Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

14 erthygl ar y dudalen hon



THE COLLIERS' WAGE REDUCTION. Once more the colliers of South Wales and Monmouthshire have submitted to a reduction of 10 per cent, in their wago rates. And, what is more, they have yielded to the demand of the employers in the most complete and uncompro- mising way, for the reduction, as it has now been agreed tu, included the dissolution of the Con- ciliation Board, so that next week if they think proper the employers, who are now all poworful in the strength of their own union and the scheme of anything like organisation among the men, may give notice for the sacrifice of an- other 20 per cent, in wages. In comparing present circumstances with the slate of the case, say a little more than a year ago, when viyidly descriptive articles of thfl distress in South Wales wereappearing in the Loiwlon daily newspapers, we are now incomparably worse off, and we may almost venture to say that if this is to go on, tho next inquiry will not be the special correspondent of a daily newspaper but a Royal Commission. To thoroughly appreciate what was done last Monday, by the steam coal delegates at Merthyr, when they agreed to accept the reduction, it will be necessary to take a rapid glance at the last strike and what has since occurred. It will be remembered that on May 1st., 1875, tho general strike and lock-out ended after an ex- istence of something like live month? The men struck against a proposed drop of 10 per ce-it but they returned at a reduction of I2g per cent, on condition that thu employers wotltd agree to establish with them a Board of Con- ciliation with a sliding scale of wages and a .tixed minimum. his Board, alter'spending some montns m airiving at a basis upon which to found this scale, at last agreed on terms which in many instances still further reduced the men —say 2.j per cent all round. After a consider- able amount of grumbling this total sacrifice —which with the 12 J per cent, already mentioned, amounted to 15 per cent—was agreed to. But it involved a wise proviso. Under the terms upon which the ( onciliation Board existed no reduction beyond the mi imum could be made—thus the minimum was admitted by both masters and men to represent the lowest wages on which the men could be supposed to ex.iöt -while the selling prices were considered every six months, with a view to giving the men every chance of advancement. Behind this > barrier, provided by common seuce and fair play, the industry progressed for something like three years, 1875-8. But the employers pursued a wrong policy" ow the markets of the world. Although they could undersell every other coal producing district in England or Scotland, in proof of which we have the fact that the outputs have been on the increase, they persistently undersold each other to the general detriment of the whole trade. Consequently last year they had to ask the men to concede them another 5 per cent., which the latter, though legally tho employers were bound to keep at present rates for six months even after notice, nooly yielded. We were in doubt as to the wisdom of this course at the time, for wo were afraid it would open the door to further disregard of the integrity of the Sliding Scale. And we are sorry to say that this fear of ours has-been realised. Last December the employers asked the men to concede a still further 10 per cent., which the latter declined to do. The masters then gave six months notice of the dis- solution of the Conciliation Board, with an in- timation that they would enforce the reduction afterwards. On Monday last this notice ex- pired, the Board coa,ell to exist—and the men accepted the The question now is, first, what will be tho effect of the, drop on this locality and the country generally secondly, how long will it be before thu South Wales coalowners ask for a further concession ? Weregrettosaythat, locally, the reduction and the collapse of the Arbitration Hoard must have the worst possible results. In the aggregate the men are now 30 per cent, worse off than when they struck work in December 1874. 1 hey are, further. la per cent. poorer than they were at the time the masters themselves took part in fixing their minimum. Furthermore, as there is now no Arbitration Board, they are completely and en- tilely at the mercy of their employers. As to the country generally, although the men in Durham and South Yorkshire have through arbitration been preserved from reductions, the drastic influences of Welsh underselling will find them out, and once more the curse of over competition will breathe its malaria breath from its hotbed, South Wales. With regard to tho second consideration, wo hope none of our readers are possessed with the idea that wages cannot come much lower. Who would ever have dreamt of what has taken place ? The fact of the matter is simply thi., the reduction has al ready been discounted by the wages, in fact this was aunounced by our contemporary the South fVules Daily News of Monday last, which stated that the large buyers had already given notice that any drop gained from the men would have to be considered in the contracts We are afraid the employers' chief concern is not what the well can atfurd to lose, but what they, the employers, hope to screw out or them, and with an ever increasing trade at lessening prices and diminutive profits, this little garao promises to be carried on for some time yet. Under the circumstances we can hardly find it in our hearts to reproach the men, though they own their present position to their own folly. Tho tradesmen of this locality, too, are now learning that a properly conducted Trades Union is a blessing, not a curse, to a district like this. It was the union which gave the district the Conciliation Board, and Mr. Halliday and his confreres, in spite of all the calumnies heaped upon them by the selfish and the ignorant, when they brought about the establishment of that body, gave the district three years of com- parative peace. It was the lack of an union which caused the men to fritter away the six months notice now just expired, without taking- steps to ensure their Conciliation Board or to resist a reduction wheh wo have not the slightest hesitation in describing as infamous and pregnant of evil. The employers have retained their union, and on Saturday last, they could sit in conclave and listen to the heart- breaking appeals of the men, who said, truly enough, as most of our trademen could testify, that they were already short of the necessities of life But we are brought to this pass, and we must make the best of it. If the reduction had been submitted to open arbitration, it would never have been admitted. To obtain such fair inquiries in the future wo hope the men will try and rouse themselves, secureleaders in whom they can trust, who are not creatures of sus- picion, tale bearers and incompetent hypocrites and there may be a day when the mass of the South Wales colliers will be a power in the land, instead of being, as we fear they are looked upon now, a crowd of helpless starving wretches.


Saral Jutellirjnu*.j











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