March 13 th 1885.
The Denaby Dispute
A meeting of Denaby Main miners was held on Tuesday morning, at the lodge -room, Mason´s Arms, Mexborough. The previous resolutions were confirmed, and the report of the deputation appointed to attend the Rotherham conference was received and approved.
A discussion arose concerning the advisability of allowing the non-unionists a small sum of money each, but a motion to that effect was negatived.
Several men stated that they had been warned to leave Denaby Main on the account of the share alleged to have been taken by them in a disturbance near the pit, but they said they had refused to go as they were not guilty of any offence.
After some minor business the Doxology was sung, and the meeting terminated.
An Attempt At Settlement
An interview between a deputation of the Denaby Main miners and Mr. Buckingham Pope, the managing director, with whom was Mr. Chambers the colliery manager, took place on Wednesday, at the offices of the company.
Mr. Chappell introduced the deputation by saying that the men wished to express their satisfaction at meeting Mr. Pope, being the first time in their connection with the mine that the colliers had had the pleasure of his presence.
Mr. Pope said he was equally pleased to see the men. He then desired to know what Mr. Chappell had to say on behalf of the employees.
Mr. Chappell said he, along with the deputation, first of all wished to impress upon Mr. Pope that if the men could return to work on the same terms paid before they left the pit, they were positive they could give satisfaction.
Mr. Pope immediately replied that that could not be ; that whatever terms might be arranged as a basis on which work might be resumed, the coal would have to be separated. He then proceeded to dwell upon certain statements which had been publicly made during the lock-out, and said that perhaps one of the most significant points was the ignorance which people displayed on the question of competition. He remarked that it was not a question of competing with people who owned collieries in the immediate locality, but it was a question of being able to compete with people all over the world.
He instanced the case of a railway contract in Sweden, in which it was compulsory to lower the prices, otherwise, instead of the contract being secured, it must have gone into South Wales, a district over which everyone must admit they as owners had no control. Personally he had observed for some time that prices were going down, and had for some time believed that it must inevitably come to pass, in spite of all that could be done.
Even if the men and masters unitedly tried their utmost to keep up the prices and wages it was utterly impossible to do so. The coal-owners had no more influence on the trade and trade prices than the corn-grower, the miller, and the grocer had on the prices of flour, tea, and sugar. Trade would have it´s own way ; it would enforce it´s own rules in spite of all the combinations that could be brought to bear against it.
The deputation, in reply to that, said they were afraid that there was what might be called unnecessary competition ; but, on the whole, they were perhaps prepared to adopt the sentiments of Mr. Pope himself respecting what influence combined effort could have on prices in general.
A general discussion then followed on the question relating to the dispute.
Mr. Chappell said the men were prepared to do their work according to rule 30, which gave the manager full power to order in what particular way the undermining of the coal should be done. If such was agreed to they could not see why the very best possible results might not follow. The men would also undertake to fill all the small coal – made in the process of undermining – by itself, and the rest they would fill to the manager´s satisfaction by keeping it separate.
Mr. Pope replied that it was no use discussing that point, inasmuch as it had been decided to have the coal separated in the way which had been described, viz., to have it hand picked.
The deputation pointed out in what various ways this plan could materially affect the wages of the men ; there was no question that a very serious reduction in wages would result. They acknowledged that the earnings had been moderately good, but not by any means too much, considering the disadvantages surrounding the collier´s life.
Mr. Pope admitted that there would be a reduction, but thought this would be compensated for by a larger percentage of round coal being made than formerly.
Mr. Chappell explained that this was not probable, comparing the proposed plan with that in vogue when the pit stopped. But he thought there was another way out of the difficulty, if the company would adopt the arrangement.
Notwithstanding that riddles were a thing that people did not like in pits, the men were prepared to take the riddles with the usual 2d. per ton, which would only raise the round coal – which in the aggregate would amount to about 80% – to 1s. 5d. per ton, and the other 20%, which went through the riddles at the district rate, whatever that rate might be, in which case there would only be a slight difference in the general cost of production.
Mr. Pope and Mr. Chambers retired to consider this, and, on returning the former said this could not be done, as it would increase the cost by about £50 per week.
Mr. Chappell then asked the deputation if they were willing to revive the first proposition which had been submitted to Mr. Pope through Mr. Chambers, viz., that 1s. 6 ½d. for the round coal and 10 ½d. for small, or 1s. 6d. for the round and 1s. for the small. To this the deputation would not assent, saying that it would not pay.. They however, expressed readiness to have the matter settled by an independent party, and that, whatever the result might be the men would abide by it.
To this Mr. Pope demurred, saying it did not matter what price was fixed, unless it was a price on which they could go on.
Mr. Chappell expressed the opinion that if any colliery in the district was able to proceed it was that at Denaby Main, where there was the largest output of any one colliery, in addition to other mining advantages
The deputation then intimated that, as it seemed they could make no progress towards a settlement, they might as well retire. They could not possibly see their way to adopt the propositions made by Mr. Pope.
Mr. Pope hereupon said if the men were not satisfied they must go somewhere else, and that they must get out of the houses, adding that the company were determined to put the law into force, and to eject them if they did not leave without this being done.
Furthermore, Mr. Pope remarked that even if the pit had to stand six months the company did not intend to yield.
Mr. Chappell expressed regret that the result of the interview was not more satisfactory, at the same time saying he thought the men had shown every dis – position to adopt any reasonable proposition.
The deputation then withdrew.
After the ordinary meeting of miners held yesterday morning at the Mason´s Arms Inn, Mexborough, the men paraded the streets, headed by a `tin whistle´ band playing, ” Wait till the clods roll by,” and other lively airs. There was a very large muster, and some amusement was caused,