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THE LABOR MOVEMENT, Issue 15702, 16 January 1915
THE LABOR MOVEMENT
[By Vr/ESAN.] Brief contributions on matters with reference to the Labor Movement are invited. DIFFICULTIES OF WORKERS UNDER COMMONWEALTH ARBITRATION ACT. Ever since the Brisbane tramway strike the case of the men has been before the Federal Arbitration Court. The Federated Tramway Employees’ Association, who have branches in Queensland, Victoria, and South Australia, applied to the Court for an award. This was opposed by the employers, who said there was no-dis-pute. Mr Justice Powers had the case before him for many days listening to evidence ns to whether there was a dispute or not, and finally referred the matter to the High Court of Australia, who gave no definite decision, but referred the matter back to Air Justice Powers, who finally ruled there was no dispute. There had been no stoppage of work in either Victoria or South Australia. Owing to Mr Justice Powers's decision the Federated Engine-drivers and Firemen's Association of Australia wrote to the Federal Attorney-General as follows; —■ " This association have done everything in their power to rectify their many grievances, knowing full well that if the enginemen ceased work they would involve hundreds of thousands of otiier workers who depend on motive power to carry on their operations. Now all seems to be altered by the decision of the. High Court as interpreted by His Honor Mr Justice Powers. Instead of their leaders- using their influence to prevent a cessation of work when industrial grievances are not satisfactorily settled, the federation will have to alter their policy and advise the employees that if the claims made upon the employers are not granted the federation will call their mom hers out on strike, as the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court cannot do anything to settle the matters in dispute until they refuse to work under their present conditions and for the existing rates of pay. In conclusion, Mr Mitchell states; I appeal to you to, if possible, under the Constitution, amend the Act so as to get over this difficulty.”
The Attorncr-Genei al (Mr Hughes), speaking on the question in the Federal Parliament, eas'd .- “It ie perfect )y true that the high Court- )ias said a strike is not necessary to prove a dispute. On the other hand, they have said over and over again, and in this ease particularly, that- a demand followed by a refusal or no reply, followed again by a further demand and refusal or no reply, docs not constitute a dismite within the meaning of the Act- and the Constitution. But between peaceful demand and refusal and the strike there is no standing place which an organisation van hold, 1 do not deny that in that rarer atmosphere in which tlie High Court exists there may he such a point, but there is no place where an organisation can r.iand. As an abstract proposition, doubtless, it may bo successfully maintained that while demand and refusal are not enough to create a dispute, vet it is not necessary to strike, but for practical purposes there is no alternative. What sol’d ground is there on which an organisation can rest when a formal demand and refusal fails to prove a dispute except that of a strike!' Hut why should it be necessary to break the law in order to invoke its aid? The meaning cf the work “dispute” is surely clear enough. Tn ordinary Courts of haw these difficulties do not arise. A breach of the peace under the civil law may Take one shape or another; there may be a violent assault or merely a technical one by laying on a hand. The Courts in practice have no difficulty in determining what is or what is not an assault, and the penalty is measured record mg to lire gravity of ttie offence. But in this Arbitration Court there is no method of determining what -3 n industrial breach of the peace is—no man knows, and no one can tell him. The Arbitration Court is not permitted tn tell us, arid the. High Court will not tell us. Through th« ages one of the mysteries that has engaged the attention of man has been the riddle of the. Sphinx ; What was it the had to say? What '« the meaning benind that inscrutable smile; what is the answer to fhe riddle? No man knows. But. compared with the riddle presented by the Arbitration Conn, the Sphinx is to be read as plainly as the writing on the wall. What ka- dispute? !Mr Justice Bowers was so overwhelmed with tlia futility of trying to answer tire question that, after listening carefully for days to evidence that would have convinced most Courts, not only that there was a- dispute, but that it was one of a damnably interminable character, he referred the question to the. High Com t. which, however, jrolitoly declined to answer it. The High Court said, in effect : “ Do not ask us now,” and so left it to the. Court below to grojx? its way blindfold instead of dealing with the matter as the spirit of i lie Act intended. Tn (Tie Sydney Industrial Court recently Mr Justice Heydon fined the Musicians Union £250, and the secretary £2O, on a charge of having instigated and aided a strike of musicians at the (National Amphitheatre. Tho dispute, had arisen through the Ampliitheatre management having engaged three Americans, now arrivals from "Frisco, •nd placed them in the orchestra,, whereupon the old members, of the orchestra refused to play. '1 ho Judge said that though lie could to a large extent sympathise with O'Brien, and t he union, who had acted under a. cense of irritation and injustice, the law against strikes .must be respected. This decision amounts to iirnh the Mine as if the Judge had said to the defendants: “You were right, according to my idea. Imi the law in this connection say? you must mot. strike for any cause, light or wrong.” Tn delivering judgment in the felt hatters’ ease in the Arbitration Court. Melbourne, last week, Mr Justice Powers declined to take the view urged on him nv the employers in the hat trade : that the depression caused by the war and drought was of such severity as to call for a reduction of the living wage. Tn refusing the application for variation of the award. His Honor pointed out that the employers had had the benefit of increased tariff on hats since the award was made and imports from Germany and Austria had been prohibited, and that people would continue to wear hats, in spite of the war. Ho emphasised, a-lso, that this was then first application. to the Court for a reduction of wages, which had come from employers who had been benefited by the tariff. He expressed the opinion that the application was made to enable employers to continue to employ men at less than the living wage for an indefinite period. His Honor said that he hoped that the employers would not require all the patriotism to be shown by the men, but that they would hear some share of it, even if their dividends in the coming year did not equal those which tho good work of theiq employees, coupled with their own work and enterprise, had made possible in good vears.
Big trouble in the iron imlusty in New South Wales is looming up in consequence of Judge Heydon’s action in suspending the operations of a wages board. The members of the Sydney Boilermakers’ Union have unanimously 'carried the following resolution;—“ That, owing to the action of Mr Justice Heydon in suspending the sittings of the Boilermakers’ Board, and thus denying us the full use of the Arbitration Act, we give the employers notice that we will not work under the present conditions and for the present wages, after January 14, 1915.” ■ LABOR AND MACHINERY. Mr L. T. Rush, in an article on the above subject, which appeared in the Brisbane ‘W r orker,’ says; Looking back at the condition of the boilermakers’ trade 16 years ago, I remember that pjjarly all of our work was done then with small hand tools. The boilermaker was a proud man in 1897—and justly proud. He could do excellent work; necessary work, that required skill and care. In those days the boss was a worker alongside the rest of tile men. Then came the pneumatic tool, .dnycu compressed gjuu .With it thq,
boilermaker could calk a. vard. where he bad formerly calked an inch. Next came the pneumatic riveter, which riveted from 200 to 500 rivets in a nine or ten-hour day. Previously the best two band riveters could do in a day was from 50 to 90 rivets. Compressed air was also used to cat out worn and dangerous pieces in the boilers. All in all, the pneumatic tml put a few unskilled workers on the job and threw out many skilled men. The latest invader in our Held is the ‘‘gas maohino,” or acetylene blaze, which cuts great sheets of defective steel out of heavy steel boilers as though they been made of a hard wax. Using t-liils new tool, one man can cut the spaces that formerly required 12 highly skilled men The “gas machine” also performs wonders in welding in the fire boxes, on patches and cracks. Production has vastly increased, and yet the old band of boilermakers and moulders grows ever smaller. 'Che facts are that new machines are doing the work wo used to do. They have come in and underbid us on the job. It pays the bosses ten times over to use modern machines and less skilled men than to employ us. With the exception of the foreman, the layer-out, and the Sanger, we see all around us many men for lew jobs. And what are we going to do about iff We can't blame the boss. He buys labor power where be can get it tint cheapest. He buys machines that will produce the cheapest. He wants t-o make as large profits as possible.. We would have to do the same tiling if we were in Ids place, or we would find our competitors Inn ing ns mil of business, because lie could make things cheaper than we could.
Our consuming wants are greater than ever while our consuming ability, or wages, is on the down grade. Competition between wage workers keeps wages down. Trade depression ii becoming more chronic because of the workers displaced by machinery. The coat manufacturer sells coats to men. He can’t sell them to machines. And so wo will have
‘‘over-production’’ again, because the workers don't get enough money to buy the things they produce. And, first of all. wc have to outgrow our narrow craft lines. It used to be enough to help us when we fought for our craft union. Now the machine is breaking np the croft union. The tin ion can't take care of that. 90 per cent, of men who arc thrown out of employment because of the advent of the automatic machine. And when idle men are kept outside tire craft union they are made over into scabs if they want to Vive and support- tYteir loaves. ’ T( we wa-nt to be daddies and gvanddaddies. now is the time to act. Self-preservation and race preservation is our lofty mission. There is a great big fence between us and the realisation of these tilings. It. is the private ownership of the. means of life—the private ownership of the factories, mines, the land, the mills, and shops. What eve need is industrial democracy, where every worker will own his own job. and where the working class will manage the industries and dispose of their products as they alone see fit. While the old system lasts we must demand shorter working hours if we do not want to see an army of unemployed that will force wages down to the starvation point. Furthermore. we must all work for One Big Union of the. workers. We must make, it easy for men to join the union. We must, in fact, make the Big Union a union of the working class. United in one big organisation on the political field, members of one great union, we shall bo armed to meet the enemy of Capitalist exploitation, and .speed (hat day when the working class shall come forth triumphant to enjoy the homes they have built, the clothes they have igado, the food t-hev have produced, and alt the other good and beautiful things of life' l rl the afternoon shift cases against the Northern Colliery Employees’ Federation and .individual members, in the New .South Wales Arbitration Court last week. Judge Herd<m fined the federation £2,000, and the officers of the federation £SO each. Fining unions and unionists in this way is not conducive to the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes, and unions cannot be suppressed by making them bankrupt financially. ******* A very successful Domestic Workers’ Union has been established in Copenhagen by women who are or have been in domestic service. The mam object of the union is to increase wages, establish a regular scale of working hours, and raise the. status of domestic service as a vocation. As soon as enough members were enrolled and the funds of the union permitted. a house was fitted up as a kind of boarding school for the. training of domestic workers. So pleased are the Government with the success, of the union training school that they have voted to contribute a regular sum towards its.maintenance. ******* For ihe pa.st six months the Union Operative Bakers in Brisbane, have been contented by working under the day-baking system. An attempt, is now being made by the .reactionary element of master bakers, to break away and discredit the new system. The operative bakers appreciate and thank the sympathetic public for their support in the past, and again make an •appeal as a reminder that the. fight for better working conditions is not yet finished. ******* NOTTS. A largely attended meeting of girl telephonists was held in Sydney in December last. Several members of the organising committee of the Trades and Labor Council delivered speeches, and it was decided to form a union. ♦ * * In the music hall profession in England nearly all the halls in (ho country are being run on the co-operative system. The management take so much per cent, of the drawings, and the artists a percentage according to the salary they had contracted to receive. * * * Ah hough La bor and Socialism have their own Press in the United States, and many of the best periodicals are distinctly Socialistic jn tone, scientific theories in regard to humane, legislation mako so little progress against the opposition of Tammany and the Trusts that only one Socialist. was returned at the recent Congress elections. * * ♦ What docs Labor want? It wants the earth and the fullness thereof. Wc want more schoolhouses and less gaols, more books and fewer arsenals, more learning and Jess vice, more constant work and loss crime, more leisure and loss greed, mors justice and less revenge: in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures, to make manhood more noble, womanhood more beautiful, and childhood more happy and bright.—Samuel (Jumpers. * * * There is the stamp of truth in a slab of a speech last year in the Imperial Parliament by Mr A. Bin-ell. In speaking on the Workmen’s Compensation Bill ho gave a lucid and forceful presentation of the respective risks of Capital and Labor in these few words; The capitalist at most only risked his money, but the employee contributed his bones and sinews and risked hie life. It the enterprise turned out a success, the capitalist made a fortune ; whereas, however successful the concern may be, the workman got out of it just sufficient in the form of wages to maintain himself, and to bring up his family to lead a life of equally strenuous toil as that which had bent his own back and shortened hie days.”—“ Oynicus.’
THE LABOR MOVEMENT, Issue 15702, 16 January 1915
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