thought they might be able to press their own job, but it would be hard work for them—it was hard work for him. If girls were to do their own pressing, what was to become of him ?—(Laughter.) He would have to do stone work.
Mr Young: If we were all like you wo would be wallowing in the dirt. To Mr Wilson; If he had ever said he was in favor of women doing their own pressing he did not believe it.—(Laughter.) He was at the meeting of the union when this matter was brought up, and he voted then for women doing their own pressing, but he was not agreeable to it.—(Laughter.) The majority were against him, so what was the use of him voting against it. To the Chairman : Six journeymen, two apprentices, and seven tailoresses were employed at Hendry’s. Four of the men were working on piecework. They were working fifty hours a week.
To Mr Young: He had seen the pieceworkers walking about in the place while the weekly-wage men were working full time. He had always been used to the team system. He would not be in favor of that system, but he would be in favor of having three day-wage men in a shop. He did not know if he would be in favor of that if he were a pieceworker.
Mr Young: Surely you sympathise with the pieceworkers ?
Witness: There is no sympathy in our trade—(laughter)—and you will find that out, too.
David M'Laren said he had been working on piecework for some time. He was not in favor of the team system. From the 13th of May up to the 26th of September he did not average 2s 6d a week. During the twelve months from October 1 last year up to the Ist of October this year be did not think be
had averaged £1 a week. This was all t irough the adoption of the day-wage system and the employment of girls. The team system he disagreed with altogether. The system-did not give fairplay to any working man. He thought apprentices should bo bound. He had seen , women pressing their own work in Scotland and in Manchester. There was nothing to prevent women pressing their own work. He was told by one girl that she would rather do her own pressing and get the money for it. When a man pressed a pair of trousers he was paid just the same for it as a woman would be if she did it. In reply to Mr Crombie, witness said he had been in Brown, : Ewing, and Co.’s for two years. Then he was employed a little time at Scott’s, and afterwards went to Mr Crombie's. He did not get the sack from Mr Crombie, but was kept hanging on. The last lime he went to Mr Crombie he received nothing more from him than a woman would get. Witness was working on piecework,' and Mr Crombie only reckoned the job at woman’s prices. The biggest wage he bad there was £1 17a Gd or £1 17s 9d a week, Fcr the same jobs he got £2 15s and £2 16s in Brown, Ewing, and Co.’s. To the Chairman: Witness was working on day wages Jor a little time for Mr Crombie, and.made 35j a week.
John D. Fletcher said he vrus working at present at J. and J. Arthur’s on weekly wages. He was head of the team. There were about twenty-five or twenty-seven hands employed there, but another man had twelve under him. He generally Superintended the work arid put on collars, or did anything particular that required to be done to the goods. He did very little .presume himself, but he knew two girls in the New Zealand Clothing Factory who did the pressing the whole day. They were engaged pressing coats, trousers, and vests—principally boys’ clothing. To the Chairman: As a rule the pieceworkers did not get the same amount of work as the weekly hands. They got very small wages. He believed in abolishing the piecework system, unless it was all made piecework.
_To Mr Crow: The place where the two girls did the pressing was in the New Zealand Clothing Factory in Dowling street. To Mr Robb : The work witness saw the girls pressing they pressed very well. The work done by them was what he called factory work. He thought the ordered work was given to the men to press, but was not quite sure. To Mr Galo : Witness did not think that, the pressing ho had seen done by the girls in the factory would pass in an ordinary tailor’s shop.
To the Chairman : Witness had been about thirteen months with J. • and J. Arthur. He was getting £3 a week and all ‘ holidays paid for. To Mr Ferguson: Witness would reckon that the team system had something to do with a number of tailors being out of work. Mr Arthur said he understood that the
team system meant five or six slow men with a fast man at their head.—(Cries of “No, no.") He asked witness if the team system was in operation in the shop he worked in. Was there anything of a pacemaker? Witness : No ; there is no pacemaker. At this stage cf the proceedings the Chairman suggested that after the Court adjouriiecl the masters should meet and discuss amongst themselves the subject of the log, in order that they might bo able to submit some definite proposals to the Court. ; Mr Crombie remarked that the fixing of a log meant a three months’ job. At six o’clock the Court a Ijoupned un(il eleven o’clock this m iruing.
CONCILIATION BOARD., Issue 10437, 5 October 1897
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