THE TRADES DEMONSTRATION.
SPEECH BY MR BEN TILLETT, There were between 300 and. 400 people assembled at the Beclaimed Ground on Saturday afternoon in connection with the Trades Demonstration, the object of which was to enlist sympathy on behalf of the engineers on strike in the Old Country. A lorry served the purpose of a platform, on which were Mr G. R, Davie (who presided), Mr Ben 'lillett, the Rev. T. G. Brooke, and others. The Chairman said that it would take about £IO,OOO a week to keep the struggle going In Great Britain, and they would undor.tand from that what necessity there was for sunstantial aid. He. mentioned that Mr Connor, of the Covent Garden Company here, had sent a cheque for £l, and had promised to contribute this sum weekly so long as the strike lasted.— (Applause.) The Rev. T. G. Brooks said he was an old member of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and was proud of the fact. Speaking of the struggle, he said that it was one of very great moment for the labor movement. We in this colony had practically recognised, and all authorities had agreed to recognise, that eight hours was a fair day’s work—(hear, hear) —and in the Old Country they were making a struggle for tho same thing, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers leading the way.. Many years ago it was predicted that awful .results would follow the mine hours movement, but it was a remarkable fact that during the last twenty-five years trade had been more progressive, end there had been .a better condition of things, both for the working man and for the employer, than there was at any time previously. Be thought that the eight hours movement would be equally successful. They were told that it would disorganise trade and drive it to the Continent, but that was. yet to be proved. With an increase of leisure the mechanic, would have moie time to devote to the technical part of his calling.' Looking at the matter, from a broad, humanitarian point of view, the eight hours’ day was a thing that ought to be conceded to all laboring men, both in the Old Country and elsewhere, (Applause.) The combination of the employers in the present struggle was most unjust, and it seemed to him that they intended to starve the men into submission, but the pendulum would ultimately swing back.—(Applause.) Mr Ben Tillktt, who had a good reception, said he was glad to see tho folks of Dunedin taking an interest in the Horae fight, and he thought that they might congratulate themselves tha f , in spite of tho unfavorable weather, they had got a fairly representative meeting. He was glad to have the opportunity of contradicting many of the statements made concerning the Home movement. Practically for the past thirty years the engineers had made no demand for extra payment, and indeed they had made no demands whatever upon the employers. They had spent over £2,000,000 in looking after tht-ir sick and unemployed, they had spent over £128,000 in helping other unions and other branches of workers to ameliorate their condition, and besides that, in a private capacity, he believed that as a body of trade unionists they had helped trade unionism to the tune of a quarter of million of money. Now, a body of men like that—who represented the, greatest value of our mechanical skill, upon whom England had relied to give her industrial supremacy—(hear, hear)—who were regular in habits, practically forming the best type of the manhood and intelligence of the Old Country—who for-thirty years had made no demand, but had stuck to their duty, and who had seen their country’s property increasing by leaps and bounds, and had remained satisfied with tho same length of the day’s work and with the same level of wage, while the value of their productions was for ever increasing, showed character, and had no right to be libelled by the penny-a-liners of the Press and those interested in keeping them to their drudgery.—(Hear, hear.) In their efforts at reform they had proceeded on constitutional lines..,,. They obtained the consent of a large number of the London and Southern employers to the eight hours day. These employers recognised that the Government dockyard men tad been granted the eight hours day, and the Government officials, reporting on the results of the concession, had said that the output had been increased, that there was less ill-health, that employment was much more regular, and that the men were happier to a greater extent. Now, when the engineers were making progress in the south they had not advanced the position in the north. The employers of the north, representing a greater- accumulation of -capital -and- larger vested interest, said to the employers of the south; “You must cease your negotiations with the union of the engineers, and you must refuse to grant them this eight hours day. If you do not, then we, the large employers, will refuse to take any accessories from you, or any parts that make up the greater output,” and the result was that some of the smaller manufacturers, depending for their existence upon the manufacturers of the North of England, had practically to close down on their agreement, and not only so, but the larger employers offered to re’und them or to maintain them during the period that the look-out might take place.—(“Bhame on them.”) That was tho power of the "fat” man wielded relent lessly to crush out this movement. And the men were locked-out in the north because the employers were afraid that if the men were kepi in work they would maintain those who were in dispute. As a matter of fact, the fight was not against the eight hours; it was the opportunity of the colossal capitalist, who with the one hand wanted to crash his smaller competitor and with the other squeeze out the heart of the workman. They were told that trade Would be driven from the country and be absoihed hyGermany if the eight hours day were granted. He knew Germany produced a great deal. Jt had produced our own Royal Family. —(Laughter and applause.) And he believed that-the Queen had invested twelve millions of money in German industry,—("That is true.”) He adraitted that Germany was beginning to takea righful place in commerce; bnt why should they begrudge any other nation for that ? He might mention that in Germany there was no royalty paid on. minerals, except to the State, and the amount paid was 9d a ton; whereas in the Old Country 5s 6d a ton on the mineral wealth that was produced was paid to the parasite—to the .non-worker. Regarding German . competition, he said that a Belfast firm turned put of their yard last year more shipping than the whole of Germany did.—(Laughter.) Another point he wanted-, to .draw • their attention to was ihat, although the productive capacity, of the British engineer and mechanic had increased to,a tremendous extent, the number employed in the mechanical trades bad barely increased. It was said that the
Germans worked long hours. Let him tell them that he knew the Continent more than they did, for he had been in gaol.—(Laughter.) The people who worked long hours in Germany were engaged ia trades that did not compete with them, excepting toys, and the Germans had always had a monopoly of the toy trade; but, so far as. the trades that competed with them —the engineering trade in particular—were concerned, the men not only wotked fewer hours, but they got as good pay and were better treated than their own engineers at Horaei—(Applause ) He claimed that the women and children of the engineers had a voice in this question of the eight hours day. They had a right to demand that the’ husband’s and father’s leisure, should be greater, and the time he spent at homo longer.—(Hear, hear.) If the employers in England wanted to compete with Germany they would have to treat their workmen with the same common sense that they treated their horses. Turning to Hew Zealand, Mr Tillett said they were sweated hero equally as their people were at Home. There was not one in four that had the eight hours day here, and it was nearly time they pushed the Legislature to grant them a local enactment to cover every man and woman and boy and girl that had to work for their living. Reverting to the struggle at Home, _ he urged that every trade an 1 benefit society should move their members to send contributions on behalf of the engineers, That was the best form of loyalty—the loyalty of the ties of blood, of a common nationality, and of men cud women linked together by the traditions of a glorious past, and of a future that would be still more glorious for those who followed us. - (Applause.) At the close a collection was taken on behalf of the engineers on strike. YESTERDAY’S MEETING. About 700 persons attended tke meeting held yesterday afternoon in the Agricultural Hall The Chairman, Mr G. R. Davie (president of the Trades and Labor Council), stated that Mr Tillett had refused to receive any remuneration for his services there on behalf of the engineers, and had absolutely refused to accept anything whatever in payment of his expenses. Mr'i illett, in the course of his address, said he had seen it stated in a local newspaper that the Engineers’ Society was insolvent. For the last thirty years the society had paid millions in benefits and hundreds of thousands in dispute pay, and it was still adding to its funds. Was a union insolvent that could do that ? r-ome of the associations that were floated here, their merchant companies, managed to get very much on the other side in less than thirty years, and some of them wound up without anything at all. And their banks did not go on for thirty years and have a greater fund at the end of that time. _ Someone had had the fund, but it was not in the bank. There was not an insurance company or an association in the whole earth that could pay 20s in the £ for its full calls; there was not a bank in the world that had in its exchequer the whole of the money for which it was liable; there was not a bank in the world that had 15 per cent.of its total liabilities in actual cash. There was no insurance company that had money enough to pay up every claim if all its assured dropped dead; and neither had the engineers, but. what they had was that every man in the Engineers’ Society on an average was worth twenty years —that was to say, he had a life practically of twenty years, and during that time he paid £IOO. For the last few years the engineers had been paying on an average over £5 in contributions, and that fact alone insured the society against any insolvency. If the eegieeers were alone they could bear the fight for two or three years, but they were practically supporting 16,030 laborers outside their own ranks, who, through their own foolishness in many cases, had neglected to bo trades unionists and had neglected to save up fighting funds to help themselves, and they were a heavy drain; but when men were prepared to sacrifice a share of their own money to help their weaker brethren, surely that was British pluck. He condemned as unpatriotic the English employers who said that our countrymen and countrywomen must accept the standard of wages of the lowest of the Continental people.
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THE TRADES DEMONSTRATION., Evening Star, Issue 10465, 8 November 1897
THE TRADES DEMONSTRATION. Evening Star, Issue 10465, 8 November 1897
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