Denaby and Cadeby Collieries – 33rd AGM – Interesting Review

November 1925

Mexborough and Swinton Times November 7, 1925

Denaby and Cadeby Collieries.

Developing in Spite of Difficulties.
Maj Leslie’s Interesting Review.
Full employment assured for the winter.
Absenteeism the Chief Bugbear.

The 33rd annual meeting of the Denaby and Cadeby Main collieries, Ltd. was held on Monday in London, Major. Leslie, D.S.O., M.C. (Chairman and managing director). Presiding.

The chairman said: I regret that during the year Mr. G. H. Peake has been compelled to resign from the board owing to pressure of work in other directions, and your directors have elected me to succeed him as chairman. Mr. Harold Peake, his son, has been elected to a seat on the board to fill the vacancy. The directors wish to take this opportunity of thanking the late chairman for the valuable services he rendered to the company.

During the year coal prices continued to fall. With the result that the profits were substantially lower.

There is one point to which I wish to call your attention in the balance sheet. The sum of £171,257 8s.10d has been received during the year for cancelment of an agreement which the company has had for some years with one of the railway companies, and a sum for damages agreed with the German government. Negotiations for settlement of these questions have been proceeding for some years, and your directors for a prudent, in view of the anxious times we are passing through, to allocate these sums to the various reserve funds as shown on the balance sheet. During the year we have made our first debenture redemption, which was not due under the trust deed for another year.

Trade Safe for the Winter

Although the dividend we are recommending is inadequate for the risks attendant upon a coal investment, the period under review has been one of exceptional ability. The balance sheet and especially the liquid cash position, is strong. We expect however to expand considerable sums at the collieries over the next two years, which will improve the property,

At Denaby and Cadeby the pits have worked regularly during the coming year. And with the exception of a few Saturdays and the recognised holidays have worked six days a week up to the present, while our forward contracts should keep us fully employed until the spring. The output has increased up to our expectations. And we hope to reach 30,000 tons on a full week early next year. This will be an increase of 5000 tonnes per week over this time last year. We will not be producing up to fully capacity for another two years.

The output at Washington remains the same, about 7000 tons per week.

We had an unfortunate accident at Cadeby last October when the drum crankshaft broke and prevented us drawing coal for five weeks. Our engineering staff deserve the greatest credit for repairing the damage so quickly.

The Conditions at Denaby and Cadeby

I think it will interest all investors in the company today to know a little about the conditions of work and wages of the men employed at Denaby and Cadeby,

The average wage of coalface worker, which includes fillers, was 17s. 6d per shift of seven hours throughout the year. The average time spent at the coal face was 5 ½ hours per shift. £46,000 was lost in wages in the year through wilful absenteeism by the coalface workers, or an average of 10s per week per man employed.

The average wage of other underground workers was 10s 6d times per day and of surfacemen 9s 6d. All workmen who are householders receive coal at 1s 6d. per ton plus cartage.

It is to be regretted that 80,000 shifts, or days work were lost by all employees through wilfully absenting themselves, although work was offered. As you probably know the men’s wages are on a sliding scale, based on the proceeds from the sales of the particular area in which they are situated. This absenteeism from work, though quite normal in South Yorkshire, lost us some 200,000 tons of coal, and affected our proceeds and on-costs by probably £30,000. This loss of proceeds directly contributed to lowering the men’s wages. It is a great hardship that by absenteeism those who do not want to work should be able to depress the wages of those who do.

The figures I have given you for coal face workers absenteeism are at least 50%. higher than the average in America; I quote the findings of the United States coal commission, which had just been published. An improvement in our attendance would benefit all concerned.

The Currency Difficulty.

Although most of you are aware of the difficulties existing in the export trades, I trust you will excuse me if I touch on some points of which you may be already cognisant.

There has existed a big lag in real wages behind the depreciation in certain European currencies, with the result that the continental cost of mining coal has been some 5 shillings per ton below the British cost, when calculated in external gold values.

This has enabled France, Germany, and Belgium to produce coal on very advantageous terms. If the course of the franc and dollar exchange with sterling is examined over 12 months from June, 1924, it will be found that the 10% rise in sterling prior to the return to gold has raised the c.i.f. price of coal 2 shillings per ton to most of our foreign clients, without giving us so far any corresponding fall in production or transportation costs in this country. Is extremely detrimental to the transaction of all export business until such fall becomes a fait accompli that internal costs are lowered to meet external gold values. The stabilisation of French and Belgian currencies, followed by a rise in the internal costs would greatly assist us.

The Subsidy.

These were the main facts which gave rise to the crisis in July and resulted in a government subvention to wages, on which I propose to comment.

The incidents of the salvation is particularly objectionable to the South Yorkshire, for certain of our coal markets we came into competition with Durham, Lancashire, and Wales. Up to the present the salvation in these counties has been considerably more per ton than the amount received in South Yorkshire. This has the effect of bolstering up the poorer districts, with whom we have to compete by enabling them to reduce their selling prices.

One merit however of the present intervention has been the regulation of certain markets from Germany in the near continental ports, by our export collieries. What the position will be after May 1st when the government subvention terminates nobody can forecast. The market price for industrial cost today is shillings per ton below the economy cost of production, whilst the taxpayer pays the difference.

Cooperation and Good Feeling

It is vital to the success of any coal company to have the fullest cooperation with its employees. We endeavour to attain this end at Denaby, where several of our own employees are ordinary shareholders. We consult our men on the type of house a wish to live in and I am glad to say that work is now progressing on 250 out of 400 new houses; 100 are already finished. All these new houses will be fitted up with a hot water installation, which will be available day and night, and will be a great advantage to the men.

I am making a special feature today of the financial losses to the company and its workmen due to the wilful absenteeism for a certain reason. Unless between us we are able to maintain the lowest possible cost of production there is a danger in these difficult times that a seam or a pit will have to close, followed by unemployment.

It is also vital for all concerned to try every form of working, mechanical or otherwise. To enable the business which produces the wages to continue. Certain underground machinery was installed at Denaby before the war but I am informed that the difficulties of getting the men to work it rendered it useless. I am glad to say that they have promised us there unqualified support in working some underground conveyors we are now putting down, which will increase the earnings of the coalface workers who use them.

The managers are continually being asked to conduct parties of our workmen landing new work in progress, and to explain to them in general the idea and the object with which the management is expending large sums of money. The board welcomes the interest which the men are taking on the position of the property, the outlook, and prospects for the future; in fact we make it our aim to give them the fullest information about their business in which they and their families, numbering some 18,000 people are so vitally interested.

A dividend of 6%., Plus tax, was declared on the ordinary shares.

Tribute to Yorkshire Miners

The chairman in acknowledging a vote of thanks to the board and management said that he wished to thank the whole of the staff for the great assistance they had given to the board throughout the past year. After the remarks which he had made in his speech about absenteeism in South Yorkshire, he did not want their shareholders to go away thinking that they had not in their employee the best workmen they could possibly get and that the Yorkshire miner did not take a lot of beating

The directors were trying to impress upon them that they could by their own efforts improve their own standards of living, and that of their wives, sisters and children if they would ”put their backs into it,” and work more regularly. That indeed, was what was wanted in heavy trade. (Hear. Here.)

The proceedings then terminated