Dispute Week 2 – Employers View – Colliery Guardian

9 January 1885

The Employers View Of The Question.

From the Colliery Guardian of December 26th 1884. :-

” The old tale again : A refusal by colliers to accept the inevitable, a strike, much suffering and loss, attacks upon men who had resumed work, and then giving way all along the line.

That is what happened at the Barrow Colliery, near Barnsley. The strike of the colliers there lasting for three months, came to an end on Friday last, when the men´s deputation met the directors at Sheffield, and agreed to return to work at the masters´ terms – – – – – – What has here taken place ought to be a warning to the much greater number of colliers who the day before received notice at the Denaby Main Colliery.

Here the demand has lately been so slow that stacking has had to be resorted to till now, there perhaps being 30,000 tons of coal upon the pit-bank.

The Denaby Main Colliery is considered as the leading mine in South Yorkshire, and the hands number 2,300. The notice which has been given to them is not understood to effect a severance of connection between employer and employed, but rather to lead to the acceptance by the employed of a wages rate which will justify the employers carrying on the pit.

The proposed new method of assessing remuneration is far more equitable than that which it is intended shall be abandoned. We have always held that to pay colliers a uniform rate for coal and slack has worked to the serious disadvantage of the colliery proprietors, and by no means to the moral advantage of the collier.

The temptation under which by that system he is placed to rip out quantity with insufficient regard to quality he has seldom been able to resist, and the employer has sustained a loss. It is understood that the new plan for the Denaby Main Colliery will remedy this. Instead of the uniform rate of 1s. 4 ½ d. per ton of coal and slack, the prices are to be 1s. 6d. per ton for coal, and 8d. per ton for slack. No system which does not make remuneration for work done run parallel with an inducement to economise materials, and so contribute to the augmentation of the wages fund, is a good one. Nay it is a bad one.

And as the new system at the Denaby Main Colliery aims at attaining the former result we welcome it, and hope that the men will see it to their own interest, as it undoubtedly is, to accept, when the notice runs out, the terms upon which they will be enabled to resume profitable labour.

The terms upon which it has been alone possible to effect sales in many of the collieries during the year so fast running out, have, in the majority of cases, left the workmen altogether with the best of the bargain. It is high time that this were understood by the men in a practical way.

However small have been the profits, or however considerable, as in either case, have been the losses, the men have received their wages ; and such has been the determination of the employers to do their best to find them work, that the total shipment for the first eleven months of the year show an exportation of a little short of twenty-one million, six hundred and eighty thousand tons.

Even where reduction of wages have been submitted to they have not been at all in the proportion the reduction which the colliery proprietors have had to accept to secure the business which has provided the men with the work for which they have been paid.

Colliery owners therefore, in the position of the proprietors of Denaby Main Colliery, have abundant grounds for requiring that their workpeople should share with them in the attempt to make both ends meet.

Resistance to reasonable and fair terms would repeat, upon a greatly enlarged scale, the mischief wrought by the unwise section of the Barrow Colliery men. From that let us hope that South Yorkshire will be spared.