The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 12
- Messrs J. F. Ure;
- John Inglis;
- Anthony Inglis;
- R. Steele;
- Messrs B. Connor;
- —Blackmork, Greenock;
- J. P. Smith as Secretary.
- Messrs Thomas Turnbull;
- John Simpson;
- James Alison;
- John Marshall;
- Messrs Hugh Watson;
- John Crichton;
- Robert Stephens; with
- Thos. R. Elrick as Secretary.
The Chairman said—We are glad to meet you again, gentlemen, to talk over the matters in dispute between us, and see if we can arrange them in a friendly way amongst ourselves.page 23
Mr Turnbull—We are just as happy on this side to meet you again on the question, and we are all fully convinced that it is only by meetings of this sort that the matters at issue can be brought to a friendly and definite conclusion. We have to inform you that one of our number, who was with us when we last met in conference, is absent on account of indisposition. I refer to Mr Barrowman; and I have to intimate that at the meeting of delegates last night, Mr Stephens, who is now present, was appointed to attend the conference in his stead.
The Chairman—Two of our number, Bailie Hamilton and Mr Denny, are unavoidably absent, but I trust we will be able to bring matters to a favourable issue. I am quite sure that if you have met us here with the desire that the question may be arranged in the most friendly way possible, giving us a reasonable time to complete existing contracts, all our difficulties would be got rid of. Perhaps the best way would be for you to state the views you came to at your last meeting.
Mr Alison—There has been an earnest wish expressed by all our workmen, and, indeed, by all the workmen with whom I have come into contact, to come to a just and right settlement of this dispute. Of course, our men still cling to the 51 hours, in fact to the whole terms of the circular; but we have an earnest wish to give a little time to complete existing contracts, if by that means we could arrive at a peaceful solution of this matter. Various terms have been spoken of on the part of the workmen, but nothing definite has been agreed upon. We have thought that, as we did not know the position you were in, you would be better able to state the time than we could possibly be; but I may perhaps state, it is the desire that we should get the 54 hours on the 1st of March, and the 51 as soon thereafter as the masters can give it. That is practically your offer. So far as I understand the matter, you agreed to drop the three hours of time, and you agreed to grant a rise of 5 per cent, on the present wages, which was nearly equivalent to the additional three hours which we ask. Now, if we could arrive at some date for the commencement of the 51 hours, the dispute would be got over quietly and peaceably. In thinking over the offers already made, we conceived that the employers' terms were such that they would perhaps be able to give us nearly everything we wanted. Were we taking two stages of time—one by us and one by you—for the 51 hours to begin, we might be able to come together, and this dispute would be amicably got over. Do you think you could state a time on your side?
The Chairman—Some of us have very large pieces of machinery to make, and it takes a very long time to construct them. From the time some of the engines are commenced until they are finished a good deal of time elapses. Of course, we should be very glad to consider with you the time at which the 51 hours should begin; but we should expect that we should get time to complete our existing contracts. For instance, there are engines we construct, one of which we are just going to begin to, that would take twelve months to complete. I don't ask for so much time as that just now, but I think you should take a fair view of the proposal made to you by the employers; and if we cannot agree upon the date, then it comes to be a question of arbitration. It seems to me that this would be the better way to adjust the difficulty.
Mr Blackmore—May we understand that if the 51 hours were conceded at any given time, that the men are only going to ask the present pay for the 51 hours, or are they going to tack on to their demands any further provision. On the understanding that our friends making this demand don't ask anything more than 51 hours, I should like it to be clearly understood as to what the pay is to be, supposing 51 hours were conceded, after ten or twelve months hence?
Mr Simpson—I have always been of opinion that a conference like this furnishes the proper way of settling this difficulty, and I therefore used my influence to get the negociations re-opened. I think they should never have been closed, and I am sorry that the communication of our secretary, in your opinion, looked as if we wished they should be so. In laying the matter before the meeting of delegates on Tuesday night, I suggested that, upon the 51 hours being adopted, a reasonable page 24 time should be given to finish contracts, and if we could not come to an understanding as to the precise time, that part of the question would be referred to arbitration. In regard to the 54 hours, we considered that you had promised us 54 hours on the 1st of March, with arise of 5 per cent, on the present wages. Now, we think far more of the time than of the 5 per cent. You don't imagine from that, however, that we are willing to work 54 hours for 54 hours' wages. We understand you are to give us present pay for 54 hours' work, and then, after a reasonable time is allowed for completing contracts, you are to give us 51 hours, with the same pay as at present.
Mr Blackmore—I want clearly to understand the position the men are taking up in this matter.
Mr Simpson—I think I will make myself plain if you will allow me to go on. We mean on the 1st of March to get 54 hours, with 57 hours' pay; and we mean to get 51 hours when the time is arranged, with the same wages as we have now.
Mr Connor—Mr Simpson just says this:—You reduce the time from 57 to 51 hours, and you don't reduce the wages.
Mr Simpson—Precisely so.
Mr Blackmore—That is all I wanted to know.
Mr Simpson—That was the suggestion laid before our delegates. We have now got from the delegate meeting of last night full powers put into our hands to settle this question to-day. For my own part, I am willing to sit here until six: o'clock in the morning if that would avail to have it settled. I am sorry to see a statement in the Herald of this morning putting back the date of the granting of the 51 hours until the 1st of January, 1873; and I should like to know whether that announcement is official, and whether the time was really fixed at your meeting?
The Chairmam—That was the time that was suggested at our meeting yesterday.
Mr Stephens—Last night we left the time an open question for this meeting to settle. We have, therefore, come here free and untrammelled, and we hope that is not your statement as it appears in the Herald, because it would be better that we should meet on equal terms.
The Chairman—Anything we do must be reported to those who have sent us here. We are not in a position to be allowed to come to a conclusion without reporting to the general meeting.
Mr Connor—We cannot compromise some of the employers by stating a certain time. Granting, however, that the 51 hours is in accordance with the sentiments of this meeting, I think it would be a very good thing to suppose that it was to begin on the 1st of January, 1873. If that were so, what proposal have you to make?
Mr Alison—I regret that Mr Blackmore misapprehended my meaning. When I spoke of the wages question, I did so in the belief that it was thoroughly understood at the last Conference. I thought Mr Blackmore would have been aware of that, and it was in that way that my remarks were not more comprehensive. As for the time Mr Connor has stated—the 1st of January, 1873—I may state that we have had that point under discussion, and there were two proposals generally spoken of, one of which has been adopted by a firm in Glasgow. We would work the hours we are now working (57) until April, and then start the 51; or we were to get the 54 hours in the beginning of March, and the 51 in June of the present year. That would be giving a reasonable time to complete contracts. There is no one that works in a marine shop who does not know that the contracts take a considerable time to be got out; but it must have been well known to every master on the Clyde that this movement has been going on for six months.
Mr Steele—Yes; but it was the movement for the 54 hours.
Mr Alison—I am perfectly certain that nearly every contract now on hands by Clyde employers was taken on the basis of the 51 hours, and they have been working so.
Mr Connor—No, no.
Mr Alison—You are practically conceding our demands by granting a rise of 5 per cent, in the wages, and we would suggest that you give us 54 hours on the page 25 1st of March and 51 on the 1st of June. That would be a condition under which, it could not be said that either side had gained.
Mr Simpson—I am very glad that the suggestion I laid before the delegates has led to this conclusion—that a settlement has been agreed to by one of our employers to-day. The arrangement is, that the workmen commence the 54 hours on the 8th of March, and begin the 51 hours after the Fair holidays; the same pay as at present, overtime to be counted at the rate of time-and-a-half after the 54 hours have been wrought, while they last, and after 51 hours when that time shall have come into force.
The Chairman—As regards the statement that the present contracts have been taken on the understanding that the 51 hours were to come into operation, I can say for my own firm that it was not so. The last contract taken was in November, and then we based our calculations on the 54 hours' rate.
Mr Connor—That is the true position, Mr Chairman.
The Chairman—The contracts we took before that time were taken on the basis of the 57 hours' rate, and will not be concluded until September or October next; so that, you see, the contracts we have taken on the basis of the 57 hours will run on until that time, while those taken on the basis of the 54 hours will run on till this time next year or thereabout.
Mr John Inglis—We also have contracts that will run on till this time next year. We thought that the 54 hours would be adopted here, the same as in the north of England, so that our position is somewhat similar to that of Messrs Elder. Of course, I am only speaking for myself, and for no one else. At the meeting yesterday, two or three of the principal shipbuilders on the Clyde were with difficulty prevailed upon to entertain the 51 hours at all, and it was only on account of the desire of a number of members of the Association and others to prevent the calamity of putting the workpeople out, that it was considered better to meet again with the workmen's delegates, and try if some arrangement could not be come to as to the time. A proposal certainly was made nearly unanimously that January, 1873, would be a fair time to commence the 51 hours, seeing that the contracts extended so long afterwards. You now know the position in which we come here. We have no unlimited powers. We must report to our friends, and if the difference is not settled here, the difficulty must be met by arbitration.
The Chairman—Each party is very much inclined to look at their own view of the question, but it may be settled by arbitration.
Mr Connor—Many of the gentlemen present have many thousands of pounds at stake in this matter. You say you have full powers; but are you to imagine that you have full powers to settle a question that involves the loss of thousands of pounds to gentlemen, many of whom are not present?
Mr Stephens—I did not say that we had full powers. I stated that we came free and untrammelled.
The Chairman—We are evidently both in the same position—that we must report to those who sent us here.
Mr Simpson—I think it was I who made the statement that we had full powers to settle this matter, and we are here to-day to settle it; but, of course, it is on the consideration that it is settled with the concession of the 51 hours. We have got the power to go a month or two in the direction of the time named by the masters, if we are met by them in the same spirit; but we have no power to settle the question on the understanding that the 51 hours shall commence, for instance, a year or two hence.
Mr Blackmore—Suppose the demand of the 51 hours, pure and simple, were met at once by the masters, the difference of the wages taken out of the masters' pockets would amount to the respectable sum of nearly £130,000. Granting the 51 hours at once would entail a loss upon the masters of between £120,000 and £130,000; and I do ask, is it fair for you to dip your hands into the masters' pockets, and rob them of all the profits of the present year? I am quite free to admit that the state of trade requires an advance of wages; but we have advanced our wages at least ten per cent. [Mr Turnbull here shook his head. page 26 dubiously.] If you doubt me, I shall be most happy to lay the books of our firm open for your inspection. From the 9th February last year until the 9th February of the present year, the wages of our workmen have been increased at the rate of an average of ten per cent. Well, all our contracts have been made since the former date, and you must remember that the loss is very serious upon engineering. I only want to put these remarks before you to show you the wrong you are doing to the gentlemen who have invested capital in this business. I admit it is perfectly right that the working men should go on "prospering and to prosper" alongside of their masters; but that they should dip their hands in their masters' pockets, and take out their money in the way I have indicated, is the most unreasonable proposal that has ever been made; and I know people think so. If we go on in this way, I am afraid that capital will take to itself wings and flee away. We have only made one contract for engines since last August, and it was made upon the basis of the 54 hours. I ask you fairly to consider these matters, and think whether it is right for you to press such demands upon us. The masters have shown that they are willing to consider this question of the 51 hours, and if you allow them a fair time for their present contracts to run out, it cannot be before this time next year.
Mr Watson—Does it never strike any of you gentlemen that in reducing the hours of labour you are creating a friendly feeling among your workmen that will induce them to take a greater interest in your work? Don't you think that we can very nearly produce as much work in nine hours as in ten?
Mr Blackmore—That's mere poetry. No honest man can.
Mr Watson—That's the point where we differ from you.
Mr Blackmore—It's a very plausible text to go upon, but there is nothing in it.
Mr Connor—I have worked in shops where everything was done by chipping and tiling. Men at that time could work hard, because they had the strength and the energy to do it. Every man who has worked himself knows the difference between the work as it was in our shops then, and as it is now.
Mr Simpson—If Mr Connor would come into our boiler yard to-morrow, I will give him a job that he would weary at before five o'clock in the evening.
Mr Connor—I do not allude to boilermakers, because I know they are hard worked. I refer to engineers.
Mr Watson—I do not know what engineering was thirty years ago, but if Mr Connor had been beside me for the last six weeks, breaking down locomotives, he would think nine hours were long enough to work.
Mr Simpson—As a workman I have had an experience of about thirty years, and I think I am entitled to say something upon that question. That a man would do as much work in nine hours as in ten has been laughed at; but I would ask Mr Blackmore, and the rest of the gentlemen on the other side, if they were to fling a hammer for nine hours, whether it would not tax some of their energies to fling it as often in the tenth hour as they had done the previous nine? Mr Blackmore says we wish to drop our hands into your pockets, and rob you to the extent of a hundred and thirty thousand pounds. Now that is just going over the ground that was traversed at last conference. We are here to treat with you to-day for the purpose of settling this question, if we can do it upon a reasonable, fair, and just basis. If you go on to say that your losses will be a hundred and thirty thousand pounds a year, we are in this position that we can say such a statement as that has never been proved to our satisfaction; and I for one am prepared to give up the whole question if you will prove that one-half that loss will result from the concession of the demands we have made.
Mr Blackmore—Well, Mr Simpson, I do not think it would be difficult to satisfy you on that point.
Mr Simpson—I will tell you what. I am old enough to remember the agitation that went on in the cotton trade in this country many years ago for a reduction of the hours of labour. I recollect that when the Hon. Mr Ashley, now Lord Shaftesbury, and Mr Richard Ostler proposed to reduce the hours of the cotton worker from twelve to ten, that John Bright and Mr Cobden rose up in the House of page 27 Commons and said that the change would result in a great deal of loss to manufacturing and commercial men. Well, the ten hours were granted; these men were proved to be wrong, and the people engaged in the cotton trade have higher wages and are better off to-day than when they were working 12 hours, while the employers are making larger profits. Now, gentlemen, am I not reasonable in assuming that results like these would follow a reduction in the hours of labour in our trade. I do think that the workmen would take a greater interest in their work, and make up for any loss that you might suffer. You have offered us an addition of 5 per cent, on the 1st of March, and a reduction of the hours to 54 at the same time——
The Chairman—That was to secure a permanent settlement of the question.
Mr Simpson—I understand that. Well, this is not a question of money with us. We want the hours of labour shortened, if possible, to give us time to improve our minds. That was largely entered into at last Conference. Now, what I would ask you to do is this. Take this 5 per cent, which you have offered us, and try if you cannot bring your time for the commencement of the 51 hours somewhat nearer what would be satisfactory to the workmen.
Mr Connor—Mr Simpson has referred to the improvement in the cotton manufactures since the reduction of the hours of labour, but I would ask him if he knew the speed of the loom before the introduction of the short time? It has nearly doubled its speed since that time, and all machines have been increased in speed, but you cannot increase the speed of your tools. I deny that the titters and engineers are worked anything like what they were some time ago. With all the supposed honesty of the working man, Mr Watson knows as well as I do that the foreman has often enough to do to keep his machines up to the proper speed. I must say that my dream about getting more work out of men to whom a concession has been granted has faded away.
Mr Simpson—You say that the increased speed of the loom has been the cause of the continued prosperity in the cotton trade. Well, has inventive genius quite deserted the engineering trade? (Laughter.) Is it not possible that something may be invented that will more than compensate for all the time that will be lost?
Mr Anthony Inglis—Not before January next.
The Chairman—You think that, with a diminution of labour, so much more energy would be put into their work by the men while they are at it, that they would make up for the reduction. I may say that I believe piece-work is going to be the thing that is to adjust all our difficulties. In reference to the present time, if there is to be any considerable loss to the masters it must eventually fall upon the men, because all the money that the masters make is spent in extending the works. These extensions give room for additional work; and if the work cannot be done here, it is certain that it must go elsewhere. It may go to England and France if the masters be placed in a position that they cannot do it here, and the workmen will then be the sufferers, it is to the worst interests of the men not to allow the masters to make a fair profit, or to make such changes as are calculated to do away suddenly with their profit. If you press us too much at the present time, I can assure you that it will ultimately be to your own great disadvantage.
Mr Alison—Mr Connor said that a great change had taken place in the machinery employed in cotton manufactures, and that no such change had taken place in the engineering trade; but no one who was acquainted with the trade thirty years ago would know it now. I know both times—not by looking on as he does—but by hard practical experience; and so far from three hours being an obstacle to the masters in competing with other places, six hours would not be felt to make any very great difference. Improvements are gradually going on in all our workshops, labour is being much abbreviated, and in a little time any disarrangement caused, by a reduction of the hours of labour would rectify itself.
Mr Connor—Yes; but why not leave it now to adjust itself? Not a single farthing will be saved by improvements while the present contracts run.
Mr Anthony Inglis—Supposing you were to lay aside all this discussion about machinery. There is no doubt whatever of the fact, that parties who have to pay 10 per cent, more to their men in a week will be losers to a considerable extent. We think we are making a very extraordinary offer by conceding the half of what page 28 you want until the existing contracts are completed. We give you 57 hours' pay for 54 hours' work. That is a step in the right direction; and if you will have the 51 hours, let us be perfectly prepared for it. There is a great number of men who don't want the 51 hours, but are willing to work 54 hours a week, and I think it is a very unreasonable thing that the Short Time League should ask them to reduce their hours whether they are willing or not. It is for you to consider whether at is not a fair thing to work 54 hours for 57 hours' pay until the end of the year, and get the 51 hours afterwards. It is only fair to us, and I am certain you would think so if you were in the same position.
Mr Blackmore—I should like these gentlemen to listen to the statement I made to the masters yesterday. I am simply here as a member of the Masters' Association, with which we have been connected from the first. No demand had been made in Port-Glasgow. Greenock, or Dumbarton, for the 51 hours; but believing it possible that if it were granted in Glasgow we might hear something about it, I thought it would be better, before attending the meeting of masters, to call our men together and ascertain what were really their sentiment in regard to the matter. I stopped the work at once, and called the whole of the men together without the slightest warning, and I clearly put before them the fact: s of the case—the demands made by the Short Time League in Glasgow, the system under which we had been working, and what I apprehended were the proposals made by the masters with a view to the settlement of the dispute. All these things were put to the workmen as fairly as I possibly could; and I said, I am not going to ask you immediately what course you are disposed to pursue, but I am going to-day to attend a meeting in Glasgow, and I should like to get an expression of opinion from you on the subject before I go. After a few moment's silence, an engineer said, "Oh, we are all for the 54 hours in Greenock." Another engineer said, "I think we will take a show of hands for the 54 hours;" and I replied, "If you like." The result was that a perfect forest of hands were held up for the 54 hours, and I said, "That is quite sufficient for me." But they said, "Let us have the hands up for the 51 hours," and one engineer who has recently come to the shop—I don't knew where he came from, as I did not ask—and five labourers held up their hands for the 51 hours.
Mr Simpson—Mr Blackmore has given us a very full statement as to what occurred in his shop in Greenock, and Mr Inglis has said there is a majority of the workmen in favour of the 54 hours. Now, is Mr Inglis prepared to prove that statement?
Mr Anthony Inglis—Do you mean a majority of our own employes? That is what I meant.
Mr Stmpson—All I am going to say is, that I don't believe there is a majority of the workmen in favour of the 54 hours. Our employers asked the men in the work where I am employed to meet them last Monday. A member of the firm made a statement, and then asked any of the men to state their views. I cordially joined with him in inviting them to do so. At last one of the men got up and proposed that we should accept what he called the employers' liberal offer. The motion was duly seconded, when one of the firm asked if there was any amendment. I then put the 51 hours in the shape of an amendment, to elicit the real feeling of the meeting. A "perfect forest of hands," as Mr Blackmore has put it, were held up in favour of the amendment; and when the motion was put, I did not count a dozen hands of the 900 or 1000 men present held up for the 54 hours. I have been told that decision has been set aside by ballot. I don't know how the ballot was taken, and I don't care. I have taken means to ascertain the feeling of the men, and I find there is a great majority in favour of the 51 hours.
Mr Watson—I know there are certain men who agitate this question within walls, and say another thing in the workshop. There are men who profess that they are for the 51 hours, and then go away and say the very opposite; but the number of such men is happily not large.
Mr John Inglis—I daresay I was at the bottom of getting the expression of opinion from our men. I thought it was strange I had never heard anything from them in reference to the shortening of the hours to fifty-one. I inquired at the page 29 foreman about the matter, and he said most of the men had come to no definite conclusion, and that they had taken no action whatever. Before going off to the meeting of the masters, I asked the foreman if he got any expression of opinion to send it up to me. I was sitting in the room here when the word came, and I believe it was to the effect that the great bulk of the men declared in favour of the 54 hours. I believe there was a great number of apprentices and some rivet boys and labourers who voted for the 51 hours.
Mr Turnbull—I believe I can corroborate what Mr Inglis has said in regard, to his shop, but I have also to say that it was never represented in any way whatever. You are quite right in regard to your shop; but taking the shops on the whole, there is a great majority in favour of the 51 hours. But I think this discussion in regard to the state of feeling in individual shops is altogether away from the point. The point before us is—Can we arrange between us a reasonable time for the commencement of the 51 hours? Let us name some time on both sides that we will both consider as reasonable, and if we cannot agree to the same time, then the question must be referred to arbitration.
Mr Steele—I think that is very sensible.
The Chairman—I think so.
Mr Turnbull—We are willing to go the length of accepting 54 hours until the Fair holidays at the present rate of wages, and then to take the 51 at the same wage. That, I believe, is the extent that we should go. Still, I believe that if it would be the means of settling the dispute, we could go the length of the 1st of August, but we cannot go further than that.
Mr Stephens—I think it might be well to remark, that, if we accepted the proposal of the masters, we should be placing ourselves in antagonism with those shops who have concluded an agreement with their employers to-day. We could hardly expect the great bulk of the workmen to agree to the 1st of January when there are other men who have already got the reduction. Messrs Mirrlees, Tait, and Watson, and also Messrs M'Onie, have agreed to commence on these terms at an early date. We are most anxious to come to a peaceful settlement of this dispute.
Mr John Inglis—With regard to Messrs Mirrlees, Tait, and Watson and the Messrs M'Onie, they are not to be placed on the same footing as marine engineers. I do not know what amount of work they do, but I know their contracts do not-extend over a very long period. They are principally engaged on colonial orders, making machinery for the sugar planters, and they are obliged to have their work finished, because if it is not sent out by a certain date it is of no use for that year. If they are compelled to increase the number of their hands, the loss to them will be comparatively small, because their contracts run out very soon. On the other hand, we have contracts amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds that have not yet been begun, and I do not think it is fair to cite Messrs M'Onie and Mirrless as models for our imitation. I think it would be a fair way to put it before your constituents that the Conference recommended that the date for the commencement of the 51 hours should be put back from the Fair holidays to the New Year holidays. Even under that arrangement our loss will be very considerable; but I am prepared to lose something for the sake of a settlement. (Hear, hear.)
Mr Connor—Whatever I submit to now, I shall most certainly take it back at the first opportunity. It is all nonsense to talk of men who are losing money submitting amicably to an arrangement that will involve them in that loss. And it is for nothing else than an idea. None of you are losing your health by working-too long hours, and for the purpose of carrying out a mere idea you are prepared to entail these serious consequences upon your masters. You need not talk about the thing being arranged pleasantly and agreeably unless you settle it so that there shall be the least possible loss of money.
The Chairman—Did you see what Mr Mundella says?
Mr Simpson—Did you see what James R. Napier said about the question? (Great laughter.)
Mr Alison—I must say I am sorry that Mr Connor should speak so strongly, I do think he would be better to remember that vengeance belongs to some One else than him. Mr Anthony Inglis stated at the last Conference that if the men. page 30 got the 51 hours, they would soon come back and ask for the fifty-seven back again. Well, why should he not give the 51 hours at once, and then the men would come back the sooner to the fifty-seven. (Laughter.) I understood Mr Connor's words to amount to a threat.
The Chairman—People have different ways of expressing their views, and perhaps Mr Connor is naturally given to express his somewhat strongly.
Mr Connor—I meant no threat, but I have a great opposition to everything like mere sentiment.
The Chairman—When you were talking about the different views that prevailed in reference to this question, it came to my recollection that I had a letter here from a distinguished man, which might indicate the state of feeling in England. He says—"I met Mr Allan, the Secretary of the Amalgamated Engineers, this evening, and spoke to him about the short-time movement. His reply was—'The Society here is dead against the 51 hours.' "
Mr Alison—There is a very intimate friend of Mr Allan's in Glasgow just now, and I know from him that such a thing is not the case.
The Chairman—Then, Mr Allan must be all things to all men.
Mr Alison—I know that Mr Allan is not opposed to the 51 hours.
Mr Connor—I will stake my reputation that if Mr Allan was down here just now, he would advise you to take the offer of the masters.
The Chairman—I do think we had better speak to the point.
Mr Marshall—I have wrought in some very hard-wrought shops, and I know very well from what I have experienced, that whatever is granted now, be it as little as it may, will be taken back as soon as the masters get an opportunity.
Mr John Inglis—I beg to deny it.
Mr Marshall—That is my conclusion from past experience. As a general rule, employers take the opportunity to get their labour as cheaply as possible, and the workmen are entitled to take, the same opportunity when it is placed in their way. If the masters are prepared to take large contracts without taking this into consideration, they must be prepared to lose something in consequence.
Mr John Inglis—I cannot allow these remarks to pass without making some observations in reference to them. In the case of the alteration of the 60 hours to 57, I was one of the delegates who met, and in this very room, if I am not mistaken. The arguments that were put before the deputation on that occasion were considered to be fair and reasonable, and we at once reduced the hours to fifty-seven. Now, I ask any one here if ever any attempt has since been made by the masters to take them back to sixty? I do not like to hear it said that on the first opportunity we will take back what we granted. Since that time we have had many opportunities, and we have never attempted to take advantage of them.
Mr Simpson—I do think that is going too far. It was Mr Connor, and not us, who first said the time would be taken back.
Mr Connor—No; I did not make that statement without qualification. I said, anything extorted by compulsion would be taken back.
Mr Marshall—At last Conference it was stated, in a letter from Mr Napier, that he was against even the 54 hours, so that it would appear whatever we get will be got against your will.
The Chairman—I think not.
Mr John Inglis—So far as I am concerned (and I think I may also speak for every man sitting round this table), we would not give anything with the intention of seizing the first opportunity for taking it back. I don't think there is an engineer in Glasgow of any respectability, or worthy of the name, who would make an arrangement with his men that he was not prepared to stand to. (Hear, hear.)
Mr Connor—Nothing fixed by fair arrangement would be taken back.
Mr Watson—There is only the matter of a few months between us.
The Chairman—It does not seem at all unreasonable that you should allow proper time, so that the masters should not sustain a great deal of loss. It is very probable that the 51 hours may turn out a better arrangement than the present hours. About that I say nothing; but it would be far better to have the matter settled amicably.page 31
Mr Watson—Is there any possibility of your moving a little towards us? Could you not cross the border into 1872?
The Chairman—We must be very cautious. Some of our contracts extend over a very long time. Those made in years past have not been calculated with regard to a reduction of the hours of labour, but in those concluded during the past few months we have done so. But there are some of the contracts still running—and they will run for some time—which were made without an eye to short time, and so far as these are concerned, we should be allowed time to finish them.
Mr Blackmore—In this year alone, simply from a scarcity of men to complete contracts in time, we have been obliged to pay one penalty of £500, and another of £200. That will give you an idea of how we are pressed by the shipowners.
Mr Simpson—If the matter of money is to be referred to, it is better to make a clean breast of the matter. If we commence to draw comparisons between the positions of the workmen in Scotland and England, the advantage will be found much in favour of the latter. In Liverpool the boilermakers have from 6s to 8s per week, and in London from 8s to 10s, more than in this country; and if the question of money is to be taken into account, this argument should be taken into consideration.
Mr Connor—If the Clyde contracts had been taken upon the same basis as in London and Liverpool, there would be no difficulty.
Mr Simpson—Do you not compete in the same market as the English shipbuilder?
Mr John Inglis—Yes.
Mr Simpson—That is all I ask.
Mr John Inglis—I lately had the opportunity of comparing the wages paid by a firm in England—the name of the firm is Dudgeon—with what we are paying in Glasgow, both as regards piece work and day's wages, and I only saw in the day's wages somewhere about 6d a day of a difference, and of about 3d per day on the regular wages. This firm is competing with firms in the north of England and in Glasgow too. Surely, therefore, your statement about there being a difference of 10s per week in Liverpool must be wrong.
Mr Simpson—I said from 6s to 8s in Liverpool, and 10s when you go to London.
Mr Watson—In Liverpool, turners receive from 30s to 35s, and fitters from 303 to 35s. In Newcasile, turners have from 28s to 30s, and fitters from 28s to 31s. In Manchester, turners have from 30s to 35s, and fitters from 30s to 36s. In London, turners have 36s; fitters, 34s to 36s; and boilermakers, 36s. In Glasgow, turners have 26s; and fitters, 24s, 26s, and 27s; and boilermakers, 28s to 30s. Besides, is it not true that agents from the firms in England have been here for workmen?
Mr Blackmore—Yon are quite right. About ten days ago, there was a gentleman in Greenock from Newcastle looking out for men. He took away from 100 to 120 men, paying their fare third-class to Newcastle, and giving them 6s per week more wages than they had in Greenock. But what was the consequence? They went away one Monday morning, and on the next Monday morning more than one-third of them had returned and taken their places in their old shops. When they were asked the reason of their return, they said—" We were getting more wages than the Newcastle men, and they would not let us stay."
Mr Turnbull—There are numbers of men who go to a job and come back home-sick.
Mr Blackmore—And it is said the men paid their own way back.
Mr Simpson—I was offered 6s per week more than I have here, last week, to go to Newcastle. They tell me that they are just about on a level there with what they are here as to provisions.
Mr Blackmore—Did you read "A Woman's" letter in the Herald this morning? Everything is going up.
Mr Turnbull—If the competition becomes more general, trade will be spread over the country, so that many of the workmen will go to other towns, and house rents will become less.
Mr J. Inglis—I am perfectly convinced that if you go back to the workmen, and page 32 lay the masters' arguments before them, I have no doubt, from what I know of them, that they would be quite reasonable, so that the matter lies entirely with you. I say it and I believe it, whatever may be the ultimate result, that the power lies with you to place this matter on a firm, sure, and satisfactory basis by to-morrow or even by tonight. I am sure you have it in your own hands, if you like. I believe you have come here to make the best bargain you can; for that matter, so have we; but I don't think that if we should sit here till six o'clock to-morrow morning, we should come one day nearer a settlement.
Mr Watson—Suppose we put the 54 hours aside altogether just now, when would you be prepared to say that we should start the 51 hours?
Mr Blackmore—We cannot say anything about that, because we have not consulted our friends upon the point.
Mr Connor—We have already agreed upon the 54 hours in our works, and it would not do to go back from that arrangement.
Mr John Inglis—I may just say that the wages are bound to increase, instead of diminish, so that everything must be in favour of the workmen.
Mr Simpson—We are but servants, as it were; and if we had been sent here to make an arrangement for 54 hours, we should just be as happy to arrange for that as for 51. We were asked by the employers to use our influence to get the shops out on strike to return to their work. The Executive never countenanced their coming out on strike, and it would be a rather difficult matter for us to interfere. However, two of the shops will start to-morrow—these are Messrs Mirrlees, Tait, and Watson, and the Messrs M'Onie; and if the 51 hours are not granted generally, the men will go to work with them.
Mr Anthony Inglis—They cannot employ them all.
Mr Simpson—I tell you candidly that we have used our influence to keep the men at work. Perhaps you do not give us credit for this; but I tell you that the men have said we have been dilly-dallying with them, and they have threatened to go to the streets and settle the matter for themselves. The proposal submitted to us last night was that the 51 hours should commence on the 1st of June; but I think that the 1st of August has been mentioned by Mr Turn-bull as a date to which we should be inclined to take it upon ourselves to go, in order to settle the matter. We have no power to accede to the 1st of January. I hold that it is much better that we should arrange amongst ourselves than bring in an arbiter, who might take five or six weeks to come to a decision, besides having to hear the whole case on both sides. I therefore earnestly press it upon both employers and workmen here to try and settle the matter. To the masters I would say, Give us something that we can try and get the men to agree to.
Mr Watson—I may tell you that a great many of our best men are actually prepared for the worst; but if you would give us something that would be fair and reasonable, we would try and get the matter settled.
Mr Connor—You must remember that we have people to persuade as well as you.
Mr Turnbull—I firmly believe it will be to the interest of us both if we could possibly come to some arrangement. The men are just on edge, and if they come out, I believe one-half of them will go to America.
Mr John Inglis—Some of the largest employers in the trade were very reluctant to agree even to the terms that have been submitted by the Association. They certainly said the 1st of January was as far as they could go, and you could not expect us to go further without consulting them.
Mr Turnbull—If that be so, our coming here to-day has just been a loss of time. I hold it would have been more justifiable on your part to have communicated to us the conclusion your meeting had come to, so that we might have been instructed as to whether we should accept it or not.
Mr Anthony Inglis—You have come here on the same footing as ourselves—you have come here pledged to abide by the 1st of August.
Mr Turnbull—No; our first proposal, and the one we were instructed to make, was the 1st of June. We have stretched our time to July and August merely with the view of trying to effect a compromise.page 33
At this stage the masters' deputation retired for consultation to another room. On their return a few minutes afterwards,
The Chairman said—We have arranged to have another meeting with our constituents, and we propose to call a meeting here for two o'clock to-morrow. We will ask them to give us whatever additional powers they can, and you can do the same thing with your friends. We shall endeavour to get the sanction of the masters to a compromise between the dates, and save the necessity for arbitration.
Mr Turnbull—I wish it to be clearly understood that we named the 1st of August to-day simply in the hope of settling the matter, and that the 1st of June is the date fixed by those who sent us here.
The Conference adjourned, to meet on Friday at 3.30 p.m.