Meeting Of Denaby Main Miners – Sliding Scale (2)

March 1881

March 25th 1881.

Meeting Of Denaby Main Miners.

On Friday evening, a meeting of the miners employed at the Denaby Main Colliery was called at the MasonĀ“s Arms, Mexborough, to again take into consideration the adoption of a sliding-scale similar to that in operation at Manvers Main Collieries.

Mr. Cooper presided. Mr. Chappell was present and Mr. Rymer, of Wombwell also attended.

Before referring to the sliding-scale principle, Mr. Chappell, in reply to a question, said it was the duty of any miner, when he saw indications of danger in the pit, to at once inform the Underviewer, Deputy, or first official that he met with. This arose out of the Act of Parliament ; and they must not be afraid of doing it. If they neglected doing this they made themselves liable to be taken before the magistrates and severely dealt with.

He hoped therefore that they would bear this in mind.

Proceeding to the question of a sliding-scale at Denaby Main, he said the manager, Mr. Warburton, had given the deputation authority to state that he could see no objection to a memorandum being drawn up whereby the company should abide by the results of the Manvers Main scale ; but he was only the Manager, and could not settle the matter himself. The Directors would, he expected, meet very shortly, and he would lay the matter before them. He had little doubt but that they would agree to it.

Since the men had their meeting last week, he ( Mr. Chappell ) said other instances had taken place in the district which went to confirm them in their opinion that they were doing right by endeavouring to regulate their wages according to the sliding-scale principle, and thus to prevent future strikes and lock-outs, which he was sure they must be sick of. (Hear, hear)

The Wharncilffe Silkstone men had arranged a Board of Conciliation, Carlton Main, Manvers Main and Shireoaks miners were working under the sliding-scale (but at the latter colliery it would require a little alteration ). The Lowe Ground colliers had completed theirs, and now it was under consideration at Denaby Main. As far as could at present be seen, it was unquestionably the best thing that could be done.

He had no doubt that Mr. Rymer had an interesting speech for them, and so he would not himself occupy much of their time.

Mr. Rymer, in the course of his remarks, expressed the hope that all officials in connection with the MinersĀ“ Association would spend their leisure moments in study, so as to make themselves more qualified for the important posts they occupied.

The Denaby Main lodge was one of great consequence, the colliery representing over 1,000 hands, and it behoved the chairman of it to mark the signs of the times, and to get himself posted up in all matters that concerned the interests of the miners, so that he might guide them aright in the great and important questions which came before them from time to time. ( Hear. Hear )

He lamented the lack of knowledge amongst them, but said it was altogether their fault. They had had little opportunity for study in the past, having had to work hard from their childhood, but he hoped that at the present day they would take advantage of every opportunity to read and reflect and get their children to do the same so that it could not be said of them ” they are a thousand years behind the times.” (Hear, hear)

He advocated the sliding-scale principle and spoke in deprecatory terms of the recent strike in South Yorkshire. From experience, he might say that a greater social, commercial, and moral calamity had not befallen this district for the past fifty years. (Hear, hear)

It should be a lesson and a warning to them for the future. He would show them that a demand of 10% in their wages was both impracticable and quite impossible. In dealing with the wage question, they should know, as a matter of commercial arrangement, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire went together into the same markets. All the coal trade in these counties seemed to clash together, and what affected one concerned the other. Where there was an advance in wages in one district it was most probable that there would be a reduction in the other, and vice versa.

To show them that it was impossible to gain an advance by a partial strike he would quote the following figures :-

They had in Yorkshire 544 collieries. In Lancashire 600, In Derbyshire 200, In Nottinghamshire 52.

Making a total of 1,456 collieries.

Supposing that the whole of the men in this district went out on strike there would be no more than 50 collieries idle. The other collieries would still be at work and sending out into the country their millions of tons production, and he would ask them, where was the possibility of a partial strike, in an isolated part of the district like this, gaining them an advance of wages, in the face of all of those pits which were working ?

After all his experience – and he had gone through every grade of colliers life in England, Scotland and Wales, and had experienced the ups and downs of a union man for 25 years – he was prepared to assert positively that it could not be done.

Mr. Rymer concluded a long and vigorous address by advising them to assist in forming one grand, powerful, and enlightened union.

Mr. Pickard contended he had 22,000 men backing him up ; Mr. Frith 20,000 ; Mr. Chappell his thousands ; and Mr. Casey his hundreds.

He ( Mr. Rymer ) contended that there ought to be sufficient intelligence and experience among the various agents now employed to meet and arrange some scheme to lay before the district whereby all miners would be brought under one for of Government. ( Hear, hear )

He was glad to see by a local paper that Mr. Chappell was desirous of doing this, and he hoped he might be successful. ( Cheers )

On being put to the meeting the following resolution was carried, nem dis :-

” That this meeting is convinced that a sliding-scale will be the best arrangement that can be made for the purpose of regulating our wages in the future ; but that the final decision be postponed until the Directors have met.”