Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Thursday 31 January 1929
Coal Dispute Loans.
Guardians Win Test Case Against Miners.
Company to Deduct Money.
A test case affecting Boards of Guardians which granted relief on loan to the miners during the mining stoppage in 1926 was decided at the Doncaster West Riding Court yesterday, when eleven miners were summoned for not repaying the amount of the relief.
Their employers, the Denaby and Cadeby Collieries, Ltd., were also brought to Court to show cause why they should not make deductions from their employees’ wages for repayment of the relief.
The Bench ordered the men to repay the amounts due at the rate of Is. 6d. per week, with costs, the money to be deducted by the colliery company.
Mr. Richard Watson, barrister, of Bradford, appeared for the Board Guardians, and Mr. G. H. B. Streatfeild, barrister, of London, represented the eleven employees. Mr. C. R. Marshall, Doncaster, represented the Denaby and Cadeby Main Collieries, Ltd.
Mr. Watson said that when the mining stoppage began the Guardians had statutory power to grant relief in the form of loans which were to be repaid at the close of the strike, or so soon thereafter as the men were in a position to repay after they had commenced work, and application forms were prepared and each miner who desired this relief was required to sign, and did sign, these forms, which clearly indicated that these advances should be loans.
Sums amounting to £300,321 were advanced on loan by the Doncaster Guardians to the miners and their dependants. Of this sum a total of £42,043 was advanced to the workpeople of the Denaby and Cadeby Main Collieries, Ltd., and 2,057 workmen benefited at that colliery. Notwithstanding the fact that the Denaby and Cadeby Colliery had been for some time past in full work, namely 5 ½ shifts a week, not one penny of that amount had these workmen repaid to the Guardians.
Denaby the One Exception
In an area covered by Mr. W. G. Robinson, a relieving officer, there were five collieries. Manvers Main, Barnborough, Wath, Goldthorpe, and Denaby and Cadeby, and at other four collieries, both employers and workmen had realised that promise was promise, and that honesty was virtue which they had shown their willingness to follow.
The Denaby and Cadeby Colliery was the one exception in Mr. Robinson’s district. The colliery company, however, had always been willing to assist the Guardians.
Mr. Streatfeild, at this point, made two legal objections, which were overruled.
Evidence in support of the Guardians’ application was given by Mr. W. G. Robinson, relieving officer of Conisborough. Mr. H. M. Marshall, clerk to the Doncaster Board of Guardians, said, in reply to Mr. Strcatfeild, that he thought the Guardians would allow to the people who received the relief the 5 per cent, discount which the Guardians received from the tradespeople. Normally the Guardians’ precept was 8d. in the £, but during the strike it was increased 4s. in the £ and was at the present time back to 8d. or 8 ½d.
Mr. Streatfeild said that during the coal stoppage the rates were increased by 500 per cent, and the colliery companies were unable to deduct any sums in respect of rent or rates. The position at present was that they were making deductions for rent, present rates, and arrears of rates. The Guardians had raised the money to pay the relief and had to raise the rates. The miners were working off the rates incurred during the stoppage and he suggested that the colliery companies were the largest ratepayers in the district. To a large extent, he contended, the miners borrowed the money to pay themselves. The various deductions now made on the miners’ wages were about £1 a week, and if they did decide to make orders they would have to consider the possibilities or probabilities of the future.
Mr. Arthur Roberts, one of the Doncaster Guardians, and secretary of the Denaby branch of the Y.M.A., said he knew scores of cases where men were going home with less than 25s. a week after stoppages had been made.
Mr. Watson said that the Guardians had no intention of making reductions from wages of less than £2 per week.
Mr. C. R. Marshall, on behalf of the colliery company, said it was probable that if they had agreed to make deductions from the men’s wages they would have been unable to do so owing to the provision of the Truck Act, which debarred employers from making deductions from wages except in very special circumstances.
The colliery company had received no rents on their many houses during the stoppage, but had had to pay rates and were therefore entitled to make deductions to recoup themselves