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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 3

From Australia

page 59

From Australia.

Melbourne, 20 May, 1889.

That the printing trade in Melbourne is not in a very-flourishing condition at present will be easily discerned from the actions of the unemployed, which I shall proceed to chronicle. For some months past—in fact, from the beginning of the year—allowances have been made to those in the trade out of work, and up to the present time the large sum of £600 has been expended for that purpose. The number signing the book has lately risen to 110, and the allowance to each was 12/- per week. This, however, did not satisfy the unemployed, and within the past few weeks they have held several mass meetings, and it was ultimately resolved to call a general meeting of the trade for Saturday, 18th May, to discuss the matter. As it was widely rumored that the unemployed would make a bold stand, it may be concluded that the working comps would turn out in force, and turn out they did. The old trades-hall was packed at the appointed hour, there being between 500 and 600 present. The chairman, Mr Jordan, stated briefly the business of the meeting, and after a resolution to alter the hour of roll-call had been attended to, the main item was introduced. The chairman refrained from expressing any opinion on the matter, and called on the chairman of the unemployed to put his case before the meeting. That gentleman came forward in the person of Mr J. B. Hunter, who explained that the unemployed were in a bad state, and further asserted that the number at his back was 170 men. With a rambling statement regarding trade fluctuations, &c., he monopolized a considerable amount of time in telling absolutely nothing, and wound up with proposing a resolution to the effect that on and after the 24th May the unemployed should receive the sum of 15/- per week for single men and £1 for married men, and that from the present any person joining the Society should be a member for twelve months before being entitled to an allowance. This was seconded, after several attempts by members who were in arrears, by a gentleman who was good on the books. At this juncture there were a number very eager to express opinions on the matter, and at intervals there were as many as three endeavoring to get a hearing. Mr Hancock eventually got leave to speak, and that gentleman placed several plain truths before the meeting. Expressing the feelings of the general body, he remarked that much sympathy was felt for those out of work, but he considered that at the present time they were not justified in demanding a raise of allowance, and that the working members were already heavily taxed, having just got clear of several heavy strikes, such as Ballarat, Brisbane, &c. The chairman of the unemployed, who ascended the platform on every available occasion, said that from his point of view only £300 had been expended on the unemployed. This being a direct reflection on the secretary (Mr Stevens), the chairman rose and told Mr Hunter that his statement was quite unjustified. He also remarked that the acting chairman, who had held situations both in the Government Printing Office and the Argus office, on being asked why he left those places informed him that the workmen in both those offices, to use his own words, were a lot of rats, and that the Argus office would not bear looking into. This, of course, brought forth some of the Argus speakers, and one of them, Mr R. Reyment (vice-president of the Society), after denying Mr Hunter's statement, added that that gentleman had been discharged from the Argus on charges of « hammering, » « bridging, » and drunkenness. This unexpected revelation rather non-plussed the foreman of the unemployed, and on again endeavoring to address the assemblage, he was so interrupted that it was several minutes before he could get a word in, and stood before the audience in evident confusion. He then wished to recall anything he had said against the Argus, but he had by this time lost any sympathy the meeting might have had with him. After some brief remarks, very plain and to the point, by Mr Reyment, an amendment was proposed and seconded to the effect that the present time was not considered an opportune one for the extension of the unemployed allowance, and that the Board of Management could not see their way to grant such alteration. On being put to the meeting the amendment had an overwhelming majority, only some three being in favor of the resolution. Where the unemployed to the number of 170 were is hard to conclude. After a matter concerning the redistribution of work had been settled, the Argus received three cheers and Mr Hunter three groans. There is no doubt that had the unemployed gone about their task in a constitutional manner, and not in a style of demanding that such and such should be as they desired, they would have received more consideration, but it is such men as Hunter that are a burden to the trade. It was clearly shown that he had lost several good situations through actions that masters will not tolerate. According to the chairman's statement there were only some twentyfour out of the 110 who were legitimately entitled to receive assistance, and that it was out of the Society's liberality that they had assisted the others. To offer such a sum as £1 a week to unemployed would be a gross injustice to the working members, for the idlers of all the colonies would flock in where a living was to be had without working. Mr Hunter stated that in all probability he would be leaving the trade in a week's time, and yet he had the front to act as chief agitator. In his remarks he stated that with the small allowance received men could not bear to go home and find their wives and children without the necessaries of life; but putting aside the few deserving unemployed, I am much afraid that if many of the clamorers of Saturday had £5 per week, their wives and children would fare no better than they do at present. However, the Society has on this occasion displayed its authority, and the unemployed may be brought to see that they cannot demand, and will have to be content with what is offered them by a generous association. With such New Zealanders as I have come in contact with—and they are many—I find that they are all « stickers » (to use the slang), and as a rule can hold their own in any of the offices. It is, however, a great pity to see that in the numerous black lists that have lately been circulated, so many names followed by the initials « N.Z. »