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LABOR TROUBLES AT HOME

THE ENGINEERS' STRIKE.

[From Our Special Correspondent.]

London, September 4. Seven weeks ago the great strike-cum-lo-jk-out of the engineers b?gan, and the appearances to-day give good ground for anticipating that seven weelt3 more will pass ere the end cornea of this suicidal struggle between Cap'.tal and Labor. It is a disastrous dispute, and its consequences, even if a speedy settlement is arrived ab, are likely to bo truly serious. And the longer the sowing the heavier the crop of ruin and misery. Already work is leaving the country in considerable quantities ; foreign orders have weli-nigh ceased lo come in ; thousands of men are losing their weekly wage, and thousands more are giving up a substantial percentage of their earnings for the sustenance of those who have either voluntarily thrown themselves out of work or have had the doors of their workshops shut against them. Without doubt it is one of the mo3t ruinous labor disputes this ever experienced, and its effects are so far-reaching that no one oan ever guess what the ultimate cost to the country will be, _ When the first moves in this grievous industrial struggle took place nearly 17,000 men. found themselves idle by their own voluntary aot. That number has been increased week by week through the <« lockout" taotios of the employers, and to-day ovor 21,000 men-skilled engineers for the most part—are living in idleness. The officers of the Amalgamated S. Ciety of Engineers reckon that before long fully 25 000 of their members will ba dependent on'tha society for their daily bread. Taking the average weekly wage at 353 per man (and this is probably below the mark) the effect of the strikeupon the shopkeepingelementalone in the towns principally affected will readily be seen. The A.S.E. allows 153 per week strike pay, so every man's spending capacity is reduced by a pound a week. This single effect of the dispute means thus a loss to The country of £25,000 per week. As both sides have made up their minds to fight to the bitter end it may be interesting to look at their resources. The strength of the masters—their staying power "in pounds, shillings, and peace—cobodv knows, not even the masters themselves, "but the resources of the A.S.E. can be reckoned up in a fashicn. The society issues a quarterly report which sets forth the wealth of the society—that is, the money actually in hand or invested. But here, again, as in the case of the masters, no proper estimate of the latent strength can be formed. More than twice as many members of the union are still at work as are out of work, and what these men might put up with' in the way of levies to support their wbrkless fellow-members it is impossible to guess. One thing is certain. The union is a strong one. The last quarterly statement of the assets of the society was issued at the end of June. These assets are divided into two heads—the "General Fund :s and the "Superannuated Reserve Fund." It is stated that the law allows the officers to spend all the money of the society in a strike, no matter for what purpose the money was en-* trusted to their keeping, so that every penny of the assets can be realised and paid out in strike pay. Without going into silver and eoppers, the resources of the society was as follow:—Branch and office balances, £248,469; invested in Corporation stocks (the various amounts are detailed in the report), £51,300 j Manchester

office property, £I,OOO. Thus the general fund totals £300,769. The superannuation reserve funds consists of investments in Corporation stccks, etc , £41,450 ; in Post Office Savings Bank, £12,941; in branch balances for investment, £4 200 ; and £1,780 in house property-ot iu all £60,371. The grand aggregate of the unin/i possessions at the end of June was £361,141. This sum represents, so to speak, the ammunition in stock of the A.S.E., but it by no means gives an adequate idea of the union's actual righting power. The society comprises about 92,000 members. Of these about 2,000 are invalids, dose upon 3,000 superannuated, and 2,000 odd are boys uoon whose wages no levy is made. Thees " unavailables," together with the five-and-twenty thousand out-o'-woiks, leave the union 60,000 members whereon to levy. The ordinary levy is eighteenpence a head per week, but every man now at work is mulcted in an extra florin, so the weekly income of the society at the present time is somewhere in the neighborhood of £IO,OOO. Strike pay at the rate of 153 per week per man means, with 25,000 men out, a weekly expenditure of close upon £20,000, and this necessitates a weekly draft upon the " ammunition in stock " to the extent of £IO,OOO or thereabouts. Up to date the union have, therefore, diminished their funds by some £70,000 only, and are consequently a long way from the end of their financial resource?, even if none of the other unions assist them. But, though so far no actual help has been given to the A.S.E , it is certain that if the struggle goes on several unions will assist the engineers. The carpenters, indeed, are talking of a threepenny levy, and this would give the A.S.E. some £6OO a week additional income.

This dispute is the most far-reaching that the engineers have ever had. Glasgow has 2.250 men out, Manchester 2,000, Bolton 1,000, Oldham 1.300, Hull 1,000, the Tyne district 2.000, Barrow-in-Furness COO, Sunderland 600, Belfast 400, and London nearly 1,500. These are the chief centres of the quairsl, but there are many smaller place) where the matter is proportionately as serious.

What are the parties to this vast industrial war fighting over? Well, ostensibly the men want an eight-hour day, with overtime paid for at the rate of time and a-quarter for the first two hours and time and a-half thereafter, and the masters won't concede these terms. There are, of course, other points of difference between the parties, but the eight hours a day and payment for overtime are the main issues, so far as an outsider can judge. And to decide whether these things are to be or not to be the society is apparently ready to reduce its assets to vanishing point and imperil the future of a great iudustry. The masters on their part seem also prepared J to go to extremes. Neither party has, at any rate, yet hinted even at the desirability of arbitration. "No Compromise" and ."No Surrender" are emblazoned on the flags of both Capital and Labor to-day, and they seem likely to remain mast high for some time to come. Sooner or later, of cours«, one party must cave it. But meanwhile the engineering industry cf Great Britain is being transferred to other countries, and much of it will doubtless remain with our foreign competitors. THE PEN'RHYN QUARRY DISPUT3. The long-standiug dispute between Lord Penrhyn and the Bethesda quarrymen ha 3 at last been settled, after having continued for nearly eleven mom lis. It was commenced by the men, who were dissatisfied with somo of the conditions of their work, asking permission to make their complaints to their employer through the medium of a committee appointed from among themselves. This request was regarded by Lord Penrhyn as an attempt to interfere with the management of the quarries, and he not only refused to confer with the Commit.ee, but took the extreme step of dismissing from lib employment all the members. The men considered naturally enough thattheirrightof combination was interfered with, and resolved to stand by the Committee, but they at ence solicited the intervention of the Board of Trade under the Conciliation Act. Lord Penrhyn expressed bis willingness to meet a deputation of the men, but insisted that no numbers of the Committee shouid take any part in the proceedings. Ths dispute drifted into a vicious circle, and there it, remained for several months, but it has now come to an end.

Lard Penrhya deni. a that he ever wished to interfere with the right of combination Inc men disclaim ever having had any intention to interfere with the management of the qoairies. It seems strange th.t it should hive taken the greater pat of a year for the parties to the dispute to discover that they were in reality fighting over a straw. However all la well that ends well. Lord Penrhyn stilt refuses to acknowledge the Committee, hut is willing to receive a deputation "appointed in such a way as the workmen may consider desirable." There aro conditions attached to these concessions, and it is laid down that in the first instance the workmen aro to approach the chief manager with their grievances. The distinction between a committee who are elected and a .deputation who are appointed may appear rather finely drawn, out if Lord Penrhyn and the men arc satisfied no one else has any right to complain. The old averaga wage, 5-. 6:1 a r>ay 13 to be paid the quarrymen, 43 7.1 to rockmen, and 33 7-1 to laborers, and all the late employe* who desire to return to work will be readmitted aa far as possible, and the remender when work can be found for them. _ Hie men have clearly gained a substantial ™ ll ! r . r . . and all that Lord Porhyn has obtained is a vic'ory on some minor points of no practical importance. If he had left the matter m the hands of tho Board of Trade ten months ago, and had not insisted mon his legal right to do as he pleased with'his own, a long and bitter quarrel, which will not be forgotten during the lifetime of the present generation, would have been altogether avoided. ..

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18971012.2.29

Bibliographic details

LABOR TROUBLES AT HOME, Issue 10443, 12 October 1897

Word Count
1,626

LABOR TROUBLES AT HOME Issue 10443, 12 October 1897

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