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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 4

"Trades and Labor."

page 105

"Trades and Labor."

In our last we gave pretty fully the history of the labor troubles so far as the Craft was affected, and we are gratified to note the general appreciation with which it was received by our subscribers. Nowhere else can those interested find so complete and consecutive a record in so short a compass. To follow up the history of the strikes during the past month would occupy too much of our space, and would, moreover, be unnecessary, as the Craft is only indirectly affected. Two grave mistakes were made in the early part of the dispute by the N.Z.T.A.—first, appealing to the bludgeon of the Maritime Council; and, secondly, ordering a boycot. The M.C. blustered and threatened—but finding the Railway Commissioners firm, executed the most ungraceful retreat on record, leaving the comps to fight their own battle. The attempted boycot was a failure, and the worse than foolish advertisement quoted in our last was distinctly illegal, and might have involved the Typographical Association in serious consequences.

We are glad to say that wiser counsels have prevailed in the N.Z.T.A., and that it is chiefly owing to the good-sense of the compositors that the trouble has not, as in other lands, reached an acute form. The strike caused such confusion in the Union Steam Ship Company's arrangements that for a while their time-tables were withdrawn. Then the Federated Council decreed that the Company's advertisements should not appear in the press. The compositors were to refuse to set them, and if ordered to do so, were at once to come out and stop the publication of the daily papers. The Wellington branch of the N.Z.T.A. held the largest meeting on record, and unanimously resolved to allow no interference with the press. The enraged lumpers telegraphed to Mr J. A. Millar, who again backed down—ungracefully as usual. He replied that the Company might advertise if they chose—as they were not in a position to publish time-tables it would do them no good. Next day the timetables re-appeared, and have been regularly published ever since. And the printers—at that very time, and still, taxing themselves 2s 6d a week for the strike-fund—were hooted in the streets by the very men who were receiving their charity!

There are signs of disintegration of the federation; and the strikers are beaten all along the line. With incredible fatuity, the leaders kept the unfortunate men back until nearly every place was filled. The real pinch is yet to come. There has been a certain amount of rioting and breaches of the peace, the trouble being between the two camps of the labor party; but the firm attitude of the authorities has been effective in repressing violence.

A demonstration was held in Wellington by the strikers on a Saturday half-holiday. A procession, in which some seven hundred took part, was organized, and marched with a band of music. An effigy was carried aloft on a gallows, the newspaper offices were hooted, and after some fervid speeches the effigy was burnt, with much groaning and execration. If the Maritime Council's theory is correct it should have represented capital. But it was no bloated employer in broadcloth that was offered up as a sacrifice. It was a figure in the garb of a workman, and that there should be no mistake it bore the inscription « Free Labor. » No more complete or authoritative confirmation could have been given of our assertion last month that the battle was one between a Labor Trust and Free Labor. Free Labor is in the majority, and has come out ahead.

The Wellington committee of the Maritime Council made a desperate attempt to gag the press of the capital. The following letter was sent to each of the daily papers:—

Mr ———, Proprietor ———, September 3,1890.


I am instructed by General Committee of Maritime and Trades and Labor Unions to kindly request that you will withdraw the Union Company and Union [?] advertisements during the present strike. The Council further request that you will furnish truthful and impartial reports of developments of the Labor trouble, such reports to be obtained from official sources.

Awaiting your early reply, I remain, sir, yours, &c.

Robert Seymour,

Secretary General Committee.

The newspapers unanimously resented the insult. « More clumsily brutal and insulting language in which to convey so momentous a request, » says the Evening Press, « could hardly have been chosen. The Council impresses upon the newspapers its right to control their advertising business, and to exercise a direct censorship over their news columns. »

The seamen and wharf laborers on strike have lost no opportunity of flouting the press; but the grossest insult has been offered in Lyttelton. A meeting was called in the Oddfellows' Hall on the 19th inst., and two reporters presented themselves for admittance. The Chairman, one P. Brown, said that the meeting would have to decide whether the Press reporter should be admitted. One of the unionists at once had the good-sense to move that the reporters be admitted, but could not find a seconder. The following resolution was then carried: « That if Mr Buchanan, the Press reporter, allow his RepoRt Of The Meeting To Be Looked Into By The Committee, this meeting will allow him to be pbesent! » Of course Mr Buchanan refused compliance with any such degrading condition. It does not appear, however, that his colleague had sufficient regard for the dignity of his profession to retire also. The senseless affront offered to the press could do it no injury; but the fact of any journalist constituting himself a party to such a proceeding is humiliating indeed. Of course it must be assumed that he was prepared to submit to the indignity of having his report revised by the committee before it was allowed to appear in print. The incident is without a parallel in the whole record of New Zealand journalism.

The Maritime Council are described in a Dunedin paper as « an irresponsible body of organized ignorance»

When last month we wrote that the labor-leaders considered themselves omnipotent, the expression might have appeared to savor of hyperbole. It is, however, sober fact, and has been fully justified by a profane telegram sent by Mr Millar to the local secretary at Auckland, « stating that the men at Dunedin were as firm as the Rock of Ages, and that they intended to make a complete block of it there. »

The Auckland Herald notes, as a curious feature of the strikes in the north, that in not one single case has any workman in striking complained of illiberal treatment, but, on the other hand, there have been many cases of men going out with ten to twenty years' service expressing to their employers regret at going, their desire to continue work, but adding that they had no option but to obey the orders from the south if their lives were not to be made a misery to them.

A few days ago the staff of Messrs Whitcombe and Tombs came in a body to the managing director's office and offered to show their practical sympathy with the company during the present labor troubles by foregoing one-third of their respective salaries until such time as the strife was over. The managing director, who was greatly moved by this exhibition of sympathy, thanked them on behalf of the directors most heartily for their loyalty, but said they must decline to avail themselves of this kind offer. It would seen that this much-abused company, after all, is not as black as it has been painted.

The compositors in the Dunedin Star news-room voted £10 from the chapel funds in aid of the strikers. The Sydney Typographical Society has struck a crushing levy in aid of the strike. Members are to contribute one-sixth of their earnings to the fund—£350 per week. It is doubtful whether this will be submitted to.

One of the maddest developments of the movement was at Broken Hill, New South Wales, where an organized attempt was made by the miners to break two of the local banks. For two hours a crowd rushed the banks, keeping up continual cries of « Capitalists ain't going to fight us with our own money. We will have gold. Your paper is no good. We will have gold for it. » The banks were equal to the emergency. (This incident, perhaps, will account for the item of a few days' later date stating that the London banks had refused to transmit money to the Australian Unions. The colonial banks sent home the contributions in aid of the dock-strikers by wire, free of all charges. Thus has « labor » shown its gratitude!)

A novel feature in the strike was the proposal on the part of a number of women in Melbourne to volunteer as free laborers in view of the hardships to which they would be subject if the trading vessels coming into port were not allowed to unload their cargoes. They said that the men had their beer, and they wanted their tea. A deputation from the Women's Suffrage Association started upon a house-to-house canvass in Carlton, and obtained the names of women willing to engage in unloading the portion of cargoes designed for household consumption, such as groceries, fruit, &c, and in a short time obtained the names of 200 women willing to go aboard and work, confining their operations to perishable goods.

A co-operative experiment tried by the Cape Foulwind miners has had an unexpected result. The men, who were Unionists, combined and secured a harbor board contract, drawing regular Union wages as the work progressed, carrying forward the surplus to a fund which was vested in three trustees. The combination of labor and capital proved an economic success, and on the completion of the contract the surplus fund reached nearly £1200. The men who had earned the money now expected it to be divided among them; but the trustees had different views. The men had drawn their wages—what right had they to the profits? Let the surplus go to the strike fund! The workers did not see it, and promptly took such legal action as prevented the cash being thus disposed of. But while it was easy to do this it was not so easy to recover their money, and it is anticipated that a large proportion will find its way into the purses of the lawyers. It's a Foul-wind that blows good to no one!