December 10th 1880.
The State Of Affairs At Denaby Main Colliery.
800 Hands Under Notice.
Our readers will doubtless already have learnt, with astonishment and regret, that a notice was posted up at the Denaby Main Colliery last Saturday, giving the whole of the men and boys employed there – about 800 in number – two weeks notice. Such an announcement cannot fail to cause considerable surprise, because it is well known that at the present time the coal trade is good, a better price is in some classes of fuel being obtained, and more men are being employed.
It is freely reported that notice has been given to the men owing to the M.S. and L. Railway Company having intimated that they would close their ledger account with the Colliery Company, and that they would have to pay for everything before it left the pit-yard.
We are not able to vouch for the above, but give it for what it is worth.
Yesterday week, a meeting of the men employed at the colliery was held – and then they had not the remotest idea of what was shortly to take place – the subject being to consider the advisability of sending a deputation to the manager ( Mr. Warburton ), to ask for the return of the 5% conceded to the owners some sixteen months ago.
Mr. Chappell, secretary to the Miners´ Association, and Mr. Hall the treasurer, both addressed the men. Mr. Chappell in his remarks, said he thought they were perfectly in order asking the owners for an improved rate of wages.
Viewing the question from a general standpoint, he held that the improved demand for coal and higher prices charged and received was one reason why their prices should be increased. This opinion was based upon the statements of such gentlemen as Mr. Chamberlain M.P., whose remarks on the points at issue had not been contradicted. Some of the owners in the district spoke in a favour -able tone on the subject. Mr. Frith himself had written to the Vice-president of the Owners´ Association asking him to call a meeting of the owners, at which the request of the men might be verbally laid before them. A reply has not yet been received.
Coming to the question which more immediately concerned them at Denaby Main, he thought neither the owners nor their manager, Mr. Warburton, would find any fault with them for making application for the return of 5% which was conceded by them until the improvement in trade made it´s appearance.
He ( Mr. Chappell ) had been present once or twice when this request had been made ; but on each occasion the evidence of an improvement having set in was against them, and therefore he recommended the men to wait patiently until the improvement was such as would justify a renewed application for the concession to be returned. He thought that time had come. Mr. Warburton was a gentleman on whose word they could rely, and it was no secret that a promise was made as to the return of this 5%.
Mr. Chappell then referred to the victory which had been achieved over the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company, the decision of the Railway Commissioners had
been confirmed by the Queen´s Bench, and the decision of the Queen´s Bench had been confirmed by the Court of Appeal . ( Hear, hear )
It was hoped now that the company would reap the benefits of this victory, and that the men also would get their request for the 5% to be returned.
Evidence was given before the Commissioners by parties who never ought to have appeared there against the Denaby Company. It was said that deep mines were not more costly to work than those which were not so deep. This was a statement as far from fact as light was from darkness.
Mr. Chappell then recommended the meeting to choose a deputation to see Mr. Warburton on the question which had brought them together.
It was unanimously decided that Messrs. Cooper, Asbury, Dixon, Venables and Blunt, along with Mr. Chappell should constitute the deputation to the manager.
On Monday, they met Mr. Warburton and explained the subject of their visit, the result of which a contemporary report follows :-
” The manager informed the deputation that the reason the hands had received a fortnight´s notice was owing to the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company `acting awkward´ to the owners of the colliery, on account of the recent action taken by them against the railway company. They had sent a letter to the colliery owners stating that they would close their ledger account with them, and they would have to pay for everything that went by rail before it left the pit-yard. Mr. Warburton explained that the colliery company could not do this, and they gave the men notice, because if the railway company were determined in what they had said they would have to set the pit down. He held out hopes that, if the railway company would not do as stated, the men should receive the 5%.
If what is reported be correct, it is not to be wondered at that the employees should have grave fears that at the expiration of fourteen days they will be out of work. It is earnestly hoped that this will not be the result of the dispute with the railway company, for the colliers have been through sufficiently trying times already.
Mr. Chappell writes to the editor of the Sheffield Telegraph on the matter.
He says :- ” Your readers will remember that the Denaby Main Colliery Company have been making an appeal to the Railway Commissioners against the excessive and unlawful preferences given by the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company to collieries over and to the disadvantage of the Denaby Main Colliery Company. The M.S. and L. Railway Company, not satisfied with the
decision of the Railway Commissioners, asked the Court of Appeal to reverse the Commissioners verdict, but this was refused because of the weight of evidence against them.
Now, what are the M.S. and L. Railway Company doing ?
To revenge themselves upon the D.M.C.C. they have issued notice to say that they will not remove any more coal from their sidings until paid for. This is simply an impossibility – a thing impracticable. I have not the slightest doubt that they, the D.M.C.C., would do anything within reasonable bounds of possibility, but here, sir, is a proposal – nay, sir, a deed, an action, with the best qualification it´s authors can offer, the most contemptible and censurable. The action itself is the very incarnation of petty spite and revenge, a manifested disposition to set all authority at defiance, and one that all true English business men would scorn to be guilty of. One of your Sheffield magistrates once told a number of colliers
” that they were not bred for society “; but sir, if men´s deeds are characteristic of their breed, the action we have now just cause to complain of is very demon -strative and remarkably suggestive.
We have 800 men and boys employed at this colliery, consequently we have 3,000 who are dependent on what is brought from this colliery by way of wages, and what have either these or their employers done to merit this treatment.
The M.S. and L. Railway Company have been interpreting the `law´ to suit their own selfish ends. The `Denaby Main´ thought that was somewhat wrong from their own view of the `law´, and in order to be put right on the point they go to the Railway Commissioners and explain their case. The M.S. and L. Railway Company try their best to give a different colouring on their statements ; but the board say the D.M.C.C. are right, and the highest Court in the land says the same ; but in
order to frustrate the Court of Appeal they give notice of their vindictive intentions.
If the Denaby Main Colliery Company were not solvent, and the Railway Company had just cause to believe this, it would be another matter ; but they have no grounds for such suspicion ; hence our right to speak and give vent to our just indignation against this unmanly act.
For 3,000 souls to be flung upon the verge of starvation through an impracticable proposal, made because the Railway Company cannot have it´s own way of explaining and applying the law which says what is to be done under a certain condition of things, is something calculated to raise the voice of those who are most disposed to be still.”
The following letter has been received by us on the question :-
Mr. Chappell has sent to the Sheffield daily papers a letter on the above subject, abounding in strong epithets, so strong that the Independent would not print them.
This, though a fault, is not perhaps a serious one, but it is a serious matter when we consider that his strong expressions and his charge against the Railway Company are built upon that most unsuitable foundation – an untruth.
Denaby Main Colliery
800 Men and Boys Under Notice
At noon on Saturday last, all the men and boys at Denaby Main Colliery, numbering about 800 had received notice to give up their employment in 14 days from that date.
On Tuesday last the men had a meeting at which it was decided that a deputation should wait upon the manager ( Mr. Warburton ) asking for an advanced 5% on the present rate of wages, on the grounds that the recent improvements in trade warranted their asking for such advance. The very day that report of the miners´ meeting appeared in the papers, the employers notice to the men was posted.
On behalf of the employers it is stated that the men for the last two years have had full employment, but the demand for coal having fallen off, it has been found necessary to resort to a large amount of `stacking´ in order to keep the men regularly at work.
The notice does not state on what grounds or with what intention it is given but it is generally believed to be for the purpose, if possible, of effecting a reduction in wages.
What the result of this divergence in views between employers and employees at Denaby Main will remain to be seen, but it earnestly to be hoped that some amicable arrangement will be made between the two parties ere the notices come to an end, as such a large number of people being unemployed would be a most serious matter, not only for the parties immediately concerned, but also for the trades-people of Mexborough generally.
We trust the miners of Denaby Main in this case, as in the last dispute, will show by their words and actions that they are not only men, but gentlemen belonging to that dignified part of the community, called the working class