The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 12
[report from conference of employers and workmen's reporesentatives]
A Conference of Employers' and Workmen's Representatives was held in the Religious Institution Rooms, on the afternoon of Monday, the 19th November, at three o'clock. The Clyde Shipbuilders and Engineers' Association was represented by Mr. David Rowan (who presided), Mr. A. Inglis, Mr. A. Smith, Mr. J. L. K. Jamie son, and Mr. James Howden, with Mr. J. P. Smith, their secretary. The workmen's representatives were Mr. Thomas Turnbull, Mr. John Barrowman, Mr. John Simpson, Mr. fames Allison, Mr. John Crichton, and Mr. John Marshall, with Mr. Thomas R. Elrick as their secretary.
The Chairman (Mr. Rowan) said—My notion of the way in which this meeting ought to be opened to-day would be to read over some correspondence which has parsed between our Secretary and Mr. Elrick, the Secretary of the West of Scotland Iron Trades' Short-Time League, and that would form a suitable introduction to the business that will come page 9 before this conference. But, perhaps, on the other hand, this is almost unnecessary, because the correspondence has taken place so recently that we are all quite well acquainted with its nature. There are, however, differences of opinion, which we alone are in a position to lay before this conference, and the first of these differences of opinion refers to the original dispute—what induced the men to go out on strike. I wish to read a letter, or a portion of a letter, which was published in the papers by Mr. Elrick—Mr. Simpson.
I ask if this letter is to be found in the report of the conferences?The Chairman.
It leads up to this conference, and forms so much of what you might call the minutes since the conferences were gone into. The Chairman then read from a letter addressed by Mr. Elrick to the newspapers, dated November 12, 1872, as follows:—" The letter of the secretary to the Employers' Association, that you publish to-day, requires a reply; and I will be obliged if you grant me that privilege. In reference to former letters I have written on the subject of this strike, and also the letter of the delegates to which the secretary has alluded, it is my painful duty to announce that there is not a statement they contain—however much it may reflect on the conduct of certain employers—that we are not at any moment prepared to prove. I have to-night asked the delegates of the shops now on strike to rehearse what took place between them and their employers previous to their coming out, that I might be fully informed as to the facts of the case. The accounts received have reference to the following workshops—'David Rowan, and so forth." Then the letter goes on—"The secretary stated that in some shops the men struck work without the employers having the most distant idea of any intention to do so. The only instance in which that statement agrees with the men's account is in the case of J. & G. Thomson," and so on. Now, continued the Chairman, the employers have said nothing that they are not prepared to stand by. I may say, in reference to myself, that I had a deputation of my workmen with me in the first of the month in reference to this short time. The men alluded entirely and exclusively to the hours of beginning and closing work. They objected to commcing at half-past 6 and leaving off at half-past 5, because they preferred to begin at 6 and close at 5. I had no idea of any dispute arising, not even the most distant conception but that harmony and good feeling would settle the matter. When the men came to me I said it was surely a matter of great indifference either to them or me as to whether the hours should be as I proposed, or as they proposed; but I said there is no use of making a dispute about it, because as soon as the practice was established we would agree to it. The men went away in the best of humour with this answer; but they did not come back after dinner. The Anchor Line men began to taunt my men at the meal hour that they had taken no active part in any strikes, and that now they should do something; so my men did not come back. That was the beginning of the strike with me. The question of wages was not mentioned. Next forenoon I had a deputation of two from my men, and the hours was again the principal subject of discussion. One of the men asked incidentally, "What about the wages?" I said, "I don't know;" but I stated that the men would be paid the same rate of wages per hour as before. The question of wages has now, however, grown to be of the greatest importance. In reference to the hand-bill here, in which the employers are charged with having broken faith with the men, I may say that you have made a statement that is incorrect. You assume that the wages question was settled at the conferences in February last; and, taking this report of the conferences which has been published by yourselves as their data, the employers do not see that that question was settled in the way you wish to put it. Their opinion was that the wages should be the same, rated per hour, to make up the wages to the same sum per week of 51 hours as was paid in February. That brings us to the questions at issue—the question of wages, and what the settlement was. It is simply a difference of opinion; and, being all interested parties, we were very anxious to refer this matter to an entirely neutral party, and submit to him this report of the conferences, pure and simple, to say what it really contains, leaving it entirely to his decision. That, we thought, was the honest and fair way; but you objected, and hence the present conference.Mr. Allison.
I think the Chairman stated that the first communication he had with his men was about the arrangement of the hours, and that the wages question was imported afterwards. Perhaps that would be best explained by saying that the men had a clear and distinct understanding for eight months previously that the wages would not be touched. They believed the wages were all right, and at the commencement of the dispute they only knew about the dispute as to the hours. The firm with whom I am employed saw the matter in that light. The question came to be with the workmen, How are we to work the nine hours per day? The wages were not spoken of until it was page 10 brought up incidentally in the interview with the employers, and the firm I am with gave it at once.Mr. Inglis.
What firm is that?Mr. Allison.
It is Messrs. Tod & M'Gregor. They understood that at the conference in February the 57 hours were promised absolutely for the 51 hours' work. It was simply to allow them to keep their promise good with the building trades that we took from the employers part of the time in March and to let them have their contracts finished, that we spread the rest of the time over till November. What the men asked, and what the employers conceded, was that the 57 hours' wages were to be given for the 51 hours' work. There was not the slightest difficulty with any of the employers in understanding our meaning in that matter. So clear was it, that Mr. Denny of Dumbarton did not hesitate to put the proper meaning upon it; for he said he would give his men 60 hours' wages for 54 hours' work. He gave six hours' pay, and what we asked was to reduce our working hours by six, and not reduce the wages; so that I cannot conceive how any master could misunderstand our meaning.Mr. Inglis.
It was well understood that the wages were to be the same for 51 hours as for 57 at the time the agreement was made, and that these rises should take place by two stages—from 57 hours to 54, and then from 54 to 51.Mr. Allison.
Oh, not at all. It was clearly understood that there was to be six hours' reduction without any reduction of wages. I don't see how you cannot understand me now; you understood me well enough at the conferences.Mr. Inglis.
I don't misunderstand you.Mr. Allison.
We would not have been agreeable to work longer than the 1st of March at the 57 hours and without the 51; but to suit the employers and oblige them, we took time by instalments.Mr. Inglis.
We are quite at one, I understand.Mr. Allison.
The employers said at the time of the conferences—If you will be content with 54 hours, we will give you 5 per cent, advance on your wages, which was to be an equivalent for the other 3 hours' work. Now, how is it that after you agreed to give us what we wanted, and we waited out of it for eight months to oblige you, that you are going to take the 3 hours' pay from us? The matter seems so plain and clear that I cannot accept the idea of a misunderstanding. As to the rises that have taken place on the wages in the interval no one can help them, and I cannot see what they have to do with it. Mr. Inglis himself said in February that we should allow the wages to find their own level by the law of supply and demand. Although some men have got advances, and some men have been lifted out of one shop into another for a rise, that does not touch the bargain of February. The whole tenor of the agreement bore out that the 57 hours' wages were to be given for the 51 hours' work.Mr. Turnbull.
I quite agree with the Chairman that the first cause of the dispute was the hours. In the shop I am in we had a dispute of the same sort. We never for one moment thought of the wages, because, as Mr. Allison has said, it was a question that no man had the slightest idea would be touched on. I may state we went on working and were paid the same wages, full time, on Thursday last.The Chairman.
What shop is that?Mr. Turnbull.
It is the Caledonian Railway shops. We were paid the full amount; and the Perth shop stands in the same position. The first point of dispute was the time. But rumours went abroad that the employers meant to reduce the wages, and therefore the men were told to see whether such was the case. It was when the men found out from the employers that such was to be the case that they struck work. They would not abide by a reduction of their wages, and that is what has brought the wages question into the dispute. First, the question was one of time; secondly, it became one of wages.Mr. Simpson.
Mr. Rowan has stated the matter as it occurred in his shop. I don't for one moment doubt that what he has said is true. Mr. Elrick took the report as given by the delegates, and if it is not a correct report, it must be left with them. But I can speak for the shop in which I am in that not until there had been three different deputations, and until the men got an emphatic denial that the wages were to be paid the same, was a strike resolved upon. I understand the deputations were sent about the hours; but before they resolved to strike, they thought it necessary to understand what about the wages. Three different deputations went to one of our employers, and it was not until they knew that the money was to be deducted from their wages that they agreed to strike. I can assure you that all our men understood the question as any unprejudiced man who looks over these pages (alluding to the report of previous conferences) must page 11 understand it. Let me quote from page 8 part of the circular sent to the employers before the conferences. It is a motion adopted at a public meeting:—"That, in the opinion of this meeting of the iron trades of Glasgow, the immense increase of scientific power and labour-saving machinery justifies us in seeking to participate in their advantages by the reduction of our hours of labour. We therefore solicit our employers to consider the propriety of reducing them to 51 hours per week, and that in future the wages be rated by the hour, with an advance on the present rate sufficient to compensate the deficiency caused by the reduction in time." Now, gentlemen, I submit that this was never deviated from for one moment. It was a question of time when it was to come into operation. The employers said, "We have large contracts; you must give us time to finish these contracts." We took the case into consideration, and we allowed eight months time to expire before the adoption of the 51 hours system. The first of March came; you reduced our hours from 57 to 54. You understood that you had to raise the wages to make up for the three hours taken off the time. The eight months transpired; they were given to do away with arbitration altogether. The first of November came. We paid the penalty of eight months to have the advantage of settling our own business for ourselves and doing away with arbitration. We wrought on until the first of November, never doubting that the latter part of the engagement would be implemented as well as the first part; and not until the men had fully satisfied themselves—and some of them worked on until the pay-day, a fortnight after other places had struck, and did not believe, until the proportion was deducted from their pay, that the employers would not concede the terms that were conceded in these pages. I think with regard to the matter of the bill which you have read, and said it is incorrect, our position is this, that we were justified in using the language.Mr. Jamieson.
Not in making it a quotation. You have altered the wording, and put it within brackets, and made it a quotation.Mr. Simpson.
It's all the same.Mr. Jamieson.
I beg your pardon; it makes all the difference in the world.The Chairman.
Here is the quotation within brackets:—"That 51 hours be the week's work, with a proportionate reduction of pay, the working hours to be from 6.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m." Now, will you show us a document that has come from us having these words in it?Mr. Simpson.
I shall be very happy. We are here to give, in regard to the specified time—The Chairman.
The question is simply this, that you have made statements that are incorrect, because you have made a quotation from a document issued by us that is not correct. You have made this statement, and published it as a quotation, and it is not in any document emanating from us.Mr. Simpson.
I saw the whole of the documents that Mr. Smith wrote to Mr. Elrick. Comparing the one statement with the other might settle the matter.Mr. Barrowman.
Would you oblige me by showing me the place.
[The Chairman handed Mr. Barrowman the bill.]Mr. Elrick.
I may explain that the part of the letter to which you have alluded is no fault of ours. It was not put to the papers by me as a quotation; but it appears in the papers according to the manner in which you describe it, as a quotation; and I suppose that the compositor who set it up thought it should have been a quotation, and made it one. I may say that in handing the article to the printers for setting up the bill, it was simply cut from the papers, and I never observed until this moment that it was put as a quotation. It was never intended as one, but was simply meant to express the spirit of the actual facts. So far as the documents issued by the employers are concerned, I have never seen one of them, but understood what was the arrangement from the reports of the delegates. I do not, however, see anything wrong. I cannot see that I have made any misstatements in regard to the matter, and shall be happy if you can show me any.Mr. Jamieson.
The portion of it that is wrong is this, that it conveys to the public that the employers made such a statement as is here put within brackets—that these were the actual words used. That is where the error has been made.Mr. Barrowman.
I am afraid, Mr. Chairman, that you take that part pointedly to yourselves. I believe, however, that the inverted commas are a mistake. It was put there as the spirit of the agreement entered into.Mr. Inglis.
It was not an agreement; it was a refusal. I may say that our men met us, and we never refused to pay for 57 hours for the 51 hours' work.The Chairman.
Neither has any of us refused it.Mr. Inglis.
I would like it to be understood that we don't refuse to pay 57 hours' pay page 12 for 51 hours' work. Say that the wages for the 57 hours in February was 28s. 6d. If a man is not getting 28s. 6d. now for 51 hours, then he has reason to complain; but if he has got more than that he is not ill-used,—we have given him as much for 51 as for 57. Certain classes of our workmen have struck for an advance of wages more than once, or twice, or three times, and said they had no connection with any bargain made by the delegates, the League, or any one else as to the regulation of wages. They got advances until I don't know how many percentages they have got more than in February. And I say it is unfair to the men who honestly carried out their agreement that others should get what they were promised. Of course, if there is any reason why their wages should be advanced, I do not see why not. But if we made a bargain we ought to stick to it; and if no bargain was made, then it is an open question.Mr. Jamieson.
Mr. Simpson made a statement which was partially correct, and partially incorrect in regard to the original cause of the strike. In reference to the boiler works, I don't know how they came out very well; but the engine works came out on the hour question. "When the men came to me as a deputation from both shops, I said there was to be no change in the rate of pay. I never thought there was to be any change in the rate of pay. My impression was exactly as Mr. Simpson and Mr. Barrowman put it with regard to the agreement in February. I shall read from your own pamphlet. But first I will go farther back. In the month of November last we issued, in a placard, that we were going on the 1st of March to reduce the hours from 57 to 54. Our intention was to give the same rate of pay for 54 as for 57 horn's' work; but the men were not satisfied, and there was an agitation got up for 51 hours. We saw, as employers, that it was going to be a great loss to the manufacturer to reduce the hours of labour below those in other parts of the country, and we made a strong effort to get the 54 hours adopted as they were being worked in the North of England, and various other parts of the country we were competing with. To show that we were anxious to have the longer hours, we offered 60 hours' pay for 54 hours' work; but the men were not satisfied with that, and went in for the 51 hours only, and that only would they have. Then we met in conference, and seeing that our contracts were so extensive, especially with those of us who are engaged in marine engineering, we made an agreement that at the 1st of March we would start on 54 hours per week, and on the 1st of November we would start the 51 hours. At the time of the conferences there were two or three passages between us that bore upon the wages question. One of these was put forward by Mr. Barrowman himself, which you will find at page 15 of the pamphlet, as follows:—"The working classes of the West of Scotland, and of the whole of the country, have come to the conclusion that it is better to reduce the hours of labour than to claim a rise in their wages. The present is a time when a rise of from 10 to 20 per cent, might justly be claimed, because the iron markets have actually risen from 10 to 40 per cent. Well, it is necessary that we should bestir ourselves to keep pace with the age. In recent years we would have accepted a rise in our wages rather than a reduction of the hours of labour; but I can assure you that the working classes are now thoroughly in earnest in wishing the hours reduced." There is not the slightest question of wages in this point at all; it is entirely in reference to the hours. Again, when it was put directly by Mr. Blackmore to Mr. Simpson, as in page 24, Mr. Blackmore asks the question—"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." Now, that is distinctly the understanding I have in reference to the point of wages, and that I am prepared to carry out. Nay, I am prepared to carry it out farther. In the case of any man who has not got in the meantime greater wages than he had for 57 hours in February, I shall be very glad to make it up to him now. Seeing, then, that it was a question of time and not of wages that was in dispute, and that it was fairly put before us at the conference, that we should pay the same amount for 51 hours' work as for 57, I say that it is a difference of opinion that has brought us here, and one that is clearly a case for arbitration out of our hands altogether. To show how anxious we were to get this point amicably settled, we agreed at our meeting to take the opinion of one of the most eminent men of legal knowledge in this part of the country; and we put the report of the conference into his hand, and asked him to say whether there was anything in it to cause the men to write those letters to the papers. I ask what faith can we have in the statements of the men, when such men of eminence, as he to whom I have referred, gives an opinion directly to the contrary. I would ask the Chairman to read that opinion.page 13 Mr. Simpson.
I think it is better that it should be kept over in the meantime; I think it is important it should not be read just now.The Chairman.
There are one or two points that are to come up—Mr. Simpson.
I think that this is not the proper time to read it.Mr. A. Smith.
It will save us going over the same ground, if I say that I agree with what has been said by Mr. Jamieson in reference to the words he quoted from page 2-4 of the pamphlet. I read that portion of the pamphlet, and I think that it is well I should just state what occurred with our men in the interim in reference to this wages question. One or two deputations waited upon us, an I asked and got an advance of pay. Otherwise there were partial advances given. In our boiler shed we advanced the rate of pay fully, when we commenced the 54 hours on the 1st of March, to what the men had for 57 hours, and then in a short time after that there was a demand made for an advance of 1s. per week, which they all got, and that was a second advance. Then about six weeks ago, there was a regular effort made by the men on the south side of the river, who said that unless they all got 2s. a week—or about two 2s. 3d. a week, they would strike. That was the third advance. These advances, taken together, makes up a sum of about 4s. 6d. per week over what the men had when working 57 hours per week. Now, I read from Mr. Simpson's statement, "We understand that 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." Now, Mr. Chairman, I think that is so plain that I could hardly conceive, after the advances our men have got, that they would come forward and say that they must have another advance now. We say we are willing to shorten the hours; but here they have received 4s. 6d. per week of an advance, so that I think in the statement that has gone forth from the workmen, they should at least have recognised this point. I am certain, if that had been done, that the public would have been under a very different impression than what they are now. I do not want to refer to anything else just now, and Simpson can reply.Mr. Simpson.
I go back with our Chairman to the original demand made by the men on the employers. I think that is the fair start. It was—"We therefore solicit our employers to consider the propriety of reducing them to 51 hours per week, and that in future the wages be rated by the hour, with an advance on the present rate sufficient to compensate the deficiency caused by the reduction in time. 'Now, if you please, you will turn with me to page 13 of the report, where you will see Bailie Hamilton [I need not read it] fully understands what we meant; because he calculates the value of those hours—what the loss will be to him to pay the same wages for 51 hours' work as for 57, and makes it £18,000 loss to his firm. I may also state that Mr. Jamieson calculated the same—what would be the money value to his firm. But we come now to page 24.Mr. Jamieson.
That is not to the point.Mr. Simpson.
The time was not settled to begin at the 1st of November when I was speaking. It may have been a little error in speech, or I may have been speaking as if the time of changing the hours was to commence in March, I am free to confess that it is not definite in this respect. But, if I made an error in speech, my friend, Mr. Connor, does not leave me long in error, but takes me out of it. Allow me, gentlemen; I will finish the quotation that you have begun. Mr. Connor says, at page 24 of the pamphlet, "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. Connor quite understood, although I had made an error in speech, that I was still talking about the original demand; and Mr. Blackmore seemed to be satisfied with it. Then, let us go on farther, and we find that the question of wages was altogether ignored. It was raised at the conference, but the employers ignored it, and none more strongly than Mr. Inglis, who is now present. Now, gentlemen, had the wages in the interval become lower instead of higher, would you have been justified in raising them?Mr. Jamieson.
Most unquestionably; that is my opinion.Mr. Simpson.
It was not a question of wages. You offered us 5 per cent, to give up the reduction of the hours from 54 to 51, and we refused it. We went and offered this to the men, who said it is a question of the reduction of hours without a diminution of pay.Mr. Inglis.
That is all right; that is what has been done.Mr. Simpson.
We allowed the 51 hours to be put off to get an amicable arrange- page 14 ment. You admitted at the time the trade was in such a position that, if we had forced the whole time then, you were not in a position to refuse it. We allowed eight months to expire before we insisted on the 51 hours coming into operation; but I submit, gentlemen, that we never deviated from our original claim. We gave eight months for finishing the contracts; but you cannot find within the pages of this pamphlet that we withdrew our original request to have the same wages for 51 hours as for 54. Now, we are blamed for not putting the thing before the public correctly. All I can say is, that we have done everything in our power to make the matter plain. We have scattered these pamphlets over the country. They lay on our hands a long time, and were likely to be a pretty bad speculation; but the present dispute has relieved us of the most of them. We have given every chance, through meetings everywhere, for the public to judge fairly betwixt us; and I don't see how we can be accused of keeping the public in the dark upon this question. Mr. Smith says so in his letters; but Mr. Elrick has replied to that satisfactorily. Regarding the question of wages, I really think it should not have been introduced at all, because there is a law which must govern you and us, over which neither of us have any control. I think we must honestly leave the question of wages to be regulated by that inexorable law. The only interpretation upon this pamphlet is that our employers shall implement their engagement at the 1st of November in the same way as they did at the 1st of March.Mr. Allison.
There is perhaps nothing in this city that more rapidly equalises itself than wages. I think it is totally beside the question to spend so much time upon the subject of wages, and we are wandering from the point at issue. We are not asking more money; we are only asking to the extent of what the agreement was in February. I observe, from the remarks of Mr. Jamieson and Mr. Inglis, that I attach one meaning to the 57 hours' pay, and they attach another. There is nothing to hinder two men to read that pamphlet and form different opinions. We know that, with respect to any book, that can be done. I wish to draw your attention to the fact that, when we asked this reduction of six hours' labour, and no reduction in the wages, we wished it all at once; and it was simply to accommodate those gentlemen who were busy building that we agreed to take it by instalments—the 54 hours in March, and the 51 in November. Now, it seems that Mr. Jamieson and Mr. Inglis differ from us.Mr. Inglis.
We don't differ from you at all.Mr. Allison.
Then I presume Mr. Inglis and the other gentlemen are prepared to give the same wages for 51 hours as for 54.Mr. Inglis.
If you mean that this was an agreement—some people dispute that it was an agreement; but suppose we admit that it was an agreement, which I have always believed it to be—(hear, hear)—I read the agreement just as Mr. Simpson does. He says that "we mean on the 15th 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." Now, I may tell you, gentlemen, that a number of our men have considered this as an agreement, and they have never agitated for an increase of wages. I grant that a number of men are paid higher now than in February. I never call in question that certain men have got advances. But a number of men came to us and said we want an advance of½d. per hour. That was a large advance, but we conceded it. We asked them about the 51 and the 54 hours; and said that when they got the 51 hours, that would be an equivalent for a rise in their wages. We do not take that under a quibble; it cannot be per hour. There has been a rise of ¾d. per hour in some instances. But take it at only½d., and 35-100ths of 1d., then you have for 51 hours a rise of½ 35d. on the 57 hours. Well, we understand that; but these men who got the advances from strikes repudiated the idea of the 51 hours altogether, and do still, a number of them, and they are at this moment working the 54 hours, and won't work the 51 hours. Now, in this case we have a difference of opinion in regard to the interpretation of this agreement. We have blacksmiths who have got two or three advances, and hammermen have got more than one advance from strikes. Now, these men cannot be said to have adhered to any bargain or agreement made in February to be carried out in November. (Hear, hear.) I think it would be unfair to those men who consider there was an agreement, and have faithfully carried it out, to put them in the same position as those who have got advances by striking. I say that these men should not get any more advances—the 54 hours' pay for the 51 hours' work—as it was proposed to do by the men now on strike. Now, as I stated before, there was either an agreement, or there was not an agreement. If there was an agreement, as you say there was—which I am quite prepared to implement and give effect to—I say that those men who have departed from the agreement are not entitled to profit by it or have the benefit. What I page 15 object to is this: A number of men came to me and asked advances before the time, and I conceded them. Now, if you think it is fair and reasonable and honourable to compel me to give them another advance, you had better say so. But if you say that only those men who have continued faithful to the agreement should get the advance, then we are quite at one, but I would keep out those men who have got advances, and not give them a single farthing.Mr. Crichton.
The last time we were here the workmen of Messrs. A. & J. Inglis were not represented in the Short-Time League. I have no doubt the men in that employment had taken advantage of the want of representatives at the League to say they had nothing to do with it, and that they did not consider thus a legal arrangement. Now that may account for the men in Messrs. A. & J. Inglis' establishment, who were not represented with us, saying that they did not consider themselves bound by the agreement; and that may also account for the misunderstanding.Mr. Turnbull.
I was at the hist conference, and both employers and workmen understood that the word "present," used in regard to the wages, then meant that the wages received at that time were to be advanced to suit the 51 hours. I have no doubt whatever, that at the time all the employers believed that; and I may state, in confirmation of that, that I myself asked for a written agreement to bind both parties, and the objection then made was that if we would sign an agreement that the men would not in the interval ask for an advance of wages, the employers would agree to it. I think it was Mr. Inglis who said so.
Mr. Jamieson:—He said we could not bind the men on the wages question.The Chairman.
Well, gentlemen, I think on both sides there has been a very full expression of opinion. I have been very much pleased with Mr. Simpson's remarks about the inexorable law which regulates the relations of capital and labour. If Mr. Smith has been obliged to advance the wages of his men, it is because there has been a pressure of work and a scarcity of hands to do it. I believe that, at the present moment, if the wages were settled as you want them, in a fortnight hence they would be changed; and that, on the other hand, if they would agree to have them settled as the employers wish, a similar result would follow. We need not attempt to regulate this inexorable law, it will regulate us. If there is more labour than labourers in the market, the labourers will have good pay; but if more labourers than labour, the wages will fall. I never saw this document until last week. My own impression on reading it was that it was a pity the wages question was interpolated into this dispute at all, because it did not seem to be a part of it, and my opinion was that it was a subject that had better been omitted. The first thing that brings the matter to a conclusion is this bill in which the employers are charged with breaking faith with the men. Now, my own idea was that if the men were right in this matter, that if I thought it was my duty to pay them the 54 hours' wages for the 51 hours' work, then I would give in at once. Therefore, I say, it is a matter that should be settled by a neutral party; and if we are bound, in his opinion, by this engagement to advance the pay, then we have not a word to say. We put this question to Dr. Roberton, Professor of Law in Glasgow University, and I will now read his judgment on the matter:—
Mr. Barrowman."176 St. Vincent Street, "Glasgow, 16th November, 1872.
"Dear Sir,—"We have perused the report of the conferences between the Master Engineers and Shipbuilders and the Representatives of the "West of Scotland Short-Time League. The principle for which the men mainly contended during these conferences was shortening the hours of labour. Air. Simpson, one of the delegates from the workmen, so puts it. He says: 4 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.'
"Undoubtedly, the question of wages was discussed, but this appears to have been in a somewhat casual way. Bailie Hamilton is reported to have said—'You say that you will be satisfied with nothing but a reduction of time. How long will you be content with the same wages V To which Mr. Turnbull replied, 'The wages will rule themselves by the demand for labour in the market.'
"At a subsequent conference, viz., that on 22nd of February, the question of wages was brought pointedly before the delegates of the workmen by Air. Blackmore. He is reported to have said: 'On the understanding that our friends making this demand (viz., that the working time per week be limited to 51 hours) don't ask anything more than 51 hours, I should like it to be clearly understood what the pay is to be, supposing the 51 hours were conceded after ten or twelve months hence,' to which Air. Simpson replied: '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.page 16 "'Mr. Blackmore.
I want clearly to understand the position you mean to take up in this matter."'Mr. Simpson.
We mean on the 1st of March to get 54hours with 57 hours' pay, and we mean to get 51 hours when the time is arranged, with the same wages we have now.'
Mr. Turnbull afterwards said—4 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.'
"Both parties subsequently agreed that the 51 hours time movement should come into operation on 1st November.
"If the employers now pay their workmen the same amount of money for 51 hours as at the time of the conferences they paid for 57 hours, they are acting in consonance with the spirit and letter of the arrangement come to at these conferences.
"We cannot find in the report of the conferences any ground for the statement that the employers have failed to implement the terms then mutually agreed upon.—We are, dear Sir, yours truly,
"Roberton & Ross.
"J. P. Smith, Esq., Renfield Street."
I cannot say that I can coincide with a lawyer's judgment of this subject, because it does not affect us as it would affect a lawyer. It is not a legal question, but one that appeals to our moral feelings and consciences; and if we feel that we have right on our side, we have a right to hold and express our feelings. We feel that the engagement was a sacred one entered into between man and man, and we are able to judge of what takes place in our daily intercourse with one another as correctly as any lawyer in the country. We don't require legal advice in this matter, when we are forming conclusions based on our experience. I have just this to say, that I understood from his speech, that Mr. Jamieson felt that he was outraged and aggrieved by the opinion that the arrangement entered into in February last gave the men higher wages than he thought they should have received.Mr. Jamieson.
They are not receiving higher wages.Mr. Barrowman.
I thought that both Mr. Inglis and Mr. Jamieson had said that wages had risen since the men got the 54 hours. Then I would ask you, gentlemen, does it not occur to you that you are responsible for the time interloping between the 1st of March and the settlement of the 51 hours; that it was to convenience you that we agreed to the delay; and that it is not fair that we should be held responsible for what took place during these eight months in regard to a question (the question of wages) that we repudiated any power over, and that we could not control. All we wanted was that when a change of the hours took place it should not revolutionise the position of the working man—that it should not affect his family affairs, and that it should take place without a reduction of the wages they were then receiving. We did not, and no man in his senses would, try to bind down the wages of any class of men—more particularly the wages of the class of men we represent, seeing that wages fluctuate so much in our trades. We don't go and band ourselves together to fix the rate of wages. You may, if you don't carry out this solemn engagement, force this upon us, and the men may be forced to fix a rate of wages, and demand a penny an hour advance. But, if you wish to work harmoniously, let the wages regulate themselves according to the low of demand and supply. You see that from the earliest time of the conferences the wages question was thrown out, except in so far as it was necessary to go into a consideration of the circumstances of the trade when the working men's delegates applied for this change to take place. The men were willing to sacrifice eight months, and work on with the patience of a Jacob that they might get this change. When the time came, I was talking to an employer, and he said he had no difficulty in understanding the question. Well, now, I will state my own case. I have, without solicitation, received three different stages of a rise. I cannot say whether it was for additional skill, or what it was, but I have never sought an advance either by word or deed. Now, I ask you, would you turn me back to the wages I had when working 57 hours? You have come from the 57 down to the 51, but I have received an advantage of from 60 to 51 hours. Now, you are in a position that you have less to complain of. You took your position, advocated your case, and the delegates yielded the cause of their constituents so far as eight months, to let you implement your contracts without loss. Seeing you have not given them the 51 hours without a reduction of pay, the working men in your establishments feel that they have a just cause of complaint, and that so great as to make them cease working. They have a perfect right—seeing the engagement has not been carried out by your not paying the wages that they were receiving For the 54 hours—to state in any manifesto that they may send abroad that you are not paying the same wages for the 51 as for the 54 hours. We have been blamed often by page 17 other trades that we have not carried out this matter so as to be able to bind either side to the strict letter of the engagement, and that it has not been gone into by fixed resolution. Now, I understand it has been said that the question of the arrangement of the time is a very small question; but the working men feel it to be a very important question; and I propose, if you are agreeable, that this question of fixing the hours be acceded to the shops in which it has been refused, and that they be allowed to work from 6 in the morning till 5 in the evening.Mr. Inglis.
Now, how would you do in the case of a boat where men are working less than 51 hours, and they stop at half-past 5; would you compel those men to go out at 6 in the morning? I, for one, think this is a question which the Short-Time League should not have interfered with, because there is a disagreement among the men as to their hours. We have three sets of men beginning at different times—we have one set. going out at 7, another at half-past 6, and another one at 6, and how to accommodate them all we cannot find. The one set won't accommodate the other in any one way. My opinion is that all those who have shipbuilding and ship-repairing yards should be allowed to accommodate their men to the best advantage, so that they please them. As for engine shops in the town, it is a very small matter indeed when they commence—whether at 6 or half-past 6. We cannot afford to have one man commencing at 6 and another at half-past; but if it is a mighty thing, we may have to submit; and if they cannot want it, why we must concede it. I suppose it will not bring us down; but I think it is a thing that ought to be left to the different shops to decide for themselves. It is an awkward thing for a man to have to go out and stand in the cold without working. As for the hours of taking their meals, it is a thing which the League brought forward. Now, we are obliged to give them an hour when working in the shop, and half an hour if they are working outside. You cannot make a universal law for all cases, and I think it would be only friendly to allow the employers and the men to make the best arrangement they can. As for the other thing about which Mr. Turnbull has spoken, I don't know what he means by "we." If Mr. Turnbull would state that he means the League have made an agreement, and that we had refused to abide by it, then let him say so; but if they cannot show that they have made an agreement, then I think they have no right to interfere with it at all. Those who agreed to accept the 54 hours on the 1st of March and 51 in November, and that the wages should be the same for the 51 hours as for the 57, although they have got a little advance, I think they should have the benefit of it; but for those who repudiated the 51 hours movement, and said they would regulate their wages for themselves by their own demands, I think the League is not called upon to demand anything for them. I think it is an easy matter, if you would only consider it for a moment, to settle either the one point or the other. If you adhere to the agreement, let it be carried out; but let those who have not agreed to it, both employers and employed, be left out of the matter altogether.Mr. Simpson.
I think that Mr. Inglis in his remarks wishes to draw a distinction between the workmen and the League.Mr. Turnbull.
We, the committee, could not take it upon ourselves to bind the workmen. We could only speak for ourselves.Mr. Simpson.
I think it should be understood that the workmen constitute the League, and that they choose delegates to represent them.Mr. Jamieson.
Do you know that there is a great number of workmen in my establishment at this time who are under the intimidation of the League?Mr. Simpson.
I wish most distinctly and emphatically to deny that.Mr. Jamieson.
It is told so to me.Mr. Simpson.
I have always repudiated everything like intimidation upon any man. The action I took was this, when the lull was put up. I may tell you that the bill stated that from the 1st of November to the 1st of March the hours would be from half-past 6 in the morning to half-past 5 in the evening, and that after the 1st of March the hours would be arranged by the employer. The men said, That is not the interpretation we meant to put upon it at all. The great thing we aimed at was to get time at night to try and improve our minds. (Laughter.) You may laugh; but I am expressing the fact, and the men are in earnest about it.Mr. Jamieson.
I believe that you and the others present may be in earnest; but don't say the whole body of the men are in earnest, for I have evidence since the 54 hours came into operation of the improvement that is in Govan. The police reports tell me the improvement that has taken place in Govan since the hours were reduced, as compared with the state of matters when the men were working 57 hours.page 18 Mr. Simpson.
When this bill was posted up, the workmen sent a deputation to Mr. Jamieson. It his been stated here that the men have been intimidated. I tell you I stood aside, and took no part in what was done by the men. I was determined I should allow the men to carry out the engagement themselves. But after the third interview with their employers, when they resolved to strike, I considered it my duty to do everything in my power to get this agreement honourably implemented. There was no intimidation—there has been no intimidation. Mr. Inglis said that his men did not want, and would not take the 51 hours; but Mr. Blackmore came all the length from Greenock to say his men would strike against the 51 hours. Gentlemen, we have seen what these statements are worth. Mr. Blackmore's men, when the time came, showed themselves fully alive to the movement, and as ready to receive the three hours less work as any other workmen. It is a strange thing that a large number of the employers have taken the very same view that the workmen have taken of the agreement, and a very large number of the employers were wrong if the men were in the wrong. Your attention cannot be too often called to the conclusion of the last conferences. A legal document has been read here to-day, but we do not look upon this as a legal matter at all. I agree with Mr. Barrowman, that at the end of the last conferences we ought to have had some written resolution, to which both parties could have attached their names. It was Mr. Ure, the excellent chairman of the last conferences, who threw out the hint that there should be a paper. We went to a lawyer and got a paper prepared. We had it in our possession; but when we produced the paper you refused to sign it. And here are Mr. Paton's own words. He said: "You will get the minutes of the conference, and you can hold them as a guarantee that we will not resile from our engagements." Now, Mr. Paton has acted in accordance with what we considered the true interpretation of this pamphlet, and his men remain at their work. Mr. Blackmore disputed it, but has since changed his mind, and his men have gone back to their work. I tell you candidly that in submitting the case to this professor of law, I do not think he is the proper man to judge this question at all. It is a question of honour between employers and their workmen. If it had been a legal quibble, a lawyer was the man to do the work; but I do not think a lawyer is the proper man to judge in an agreement between employers and their workmen, or to be called in to interpret its meaning. I can assure you, in reference to the remark of Mr. Jamieson, that there was no intimidation used. The men do not go near any of your gates; but you will find them far away from your gates in halls, and you are left undisturbed to take on whom you can get. Far too much has been said about leaders and agitators in connection with such disputes as these. In whatever we have done we have acted conscientiously to benefit ourselves and our fellow-men; and I would strongly advise that no such language be used in future.Mr. Inglis.
Mr. Simpson has made a long speech. Among other things, he said I made a statement that our men did not want 51 hours, and that they would not work 51 hours. He seems to doubt the correctness of what I stated. But we have asked some of our men to work 51 hours, and they would not take the reduction, and they are still working 54.Mr. Simpson.
In the engineers' shops?Mr. Inglis.
I am not going to say in what shops, but I have them working as I have said. As regards intimidation, perhaps you men here do not have anything to do with intimidation, but you cannot know what the other men on strike may be doing. So far as you know, there has been no intimidation, and that is all you can say about the matter. I think the employer has a right to arrange with his men about the hours at which they shall commence and leave off work, and I don't think they should go and ask the League about it. I never heard this thing in reference to the arrangement of the hours mooted before, and I do not think it makes any difference to the men if they get the 51 hours. It is a very natural thing that the employers should make the arrangement they propose with their men, only for three or four months in the dead of winter; and I don't think there is any great harm done, even although the League should not agree with it. It was a very small matter, indeed, of Messrs. Elder & Co., or any other company, putting up a bill in their shops about the hours; and I think you have no right to interfere between a workman and his employer, if he is agreeable to work the hours as the employer has them arranged, provided the workman conies in for the 51 hours.Mr. Barrowman.
I want, on the part of the League, to correct Mr. Inglis. He has said, with a clear meaning to my mind, that the League has interfered with the men working the hours set down by their employers. Now, sir, until the men complained and appealed to the League, the league did not do anything. The League is itself the page 19 creature of the men, and it is not merely the men acting by the League. I can tell you this much. So far as I have heard of intimidation, the only case I have had reason to condemn was not a case of one man interfering with another, but it was a case where an employer had interfered with a man being employed in another shop. If it is wrong for the men to interfere with one another, it is worse for the employers, who have the advantages of education and a good social position, to interfere with those who employ their men; and they ought to know better than to interfere with a man going to another shop, for the purpose of earning his daily bread. I say that is intimidation of the worst kind.Mr. Inglis.
We all admit that intimidation is wrong. We did not say that you did it; we said that you had no right to do it.Mr. Barrowman.
I am perfectly satisfied with that explanation. So far as I am concerned, I took no action whatever until I was put forward to express the views of the men.Mr. Inglis.
I said you had no right to interfere with—The Chairman.
I think the matter has been pretty well discussed now.Mr. A. Smith.
We put up a bill on our gate, and it was to this effect—That the Association had arranged that the hours of work for the four winter months should be from half-past 6 in the morning to half-past 5 at night. But the masters were not bound to that. In any place where the master and his men made a different agreement, there was nobody going to interfere. I think there has been a great deal of misunderstanding, and not a little misreprentation, with regard to this matter. I heard an expression of opinion that the employers in the engine shops did not care about the hours, but that they will agree with their men. But, we are told, it is different in the ship-yards; and if the men and the masters can regulate them, I think it is a very paltry matter to quarrel about. It would not have been a matter that we would have struck upon, and if the men had come and said, We are very anxious to have the hours arranged in such a way, I am satisfied that the employers in the engine works would not have cared anything about it. It sometimes happens that a few hot-headed men in a place cause a great deal of disturbance. A lot of our men would have been very glad to come in; but I said, I don't want you to come in and get your names black-balled on my account, and I hope you will let matters go on quietly, and see if you can come to some arrangement. I do not think that the workmen's representatives should persist in regulating the hours, but should leave the employers and workmen to settle that matter themselves; and I am certain, if that were done, things would settle themselves in a day.Mr. Turnbull.
That is a thing we cannot interfere with, because the men have sent the delegates to settle the matter to suit their convenience. As to what Mr. Inglis said about the outside men, it is well enough known that we take nothing to do as regards them—we take no notice of the men who are employed in outside work. What we refer to is that, in the engineer shops in Glasgow, the men should commence work as near one time as convenient. You will quite understand the need for this, for if a man has been used rising to his work at 6, and goes to a place where they commence at half-past 6, he never gets into a regular state at all; and as for the dinner hour, we considered that it was too long to have four hours between breakfast and dinner, and that it would be better for us and better for our employers to get our dinner at one o'clock. The men themselves have stated to me publicly that they are thoroughly convinced that they are putting out as much work as formerly, before the hours were reduced, because they do not yawn and watch the clock, and weary in the forenoon between 1 and 2 as they used to weary. Is it not a fact that between 1 and 2 o'clock, the workmen are yawning and watching the time, and wearying to hear the bell ring? and it is for your interest and for ours that the time should be as nearly equal as possible. But we don't interfere with the shops; if the men will start at half-past 6, we have no objection.Mr. Inglis.
What would you do with the outside men? Will you make them work 51 or 54 hours?Mr. Turnbull.
If they are outside workers, we take nothing to do with them.Mr. Marshall.
We, as a body of workmen, are entitled to some rights; we are banded together for our own interests.Several Employers.
That is not denied at all.Mr. Jamieson.
I am sorry to see this conference taking this turn. We should have liked to know how we are going to settle present differences. With regard to the hours of labour, I do not think there can be much question about the time when you begin, or when you leave off. When the workmen came to me, I said it was only intended to apply to the winter months, with the object of preventing a loss of time by men losing a page 20 quarter or half an hour in the morning; and I said, "You may depend upon it that, if it does not work well, we ourselves will be the first to go back to the old hour. Let us give it a fair trial, men. You know that employers have some right to manage their own business without any agreement with their employees." And I am sorry to hear that dictatorial style adopted by the men here, such as "We granted you the eight months," and "When we gave you leave, it was entirely for your benefit." Now, these are rather hard words between the different parties—from those who are receiving wages to those who are paying them. You must know that labour and capital have great differences between them, and there must be a chasm in society somewhere. I can assure you that the same reasons I threw out in February have come to pass. In two or three months' time it is quite possible that, in place of working 51 hours, we might have to work only 48. In three or four of the works there is a scarcity of work now, and in a few months there may be greater scarcity of it; so that I would advise you not to draw a fast line, and say we are going to work so many hours: for this is regulated by the quantity of work to be done, and the number of workmen to do it. When we go on short time, the care we have is to select the greatest number of men that we can keep on. I can assure you that the question of what hours you will begin and leave off work is a bagatelle. If you wish to begin at 6 o'clock, and we want you to begin at half-past 6, don't rush out on strike without saying a word, as my men in the engine-shop did. The notice was put up on the gates, and immediately they went out. The men in the engine-shop went away upon the point of the hours; the wages question came afterwards. But we having granted that the arrangement of the hours is not of much consequence either for the one side or the other, now we approach the wages question. On it we have given our opinion, and you have given your opinion. We are perfectly different in our reading of this pamphlet. We have heard the evidence of a man who is beyond suspicion of taking either the one side or the other; and now we come to the settlement of the difficulty. Each one believes his reading of the statement is the correct one, formed from his own point of view. But there is a difference; and how are you going to solve that difference?The Chairman.
I think we have got over the whole question, so as to understand the different view which each party takes as regards the result of the conferences. Mr. Barrowman was rather indignant in his remarks about the opinion we have received. He contended that this was a moral question, and that the employers were making a legal catch of it, by interpreting it by the language in which it was expressed, rather than looking at the spirit or meaning. Now, I could not but observe that there was a want of clearness about the wages to be paid for the 54 and the 51 hours' work; and I regret that this matter was not made clearer than it seems to be at present. There is one thing, however, that strikes me forcibly, and that is that it was a mistake to put this wages question in here at all. First of all, we are agreed that the wages will rise and fall according to the law of supply and demand, and that no restriction of the hours can affect that law; and yet here you propose that the wages shall be at a certain rate eight months forward. In endeavouring to put that right, you have evidently seen the difficulty, and you could not fix upon a surer position for the protection of the men than by taking the wages as they are at the present moment. You wish them not to be less. The great loss has been the importation of the wages question at all. Had the wages been lower, then there would have been a conflict. You understand what is the employers' view, and now we have all discussed the matter, and you understand clearly our view, and we understand your view. Although a great many of the shops are Working the 51 hours, don't imagine that their opinion is different from ours, because they have been obliged to adopt the arrangement of the hours from their particular circumstances at the time. However, I am exceedingly sorry to see so many good men going idle; and although you may manage, by a certain system, to pay these men their wages, still I cannot but look upon it as if they were living upon your charity and that of others. I always regret to hear of a working man taking extraneous support other than that provided by his own industry. It seems to me something like going upon the Poor-law Board. I think it is one of the most grievous things possible; but I am quite satisfied of this, that had' this matter been left entirely an open question, both in point of arrangement of the hours, assuming the 51 hours as settled, and wages, that within a fortnight or three weeks it would have settled itself, and that in a way independently of us. I am not prepared to make any proposal, because I think it would come better from the delegates of the workmen. I would like to hear how the delegates expect to settle the question.Mr. Inglis.
Take this into consideration. You have said that you do not recognise the outside people in the shipbuilding yards; if you would distinctly state that you don't page 21 give any opinion for them; that you would leave them to make their own arrangements, would that be consistent with your views? If you would not interfere with them, and coerce them in any way—Mr. Allison.
I think that this matter was clearly stated in February. We never try to coerce any one.Mr. Turnbull.
We have again and again stated that.Mr. Inglis.
I would like if you would say so now.Mr. Allison.
We have said so already.Mr. Turnbull.
The reporters will take notice of that—that we have again stated it. Our Chairman wishes the proposal to come from our side.The Chairman.
Seeing there has been reasonable ground for difference of opinion, I merely ask—when we are supported in our opinion by high legal authority, to which, of course, we do not wish you to attach any importance—that you should make some proposal.Mr. Turnbull.
The League has sent back here the same men who were at the other conferences. Perhaps if the same men on your side were here now, we might have reasoned the matter in a more satisfactory manner. But the parties are new on your side, and at the last conference we had fourteen, but now we have only six on either side.Mr. Jamieson.
That cannot be helped.Mr. A. Smith.
I was very loath to come; but I may state for your satisfaction that we could not get the same men. We are, however, just as open to conviction as anybody could be. Mr. Ure, who was to have taken the chair, has taken unwell; Mr. Hamilton was very backward to come, and Mr. Gilchrist, his partner, was appointed to come in his stead; and another gentleman was to be here, but he had to go away from home. But we are just as frank and as ready to listen to you as they would have been, and we don't wish to take any privilege because we have come from the employers' side.Mr. Allison.
With all due respect to our Chairman, he says there is a reasonable doubt as to the interpretation of the pamphlet, but I question that very much. He has not shown any reason why there should have been a misunderstanding. The matter appears very clear to me.Mr. Howden.
I am in the position of not having been present at the former conferences, and I had to take, therefore, the accounts brought back by the representatives sent thither. But I have a very distinct impression of what this arrangement came to, based on the impressions of the reports taken back to us. A perusal of this pamphlet still further confirms me in my impression. Well, what was settled then was that when the 54 hours came into operation, the 57 hours' pay was to be given. The 54 hours was to commence on the 1st of March, and the 51 hours on the 1st of November. The question of wages at the 1st of November was not settled at all: that was my impression, and I attended the meetings of the employers, and heard all that was said. Well, the argument of my workmen was that there was an arrangement come to, and they put this pamphlet into my hands to show me what it was. I turned up the pamphlet, and I saw the remarks that have been referred to already at page 24—that for 54 hours' work they were to have 57 hours' pay, and that for 51 hours they were to have the same pay. If you turn back to page 23, you will find what Mr. Blackmore's idea was. Look at his question: "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?" Well. Mr. Black-more was not delegated to settle the matter of pay; neither were any of the representatives of the masters. But it was to see what was the greatest demand the workmen were going to make that Mr. Blackmore put that question. Very well. Mr. Simpson undertakes to enlighten him. He tells him plainly that for 54 hours' work they were to have 57 hours' pay, and for 51 hours "the same pay as at present." Now, it was never stated that what the men were receiving for 54 hours' work was to be given for 51; and I beg to say that if the representatives had agreed to anything of that kind—had decided what pay I should give to my men eight months afterwards, I would have repudiated such a decision, as they might have committed me to ruin by any such agreement. Since the 1st of March there have been several strikes in our shop, for the purpose of raising the wages, and now they have got up until we are paying 13 or 14 per cent, more wages for 51 hours than we were paying for 57. I beg to say that the contracts that we are now working were taken before this time last year, when we had no conception of such demands being made upon us; and we are now paying 25 per cent, more for labour than when these contracts were made. Our contracts were taken, as I have said, before this page 22 time last year, and here you are saying we are resiling from an agreement made in February, a statement which I most indignantly repudiate. Now, if you workmen understand that we came under such an agreement, why has there been those strikes during the interval, to force up the wages to their present position? I know that for a fortnight we were without a rivetter in our establishment. There was not a man that would look near our shop. Of course we had to yield, because we got no support; and now you come and say that we have failed to implement a bargain come to in February. I beg to say that we have implemented that bargain, and more.Mr. Simpson.
It seems to me as if it were really impossible for you to understand the question as we do it. Would it not be much better for you to quote what Mr. Conner said as well as what I said. Mr. Conner saw clearly that I had made a mistake, and he wishes Mr. Blackmore perfectly to understand the position.
Mr. Howhex Allow me to say, I have underlined Mr. Conner's remark—"Mr. Simpson just says this, you reduce the time from 57 to 51 hours, and you don't reduce the wages." Well, if the wages had been now what they were when the men were working 57 hours, I would say at once, "Yes, we will give the 57 hours' pay for the 51 hours' work," although I don't believe that there was any agreement come to. But I take Mr. Conner's words, and I say I accept them as a bargain. If you say it was a bargain, although I do not think it was, I am ready to abide by it. But you take no notice of the strikes that have been going on since.Mr. Simpson.
Now that Mr. Howden will be bound by the explanation of Mr. Conner, I may refer to the strikes that have taken place. I never knew of them taking place. I know that in our shop there was word came across from the north side of the river to say that there was a number of employers had given an advance of½ per hour; and it required no strike at all, but simply a statement that an advance had been granted elsewhere, and the employers at once gave the½d. without any nonsense at all. I hold that you have no right to blame us for importing the question of wages into this dispute. Mr. Howden says that he is giving more wages than was paid for the 57 hours; and our answer to that is, that the state of trade demands it.Mr. Inglis.
Question; question.Mr. Simpson.
If I am not to be allowed to go on, I will sit down.Mr. Smith.
I think Mr. Simpson should be allowed to proceed without interruption.Mr. Simpson.
I think we are at the question. We have been blamed for striking and banding together to raise the wages. After they got the½d. there was a young man went to Mr. Howden's shop and got another½d. from Mr. Howden, and after having served a fortnight in his shop he removed to Messrs. Tod & McGregor's and got another½d. Were these not legitimate rises of wages? In regard to the remarks made by the Chairman, I am on strike for the first time, and I have got such a lesson, that it will be the last time. But with respect to what the Chairman says about us receiving charity, I wish to enlighten you upon the point. There is not a single man on strike in the city of Glasgow living upon charity, depend upon that. This is a question upon which the whole working men of Scotland are interested. They think that the question of reducing the hours of labour is so important, that they are determined—as a matter of duty, not of charity—to give us their support. I am very happy to be able to inform you that a large number of the men do not require it. I may likewise inform you that a large number of the men have left Glasgow and got situations in other places, and I have no doubt when this question is settled you will find that to be the case. Mr. Howden is very indignant that we should have claimed the same money for the shorter hours; but there was not one of us left this room, or the other room, at the Last conference, without understanding that; because it was the first request we made, and I hold that we never deviated from that in any way except allowing eight months to complete the running contracts. That is the way the workmen look at it. The workmen in your shops look upon it as not only a bargain, but a sacred contract, and this is borne out by the fact that some of yourselves have kept it. You are not to go away with the opinion that the men feel themselves degraded. They felt that since the masters failed to implement the agreement, the only resource left them was to come out until they got the terms the employers had promised them. I hope that this dispute will not last long. Not a single word can be said against the conduct of the men at this time, although I have heard of employers going to works where the men had got employment, and asking the masters to put the men away, so that they might be compelled to live on charity, if you will have it so. I can assure you I would feel myself less than a man if I did anything of that kind.page 23 The Chairman.
I may say, Mr. Simpson, for your edification, that I had two squads of men working out of Glasgow, and they thought that during the strike they might work away; but deputations of men were sent from the League to bring them from their work, and they did so.Mr. Simpson.
I presume those men were sent from your own workmen, and that because it was considered they ought not to work against their own interest, and that if they left their work the dispute would be the sooner settled.Mr. Inglis.
That didn't alter the matter at all.The Chairman.
These men went back and offered to do the work on their own account.Mr. A. Smith.
I don't think we should allow this sort of discussion to go on, because I do not think we have had much intimidation.Mr. Crichton.
We have been dealing with matters that do not come immediately between us and a settlement, more especially that the hours, as proposed by the men, have been acceded to. I would suggest that we should take into consideration whether we cannot agree to the arrangement of the hours as proposed by Mr. Barrowman. But I cannot quite agree with what Mr. Turnbull said, that we should take no notice of the shipbuilding yards. It is not exactly fair to put it that way—that outside workers, who are dependent upon daylight and cannot get artificial light, that they must inevitably settle their hours according to their mode of working. I believe that, for the future, things will in their case be as they have been in the past. We have never been asked to alter their hours.Mr. Inglis.
Do you confine these remarks to ship-yards, or do you allow them to apply to men engaged shipping machinery at the quays?Mr. Crichton.
I am aware that with respect to these classes of workmen, the practice has been very different in the building shops and on the quays, and I do not think that anybody has interfered with it. There are many things that you cannot interfere with.Mr. Inglts.
I will give you an instance. Here was a ship, the Royal Consort, came here from Fleetwood to get her boilers repaired. Our men were working at her, and the owners were very anxious to get her on the station again. The boiler-makers were .at work in her in the harbour when the strike took place; and we had to write to her owners and tell them we could do nothing with her, and that they must look after her. The owners sent an agent over here and superintendent from Fleetwood. They tried to engage men and they got some. They were engaged on Saturday, but they did not come back, and it was all about this half hour in the morning. There the vessel still lies. We would willingly have allowed them to commence work when they liked, and given them a rise besides to get the job done, but the men would not allow them. Is not that a very hard case.Mr. Crichton.
This is a thing that has occurred incidentally to the dispute which has arisen with the men in your employment. In the engineering department, the men, not having their wants acceded to by their employers, have stopped work, and, as a very natural result, they would ask their fellow-workmen to do the same.Mr Allison.
It is not an invariable rule that outside men work different hours from others. I have worked from 6 in the morning till 6 at night in ships at new work a number of years ago. I think the working hours should be stated.Mr. Jamieson.
I think we are quite agreed about the hours; there is no difficulty about them. Our proposition was intended as an arrangement that would have been beneficial to both parties; and it would have been wise in the League to have left each employer to have settled with his men the hours that would have best suited them. What we wanted, I think, was that we should agree to make an arrangement satisfactory to our workmen generally in each place. We thought all the employers would be agreed upon that point, and then would come the question of wages. I think we were agreed that the question of hours should be arranged by each employer among his own men, so as to suit their purposes, because really it must come to that. We may have to work long or short hours, and if we have to discharge a large body of men, surely it is much better to work short hours than to put away a large number. If you think, Mr. Chairman, that the league would be satisfied with this arrangement, I am perfectly certain that it would be successful, and I for one would pledge my firm to mutually arrange the hours, or alter them as my workman and myself would think best. There is now the question about the three times three. I know that a number of men who have families would find the proposed arrangement very inconvenient, as most of the members of their page 24 families come to dinner between 2 and 3, which has always been the dinner hour in the factories. I would not like, without very grave consideration, to alter that hour. The proposed hour may effect a better division of the day, or it may not. You can easily see that where there are young people in a family it would be an awkward thing to have some coming for dinner at one hour and others coming at another. Now, we come to the wages question.Mr. Simpson.
I would just say this in regard to the proposal to leave the hour question to the shops. You know what your men want; then why not make a settlement at once? The men have stated plainly enough that they wish to commence work at 6 o'clock and leave off at 5, and there seems no difficulty about that. We have commenced our work at 6 in the morning for a long, long time, and it has never been discovered until this strike took place that it was a bad thing for our health.Mr. Jamieson.
It has never been stated that it was bad for the health.Mr. Inglis.
It is not correct that the men invariably get up at 6 o'clock. It was always 7 o'clock in the winter.Mr. Simpson.
Since I began my trade it has been 6 o'clock; and you know the old adage about going early to bed and getting up early. I think it is a true one, and it gives the men more time at night.Mr. Inglis.
The men could get up to their book in the morning. They read the Bible now half an hour before they come to work. That is the new arrangement. (Laughter.)Mr. Simpson.
I cannot follow you to the Bible now.The Chairman.
It is quite clear that on the question of hours there is not a great deal of difference of opinion. The hours of labour and the question of wages are the two points at issue. I have asked you already if you have anything to propose that would be Iikely to conduce to a settlement. I know very well that, although we are all patriots and honourable men, going about without work is not the best thing. There are a great number of good men going about idle whom I should like to see at work; and it is to put an end to this, and for the sake of our men, ourselves, and the industry of the country, that I am anxious to see this dispute settled.Mr. Barrowman.
I proposed a motion that, seeing you See no difficulty in starting work at 6 o'clock in the morning, stopping to breakfast at 9, coming back to work at 10, going to dinner at 1, returning at 2, and closing at 5 o'clock, you should agree to that. As the delegates on your side of the house had expressed an opinion that there is little difficulty in that, I thought it was a proper motion to make; and now I see it is all the more proper since I have heard the remarks of several additional speakers, because it seems this is a pertinent question. It has been spoken of as a vital question, though I do not think it is so very vital. I would willingly agree, so far as I am personally concerned, that each shop should settle its own mode of working the hours. But, then, the workmen are dissatisfied with the hours as announced by their employers. I was objected to as having used words not very courteous; I hope the meaning they intended was more mild than the words themselves. I wish this motion particularly placed before the conference, because, as I have said, the men in your shops put forward this as a vital question. Would it not be far better, seeing there is not any very great difficulty in the way, to come to a resolution to work the 51 hours on the principle desired by the workmen. It has been this point that the dispute has arisen upon, and it would be better, I think, that you should adopt this principle of working the hours. I know that in many shops where there is outside work it is necessary to make a special arrangement; and I have wrought with Mr. Inglis in that way many years ago. Circumstances alter conditions when men are working outside.The Chairman.
There is no use in making a motion, because we are at a conference, and motions are not made at conferences.Mr. Barrowman.
At an earlier part of the conference I drew attention to the fact that our former engagement was so loose; and a motion appeared to me the best way to avoid a repetition of that.The Chairman.
Then, will you give us your opinion on the other point? The employers consider that they carry out their agreement in seeing that there is no man in their employment that has less wages for the 51 hours than when working 57 hours per week.Mr. Barrowman.
I can see this difference between us, that some gentlemen on your side have stated that they must fall back upon the rate of wages that existed in February. Now, I say that is quite foreign to the question in dispute, and it is departing from the meaning of this pamphlet—the meaning of the engagement entered into between the em- page 25 ployers and their workmen in February last. We think that we have done our duty in ignoring the question of wages, and that the wages rising or falling by no means alters the question. It is simply this, that if some men have improved in their skill to such an extent as to enhance their value to their employers, who have given them Is. or so per week of an advance, if you do not pay them for the three hours, you are ignoring their additional quality of work by putting them back to the old wages.The Chairman.
You misunderstand the question. The employers affirm that they must pay the same wages for the 51 hours now which was paid for the 57 in February, and that those men who have got their wages advanced in the interim should not be affected by that arrangement. But all those men who have not the same wages as they had in February—that is, for the 51 hours as for the 57—must have their wages advanced.Mr. Allison.
I understand you to mean that the wages shall be the same now as they were in February. I most certainly understood that the wages were to be the same in March for the 54 hours as they were in February for the 57, and that they were to be the same in November for the 51 hours as they were in October for the 54.Mr. Jamieson.
Is that in the pamphlet?Mr. Allison.
There is nothing about rates of wages there.Mr. Howden.
I beg to say that, if there was any agreement, it was this—that we pay the same wages now for 51 hours as we paid in February for 57. But, if there was no engagement, then there has been no breaking of faith, and such a charge is irrelevant from the purpose. If there was an engagement, it must mean that the wages on the 1st of March and on the 1st of November be equal.Mr. Turnbull.
Mr. Howden states that he does not wish to lower the wages; but, if a man has got 3s. advance, and he merely keeps off the wages as rated by the hour for the three hours, he is not making the wages of that man the same as they were in March.Mr. Howden.
No; that would be reducing the wages.The Chairman.
I was going to propose that, seeing it is allowed there is just ground for a difference of opinion, the employers should agree to give up their arrangement of the hours of labour, and that the delegates from the workmen's side should agree to accept that condition; and that all those men who have not now the same wages for 51 as they had for 57 hours should have it made up to them.Mr. Simpson.
I fully concur in the proposal of the Chairman with respect to the hours—Mr. Jamieson.
The question between us hitherto has had reference only to the time of commencing and leaving off work. I do not think we should differ about the dinner hour being at 2 o'clock.Mr. Simpson.
It is distinctly understood by the workmen that having the dinner hour between I and 2 o'clock is part of the arrangement they are contending for.Mr. Inglis.
We never heard of it before.Mr. Simpson.
I admit you were never told at the conference what time the hours were to be arranged. My understanding, as well as that of all the men I have consulted as to the meaning of this pamphlet, is simply this—that we were to have a reduction of our hours from 57 to 51, with no reduction in our pay. But we gave the employers eight months' time to finish contracts; and, when that time has expired, they attempt to do us out of 3 hours' wages, so that the workmen most distinctly think the bargain has been broken.Mr. Jamieson.
Why do you say you have allowed time to finish the contracts, when you know there are contracts still unfinished that were taken before this time last year? It would be a very unfortunate thing if this dispute is going to end in bringing your employers into a compulsory solution of it. All those disputes would be far better ended in a friendly spirit. We differ in opinion upon two points, and the employers believe they have equally as good a right to receive credit for their opinions as to give you credit for yours. I do not say you are not now holding the same opinion as you held from the first; neither can you accuse me of my opinion not being equally as well founded as yours; but when you drove us into a corner, and, as it were, compelled us to grant the 51 hours, I told you it was not to be regarded as a permanent thing. Any one who goes through the shops of Glasgow can see that my words were prophetic when I said that you would drive away the work. I can show you a letter from one of the oldest and largest steam-ship companies in the world, which says that the Clyde prices are now so excessively high that they have to send their ships elsewhere. I should like to see this question amicably settled; and if we can't settle it amicably ourselves, I think page 26 the best way would be to put the whole case into the hands of some competent party in whom we shall both have confidence, and let us both be bound by the opinion that this party gives. If this were done, I would let the men arrange their meal hours as they like.Mr. Simpson.
We have no power to rule the rising or falling of the wages. Well, now, just you give us in November the terms that we want and that were agreed upon. If trade will be bad in a month, what is to hinder you to alter the rates?The Chairman.
But, then, Mr. Simpson, you wish to fix the condition of things altogether apart from wages.Mr. Simpson.
I am sorry the same gentlemen are not here now from your side as at the previous conferences, because the delegates of the men appointed the same persons to represent them as formerly, seeing they understood all about the former arrangement. The position we took up then was, that we would be able to make up for any loss that might ensue from the reduction of our hours of labour. But, it is my opinion that no loss has accrued to the employers from the reduction of the hours from 57 to 54, and also that none will result from their reduction from 54 to 51. I will give you further high authority for it. I will give you the opinion of a large employer of labour, Mr. Baxter, the member for Montrose, and secretary to the Admiralty, who recently expressed his conviction that it was profitable both to employers and workmen to reduce the hours of labour, and that we had not yet reached the limit of remuneration. I think that although you may not give much credit to my opinion, yet that, as a large employer of labour, Mr. Baxter's opinion is entitled to some little consideration on your part.Mr. Turnbull.
It is a well known fact that you have all noticed every article that has come from the League in the papers. In the middle of October there was a League meeting held, which was reported in the papers, at which they recommended the three times three. It was advertised in all the papers, not as an order, but as a recommendation to the shops; so that the employers must have seen that notice. After that followed the posting up of the notices in the shops by the employers.Mr. Jamieson.
You will surely give me credit for speaking the truth.Mr. Turnbull.
Yes; certainly.Mr. Jamieson.
I repeat that the first time I heard of the three times three was since I entered this room.Mr. Turnbull.
There is one other point. Mr. Jamieson says that the employers think it would be against the men's own interest to take dinner between I and 2 o'clock, and that the hours would be different in the factories and other places; so that it would not suit their families. It is a well known fact that the masons and joiners have families as well as the engineers—(laughter)—and the majority of them go at 1 o'clock.Mr. Inglis.
It may be so in some places; but I do not think the majority of the joiners go at 1 o'clock.Mr Turnbull.
The joiners all do it.Mr. Inglis.
Not in our shop.Mr. A. Smith.
The masons eat their dinner at their work. They don't usually go home.Mr. Simpson.
Are Mr. Inglis's joiners working 51 hours?Mr. Inglis.
No; they work 54.Mr. Simpson.
That makes a difference.Mr. Turnbull.
It is a well known fact that the families of the factory workers do not all go home for their meals; and I do not sec that it should be an objection to giving us the three times three. I do not think that it will be against the employers interest, but rather in favour of it, as well as to the interest of the workmen. I may say that the main objection of the workmen to have the dinner hour between 2 and 3 is that they are of opinion that it is meant as a way of putting them back again to 6 o'clock at night, whenever there is any opportunity. That is one of their very greatest reasons for seeking it.Mr. Jamieson.
There was one of you said he would like to know, at the last conference, at some future time, how the working of the 54 hours affected us. I am not very certain which of you it was. (A voice—"It was Watson; he is not hero to-day.") I thought I missed his face. I came prepared to give him information on that point in regard to one piece of work. I find that under the 57 hours this piece of work cost us £816, and the same thing cost us under the 54 hours' system £1,020. It was work identically the same, and, as far as I know, done by as good men, although I would not be prepared to say by the same men. I had a good superintendence and a good arrangement for page 27 getting the work done well. The question was put so pointedly, and the opportunity for answering it was so fair, that I watched it with a very peculiar attention all along, and these are the facts of the case. Now, if any person who knows about trade will consider that the profits will cover expenses like these, then I leave the question. As for myself, I am of opinion that it would shut up every establishment on the Clyde in a year. I am only bringing that before you.Mr. Simpson.
Does Mr. Jamieson attribute the difference between £816 and £1,020 to the results of the shortening of the hours of labour alone, or the increase in the price of material as well?Mr. Jamieson.
This difference consists entirely of the wages paid for the work. The increase of material is as much in some things.Mr. Simpson.
Am I to understand that you did this work for the same money as the farmer?Mr. Jamieson.
The contract was one of a large number taken at the same time.Mr. A. Smith.
I think we might come to a settlement, provided the dinner hour were left an open question, whether the men went to dinner at 1 or 2 o'clock. For myself, I would not care a snuff about it.The Chairman.
Let us get a settlement of the whole matter, Mr. Smith.Mr. Inglis.
It will not work in every place. There should be an explanation of the circumstances of each case, because all the men will not do it.Mr. Turnbull.
Perhaps you are in the hope of deferring this question, and prolonging it until you have an opportunity of settling it by arbitration. I can tell you that the men are not prepared for that, and will not go into it.The Chairman.
No, no; I am not deferring it in that hope; but as I have said all along, I have so many good hands that I have sympathy for them.Mr. Simpson.
Seeing the hours are arranged, I may say the men are firm and decided in this point that you should give us the same pay in November as in October. They can't see that they are wrong. If trade gets bad you can reduce the wages, and why not grant what the men want now? I have already told you that we have no power to regulate the wages, and we have never combined to keep them above their proper level, and when trade has been bad we have allowed them to fall. I would leave this to your consideration, that you would allow the men their way thus far; because you cannot make them believe any other thing than that you have agreed to give them it in this way.Mr. Inglis.
Mr. Simpson has asked rather much. I quite agree that they should get the same wages as in the month of March; but I would make this exception, that in the case of all those who have combined to raise their wages above the natural level—which can be proved to have been done—and have also said they had nothing to do with the League, I think those should be excluded. I would exclude all those who have struck work and repudiated any engagement, because, in their case, it is not merely paying the same wages, but it is advancing the wages per hour. But in the ease of all those who have not got the same wages now as they had in the month of March, they should now have it made up to them. Even if they have got a shilling or two of advance, if they have not struck, I would not make any difference; but you have no right to take anything to do with parties who are not in your League, or were not in it at the time of the agreement.Mr Allison.
I am glad to think that we are likely to come to a settlement. Mr. Inglis says he would give it to some. Now, I feel the difficulty of saying how far any man is or is not entitled to it for having struck work.Mr. Inglis.
They know themselves.
Mr. Allison. There has been no strike of any combination, so far as I know, except, may be, the ships' smiths.Mr. Inglis.
Also hammermen and rivetters.Mr. Allison.
I don't know to whom you would giant the exception.The Chairman.
T think the only proposal that can be made to you to-day is, that the employers are willing to give way upon the hour question, seeing that on that question the workmen have some peculiar jealous feeling. On the other hand, the employers are as decided as you can be to the contrary, that there can be no other conclusion drawn from this document (the report of the conferences), than that which the employers have drawn. You who were at the conferences, and being interested by personal motives, may have some moral feeling contrary to that, but you have failed to express it; so that if we are to arrive at any decision, the only conclusion that can be drawn from the present position of affairs is that which I have laid before you. I propose, then, that the hours page 28 of work be what you wish them, and that all those workmen who have not the same wages now for 51 hours as they had in February for 57, should have their wages advanced to that point. That, I think, is the just conclusion, and the only fair one. I am very sorry to hear Mr. Simpson say in as many words that it was the duty of the employers to yield on every point. I think we should have something to do with the settlement of this matter.Mr. Allison.
I am very sorry you should impute personal motives. I must say it is scarcely fair to impute personal motives to our side, when we impute none to yours.Mr. Turnbull.
I would ask you gentlemen present how many hands you have in your shops who are getting less wages now than in the month of February, because there are a great number of men who have changed shops since that time. I myself am now working for 2s. per week less wages than I had in February, and I am in another shop. Now, if the thing were settled as you propose, my employer would have to give me 2s. of a rise.Mr. Inlgis.
Why not; he can either give it you, or dismiss you.Mr. Turnbull.
But I was not in his shop in February at all, and the employers could only judge of men they had in their employment at the time.Mr. A. Smith.
One word. You know the sort of hardship in regard to our case is just something like this. Our men said they must have the same rate of wages as those of Messrs. Mirrlees, Tait, & Watson, and we paid them that rate. Then they were paid higher than the other shops, and they feel it a hardship to be reduced so much. If they had gone on as Messrs. Mirrlees, Tait, & Watson's men did, there would have been no hardship at all. If there had not been a deputation in the meantime, and the wages forced up, I confess I believe that this question would not have arisen now.Mr. Simpson.
Did the deputation of men that waited upon you refer you to Messrs. Mirrlees, Tait, and Watson, and did not you say that you were paying higher wages than they, but that they would get the 51 hours without a diminution of pay.Mr. A. Smith.
I said that we were paying the same rate per hour now for the 51 hours as for the 54. They had begun to work the 51 hours, and I said we would pay the same rate per hour. A gentleman apart from our works altogether, without my knowledge, drew a comparison of the rates in all the shops on that side of the river, and he came and told me that we were paying fully above the average. They were working 51 hours then with that pay.Mr. Simpson.
I was informed that you told your men that they would receive the same pay in November as they were getting in October.Mr. A. Smith.
No; if that had been so, they never would have been out.Mr. Jamieson.
As I understand it, the position is this. Seeing we are willing, as the Chairman has said, to concede the hours, which the men look upon as important, and seeing there is a dispute as to the wages, and that there are some shops paying as high a rate of wages as formerly for 51 hours, I think you should allow the wages to settle themselves, if you don't like to let it go to arbitration. I do not think you should force a compulsory arrangement.Mr. Crichton.
i understood from Mr. Jamieson that the hours were a settled question. I think that very encouraging as far as we have gone.The Chairman.
He assumes this as only a part of the settlement of the question. The whole thing must be settled at one time. We are here for that.Mr. Crichton.
From the tenor of the expressions of opinion I have heard from the men, they are not willing to lose three hours. That would be throwing them back to a worse position than they were in February.Mr. Allison.
That conforms with my own personal knowledge. These are our instructions that the men will not agree to a reduction of the wages.The Chairman.
We are not reducing the wages.Mr. Simpson.
If you do as you propose, there will be three hours' less wages.The Chairman.
There is not three hours' reduction.Mr. Simpson.
There are three hours' reduction from the agreement that they held was settled.Mr. Inglis.
No, no.Mr. Jamieson.
The simplest plan to my mind, as well as to every properly balanced mind, would be, what we are perfectly willing to do, to leave the reading of the pamphlet to some neutral party. If I disagree with Mr. Inglis, we don't quarrel and tight and run out into the street. I don't lock my gate against his carriage, but we choose a mutual friend to settle the difference between us.page 29 Mr. Simpson.
I will show you the way the working men look upon this question. One of you gentlemen have a contract for £80,000 or £100,000, if you please. You get paid some of the money at a certain date to account, and when the vessel is ready for sailing you expect the rest of your money. But the other contracting party refuses to fulfil their share of the contract, and say they will call in an arbiter to say whether they will pay their just debt or not.Mr. Jamieson.
That is just what is done; and every contract we arrange provides for arbitration, so that your example is entirely against you.Mr. Simpson.
You sign a contract for a vessel for £100,000, and are to get £50,000 when it is going on, and £50,000 when it is finished. If the party came and said, I will only give you £80,000, would you call in an arbiter to hold him to the payment of his just debt, or would you not rather be inclined to recover it in a court of law? Now, that is something like the case of the workmen. They paid eight months to do away with arbitration, and you talk of arbitration again after they have given all this time to do away with it! Do you think the thousands of men who are walking the streets of Glasgow cannot read the English language as well as anybody else?Mr. Inglis.
Then I suppose one side only is to judge?The Chairman.
You speak rather strongly, Mr. Simpson.Mr. Simpson.
I admit that I speak strongly.The Chairman.
If you agree to submit the question to any neutral man, we will be bound by his judgment.Mr. Simpson.
The men refuse to do this.Mr. Howden.
If they refuse to do so, then their case must be a bad one.Mr. Simpson.
No; we have paid eight months.Mr. Inglis.
What have you paid?Mr. Simpson.
We gave eight months at 54 hours.Mr. Jamieson.
Submit the dispute to two or three gentlemen, if you are not satisfied with one.Mr. Simpson.
All the men are against it.Mr. Barrowman.
We are here and you are there. I am sure you will not give up your position in society to any man who knows nothing about the subject. You are as capable of judging of the question as any other man you can call in, so that the only question can be that it is a toss-up between us, and we are referring it to another man as they do with a master. (No, no.) I am explaining what the question of arbitration would be, settled in this way.Mr. Jamieson.
You are perfectly well aware that all the disputes in the trade in the north of England are just now settled by arbitration—that everything there is put before arbiters. Now, we have offered to give your own hours; and, if we cannot join hand in hand as to the wages, if you won't have arbitration, then give us some other suggestion, beyond saying, We must have our pound of flesh now, because we know we can take it. That is tantamount to what you are saying. Let us have some proposition from you that we can consider beyond the point of saying that we won't settle it unless it is all our own way.Mr. Barrowman.
I was just going to say that arbitration, instead of settling the dispute satisfactorily, would have aggravated it. In the North of England, and various other places, where disputes are settled by arbitration, there are courts of arbitration where these disputes are adjudicated upon. But, then, we have not agreed that this dispute shall be settled in that way; and I hold that, if you take the question from before us, you insult each man here present by saying in as many words that we lack the faculty of deciding it. We are at that stage of the proceedings that the question must either be settled, or there must be a toss-up between us. Now, the working men are not willing to toss-up upon the subject. They think that they are aggrieved; that the contract, as understood by them, was quite clear; that they have filled up their part of the contract; and that certain employers have failed to fill up theirs.The Chairman.
We don't know what you mean by a toss-up.Mr. Howden.
I have to remark that the employers on their side have fulfilled their engagement, if you say there was an engagement, as you seem to hold. Now, if we are equally decided on that point, as you are in your opinion, how can we settle the matter if each side has come to a conclusion already, except by arbitration?Mr. Inglts.
I may be allowed to remark that the men proposed arbitration at last conference, and it fell through.Mr. Simpson.
I believe it was I who suggested arbitration; but the men would not page 30 submit to it themselves. They accepted the 1st of November rather than arbitration; and, when the 1st of November conies, the men think it is rather too much to refer them again to arbitration.Mr. A. Smith.
i think it is a very great pity that we did not come to arbitration last time, because, had an arbiter been brought in, he would have settled the dispute. Had he been called in, the arrangement would have been clearly put down, and there would have been no difficulty about running through the pamphlet to find out the feeling that then existed. It would be far better if that could be done now, because there would be referred to the arbiter any dispute that might arise between a master and workmen. For my own part, I have the feeling that I carried out most fully all the arrangements that are in this pamphlet to the fullest extent; and I think that, when the delegates came here, they should have come open to make an arrangement. We came to make an arrangement—a sensible arrangement—to make the best arrangement we could; and I think that the whole question in dispute is urged upon us to give up all to you. I say distinctly that it is asking too much; and I consider that the delegates coming from the working men should have had some power to arrange the matter amicably, without insisting on getting it all their own way.Mr. Allison.
I came here to make an arrangement, and so far from having asked too much, I am persuaded that we are asking too little. Had we got a settlement of the whole six hours in March, there would have been no misunderstanding whether we should have got the pay. I am persuaded that those employers who have given in have really understood the agreement as the men did, and have honestly implemented the bargain, such as we understood it; and no amount of reasoning can turn us from that opinion.Mr. Inglis.
If that is to be the way I must go.Mr. Jamieson.
Is there no alternative proposition; is there nothing from the workmen but this—Here is our programme, and unless you (the employers) agree to it there is an end of the matter. You will give us no alternative; it is a throwing down of the gauntlet, which I should not like to see the working men of Glasgow ever doing.Mr. Turnbull.
According to my reading of the pamphlet, the money we were getting on the 31st of October we were to get on the 1st of November. That is also the men's understanding of the pamphlet.Mr. Jamieson.
I can see better than you the damage that this agitation has done and is likely to do; but I do not want to press that matter at the present moment. In the same spirit as the Chairman has said, I know that a great number of good and valuable men would be glad to come back at any terms into our works; but I want to see whether the whole body could not be got back without withdrawing more than the employers have done—that is to say, we have both been in error, and let us split the difference. We say we will give you the time; but here you will not move a single inch towards us. You mean to say that it is the employed at the present time that have the power, and you will drive us into a corner, and make us grant anything you demand. That is the real position you have taken. I would like you would propose something if you have the power.Mr. Turnbull.
We have no power to propose anything but the agreement.Mr. Jamieson.
Well, now, can you not go back to your constituents and ask further powers. I don't mean to say that our reading of the pamphlet is the correct one; but give us credit when we say we believe it is, as we believe your statement of the fact that you think it otherwise. Go back and say there is a misunderstanding about this pamphlet. Say, These gentlemen are perfectly willing to refer it to one, two, or three neutral individuals, and have an umpire, and they will settle the matter at once. If we are right, let it be ruled so; and if we are wrong, we are perfectly willing to give in.Mr. Simpson.
You have already referred it to an eminent gentlemen.Mr. Jamieson.
We have only given you that opinion in a friendly way. We wished to know whether we were right or wrong. We may be wrong, but it shows that a legal gentleman of high standing agrees with us.Mr. Simpson.
There is another eminent legal gentleman—Henry Glassford Bell—an orator, a poet of no mean power, has seen this pamphlet. You will recollect that you were invited to a soiree, but none of you had time to attend it. Sheriff Bell presided at that soiree, and if you read the Herald, and Mail, and Scotsman, you will find the expression of Mr. Bell's opinion upon it. You may also recollect that Mr. Ure suggested him as arbiter at the time of the conferences.Mr. Howden.
I would like to see his opinion.page 31 The Chairman.
Now, would you have any objection to submit the case to Sheriff Bell.Mr. Simpson.
The men say it is a moral agreement, not a legal one. They say the employers have broken this agreement, and they will not listen to the proposal for arbitration.The Chairman.
Then I suppose the thing is at a close.Mr. Jamieson.
I am very sorry that we should go away without making some arrangement.Mr. A. Smith.
Would it not be better for the delegates to say to their constituents at the meeting to-night that we have come to an arrangement upon one of the points.The Chairman.
We have come to no decision upon that point yet.Mr. A. Smith.
We would come to an agreement upon it, if the workmen were prepared to make any concession, or refer the matter to any one. I know that the mind of the employers was to pay all the advance on wages, from the 1st of November, if it were ruled by an arbiter that they should do so.Mr. Turnbull.
We have a meeting to-night with our constituents, at which the whole matter will be laid before them by the shorthand notes being read.Mr. A. Smith.
We will call a meeting of the Association, and hear their opinion on referring it to Sheriff Bell, if you decide to do so; but I would rather have it referred to a man acquainted with business. If you can refer it to any man, or make any proposition to the meeting, I think we might soon settle it. I think it is a great pity that so many men should have discussed this question and not have arrived at some conclusion. I think that if you had come here with any disposition to settle the point it would have been settled. Suppose you agree to refer it to an arbiter, the wages will be paid according to his decision, whatever it is.Mr. Jamieson.
That is a very good suggestion. I think it is a pity the men went out at all, because the thing should have been argued from the first before an arbiter, and whatever decision he gave it would have been given effect to, and there would have been no loss to either one party or the other. If there were an arbiter properly chosen, the men can return to their work and be guided by his decision; and if it be in their favour, they will receive the same wages from the commencement.Mr. A. Smith.
There are some of the employers that would be prepared to go back to the first of November, and fulfil any decision that the arbiter may come to.Mr. Jamieson.
But there were also some of them so indignant that they were against us coming here at all.
This ended the Conference.
page 32Engineers' Committee Rooms, 182 Trongate, Glasgow, 20th November, 1872. J. P. Smith, Esq., Secretary to the Clyde Shipbuilders and Engineers' Association, 67 Renfield Street, Glasgow.
Sir,—I am instructed to inform you that the unanimous decision of the workmen connected with the shops on strike in reference to the proposal of arbitration is that, in the circumstances, arbitration is uncalled for, there being, in their opinion, no reasonable grounds for the alleged misunderstanding, coupled with the fact that the majority of the employers have conceded the terms for which they (the men on strike) were contending. They therefore decline to accept the proposal.—I remain, yours truly,
Thos. R. Elrick, Secretary, West of Scotland Iron Trades' Short-Time League.
Clyde Engineers and Shipbuilders' Association 67 Renfield Street, Glasgow 27th Nov., 1872. Mr. Thomas R. Elrick, Secretary of the West of Scotland Iron Trades' Short-Time League.
Sir,—At an adjourned meeting of the members of the Clyde Shipbuilders and Engineers' Association, held to-day, respecting your letter of the 15th inst., refusing their offer to submit the question in dispute between the employers and the employed to arbitration, I was instructed to state that they regret this refusal; but, having a regard to the considerable amount of work still to be completed, and their anxiety to keep faith with their employers, they have agreed to yield to the workmen's present demand.—Yours truly,
Pro J. P. Smith, Secretary. C.B.F.