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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 4

"Trades and Labor."

page 117

"Trades and Labor."

Departing from our usual rule, we this month bring our record down to the 31st inst.—some days later than our nominal date, in order to record the news of the complete collapse of the strike which for the past three months has done so much mischief. We are glad to record that the sturdy good-sense of the Typographical Association has been the chief means of bringing about this result. The cause of the Union leaders has for quite two months been known to be hopeless; but they refused to retire from the unwarrantable position they had taken up until abandoned on all sides by the affiliated bodies.

The conference arranged by Parliament was held in Wellington. Most of the employers held aloof, having no quarrel with their men. The Union Steamship Company was represented by the Hon G. McLean. The Maritime Council presented a « basis of settlement » or ultimatum, the essential clauses being: « 4. That all persons dismissed or called out be reinstated. 5. That in future none but union men be employed where the rules of any union provide for this, except under exceptional circumstances to be hereafter agreed on. » Mr. McLean replied that the Company had pledged themselves to retain the men at present in their employ, and they would not throw them over; nor would they compel the men to join the unions or leave the ships. Mr Millar said that unionists would never consent to work with nonunion labor, and the day would never come when he would sign any deed to the effect that « his men » should sail with non-unionists. He would leave the country first. The men might go back to the ships; but they would never do so with his consent. So the matter ended, as far as the conference was concerned.

On the 18th October, the Wellington branch of the Typographical Association held a largely-attended and very lively meeting to discuss certain requests of the Maritime Council. These were: (1) For an affirmative opinion as to the desirableness of men refusing to work with non-unionists. The opinion of the meeting was that at present the unions were powerless to prevent working with non-union men, and that, although as an association it affirmed the principle, any definite action in the matter should be left till a more favorable opportunity. (2) That a levy of ten per cent. be made on all the earnings of members of the Association in aid of the strike.—A warm discussion ended in a decision, by a large majority, not to agree to the demand. (3) That it is desirable to form a National Trades and Labor and Maritime Council.—This question was shelved. The chief debate took place on the motion (considered under question 2) « That, after Saturday, the 28th inst., no more assistance be given to the Strike Fund by the Association, but that as soon after that date as possible a meeting be called to consider what steps the printers of Wellington could take to alleviate the distress in Wellington caused by the irresponsible and unwarrantable action of those who caused the present strike. » There was a very warm discussion on this proposal. Mr D. P. Fisher made a strong appeal to the meeting for aid, and to carry on the struggle to « the bitter-end. » He drew harrowing pictures of the distress caused by the strike or involved in it. On the other hand, several members blamed Mr Fisher and his colleagues for causing the distress, and urged the futility of assisting to maintain such a state of things. There was an attempt at « stonewalling, » which was stopped by the « closure. » Finally the motion was carried on a division.

Other trade unions, apparently only waiting for some one to take the initiative, began to renounce their allegiance to the Maritime Council. The Board of the Dunedin Branch of the N.Z.T.A., on the 23rd inst., resolved: « That the Board has no sympathy with the resolutions recently passed by the Wellington Branch in reference to the present position of unionism, believing the said resolutions do not express the opinions of the majority of the members of the New Zealand Typographical Association. » The minority of the Wellington members also felt very strongly on the subject, and complained that the meeting of the 18th was not a sufficiently representative one. The result was, that a week later, a larger and still livelier meeting (to which, by unanimous vote, press reporters were admitted) was held. About one hundred members attended; Mr McGirr, the President, in the chair. The report, as published in the Wellington press, was very interesting, but would fill two pages of our space. Mr T. L. Mills moved, « That it is the opinion of this meeting that the resolution passed on the 18th inst. was carried by a catch-vote which did not represent the majority of the branch; and it is hereby resolved that such resolution be rescinded, and the levy of 2s 6d per week continued until the end of the strike. » Mr Mills met with a good deal of interruption in speaking to the motion, on the alleged ground that he brought in irrelevant matter. Mr D. P. Fisher made a fiery address in support of the motion, and one gentleman (who found no seconder) moved, « That we set Mr Fisher and his satellites at defiance. » Mr Mills's motion was lost on a division by 52 to 35.—Mr D. P. Fisher, the recently-appointed secretary, has since resigned.

At the printer's meeting a list of payments made by the Wellington unions in aid of the strike was read. The total amount was £874 5s, the printers heading the list with £70 18s.

On the 22nd instant the unionist bookbinders at Whitcombe and Tombs', who went out on strike eight weeks before, applied individually to be reinstated. All the hands required were engaged unconditionally, and started work on the following morning. A number of vacancies had, however, been permanently filled.

On the 30th instant the wharf laborers, seamen, and miners all received instructions to resume work. As showing the blind manner in which the men had followed their leaders, it is reported that some of the miners were astonished to find their places filled! The employers at various ports held conferences with unionist representatives, but refused to recognize Mr Millar or the Maritime Council. The strike is over, and telegrams show that it is over in the Australian colonies as well.

The 28th October was celebrated by the unions in the chief cities as « labor day. » The day had been proclaimed by the Government as a holiday, at the instance of the Maritime Council, before the late troubles; but there was a great want of heartiness in the celebration. The fact that the day itself was notable only as the anniversary of the Maritime Council, which has wrought so much mischief both to masters and employés, seriously prejudiced the success of the demonstration. The strikers were in considerable force, but the near-impending collapse of the movement prevented any display of enthusiasm. In Wellington, the movement was redeemed from failure by being avowedly in honor of the eight-hours movement, and being made the occasion of a public tribute to Mr Samuel Duncan Parnell, the venerable father of the system. We hope that the « Labor Day » will be an annual institution; but the date will have to be altered. Neither masters nor workmen hereafter will regard the so-called Maritime Council with feelings other than those of contempt, and to publicly celebrate the anniversary of a dead and discredited institution would be an act of folly.

Auckland wisely declined to celebrate the 28th as « Labor Day, » and is preparing for a grand eight-hours' demonstration on the 9th November.

The proprietor of an old-established business in Wellington was somewhat surprised at receiving a peremptory letter from the secretary of a local union telling him that he was not paying his men union wages (£2 5s) weekly, and that unless he did so they would be forthwith called out. He called his men into the office, and said he would not have made any change had it not been demanded; but as he did not wish to quarrel with the union he would submit and henceforth pay union wages. The faces of the men (to whom this meant a reduction of from 5s to 15s a week) visibly lengthened. What they said to the secretary at their next meeting is not recorded.

The strike is not without its humorous side, and numerous jokes (some rather apocryphal) at the expense of the free laborers are current. An ex-gumdigger, who had shipped as fireman on board the Manapouri, kept coming up now and again from the stokehole to examine a steam-gauge on the upper deck, which he was observed by the engineer to gaze upon anxiously. At last the officer asked him— politely, of course—what he meant. « Oh, » said the new hand, « I want to know when it will be knock-off time, but hang me if I can understand these blessed sea-clocks!»

In Australia matters have been much more serious than in New Zealand. A private railway in New South Wales was torn up, and telegraph lines cut, and one of the finest shearing stations, that of Haddenrig, was set on fire on account of free labor having been employed; four thousand sheep were burnt alive, and damage done to the extent of £13,000. Before these particular acts of violence had been committed (on the 15th October) Sir Henry Parkes, in a Ministerial statement, said that the colony had already lost more material wealth than if an enemy had been at its gates. The strike had now assumed the form of open enmity to the constitutional government of the country. What had taken place was little short of a revolution, and very little more would plunge the country into undisguised war. Some one must be master, and, he significantly added, « the Premier of the Government of the colony will be master. »