Disputes at Denaby Main Colliery – Mr. Pickard, M.P., at Mexborough

January 1889

Sheffield Independent – Tuesday 08 January 1889

Disputes at Denaby Main Colliery

Mr. Pickard, M.P., at Mexborough

Last night, at the Lodge room of the Denaby Main miners at Mexbro’, a crowded meeting of the men was held, to hear addresses from Mr. B. Pickard, M.P., and Mr. Parrott, representatives of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association, and others.

They had been invited by the men in order to advise them what course of action they should pursue, it being alleged that certain indirect reductions had been introduced at the colliery, instead of the full 10 per cent. advance being paid on the gross earnings.

Messrs. Pickard and Parrott interviewed the men in the committee room, and having heard the whole of the grievances addressed a public meeting in the large room at the inn. The chair was taken by a miner, and remarks were also made by Mr. John Dixon, the check-weighman, and also a representative of the miners on the School Board at Mexbro’.

Mr. Parrott proposed the following resolution:

” That this meeting hereby agrees to do what it possibly can to assist the Church Lane miners and other men on strike to fight their battles; also that we recommend the men at Denaby Main to protect themselvee against the encroachment of the managers, and to state in plain language that they intend to have the full 10 per cent. and fair treatment for all workmen connected with the association. ”

He had pleasure in moving that resolution as he understood from what he had been told by the Denaby men it was very essential. He expressed the hope that all difficulties would soon disappear, and that the men would have a happy New Year. (Cheers.) He congratulated the lodge on being A1 in Yorkshire in point of numbers, and that was a proud position to be in. (Hear, hear.) They had exerted themselves well to attain that position, and he had no doubt, whatever efforts were made at other collieries, the Denaby men would do their utmost to keep their supremacy.

He denounced any effort on the pert of officials to swerve from the general understanding come to on the 10 per cent, question, and said the men must do their utmost to prevent the ” thin edge of the wedge ” being thus introduced — when it was started they must combine together to stop it. (Hear, hear.)

He was told that some men were only getting 2s. 6d. per yard for cutting a fast end, whereas it should be 3s. 3d. per yard. Such confiscations — he was almost going to any robberies — affected their wages very considerably, and should not be allowed to exist. It was a matter for regret that they had no price list at the colliery — although, of course, they had a general understanding as to what should be paid— and he hoped the officials of the lodge would take the earliest opportunity of getting it established. (Hear, hear.) Then when a stranger got to the colliery he would at once know what he was to be paid. He denounced the infliction of a fine of 2s. 6d. by the manager when a man happened to leave the colliery a short time before the regular hour, and said it was most unfair—and an abomination. If a man was working ” by the day ” instead of being paid only for the work he did, it would be a different matter. He was surprised that any official should have the presumption to treat men in that matter at the Iatter part of the 19th century.

He also supported the men in their contention for the full 10 per cent. advance to be paid “on the gross.” In all fairness that contract should be carried out, and that association existed for the purpose of seeing that such things were attended to. Intimations had been given that the masters would take away the 10 per cent, in the spring, and they had seen letters written on behalf of colliery owners to that effect. He did not believe they would presume to ask for it, but in any case the men should be ready to be on the defensive. He concluded by hoping that the miners would be able to proceed with their work from day to day as smoothly as a ship in the calmest water.

Mr. Pickard, M.P. in seconding the resolution, referred to a Sheffield contemporary, which, he said, had told them they had ” a kick off ” on the advance question, and that it was evident the writer of the article in that paper did not want the miners to have “a kick on.” Although the Tory paper was so much against them, like a good Tory, whenever the inevitable was seen, it knuckled down and said, ” We did it, and were always in favour of it.” (Laaghter.) Well, the miners were willing to leave the writer that happy consolation. (Laughter.)

He was pleased to ace that the editor of one of the Sheffield papers took a straightforward course— even when the men had a great portion of the battle still to fight. (Hear, hear.) Mr. Pickard also referred to the action of a contemporary concerning the attitude of the labour representatives on the Employers Liability Bill. He (Mr . Pickard) would not go into the merits of what took place in the House of Commons on the matter and the position taken up by a distinguished Radical there, but he was pleased to find that the working men throughout the United Kingdom had been considering the matter, and that resolutions had been passed unanimously supporting the action taken by the labour representatives. (Hear, hear.)

As to the grievances at Denaby Main his advice was, ” If you believe that you should be fairly treated, if you believe you are acting within year rights as citizens and as contractors te do certain work — whatever stands in the way, have that right conceded -, do the right yourselves and have it.” (Hear, hear.)

He believed there was a better day dawning for the Yorkshire miners. It was certain that the new year would be just what they made it. Many a man’s life had been spoilt by his own unwisdom. To be forewarned was to be forearmed. Mr. Pickard said there appeared to be a desire to only employ young men at some collieries, but he maintained that that was a wrong principle, and, moreover, declared that an experienced collier at 60 years of age could sometimes do better work than a man of 26 or 30. (Hear, hear.) He protested against a penny wise and pound foolish policy adopted at some pits, and spoke of accidents often happening unnecessarily where that policy was in vogue.

As to the Church Lane Colliery, it was regrettable that there should be so much trouble and turmoil, but he need scarcely contradict the statement in the papers to the effect that if the men returned to work there they would secure a 25 per cent. advance. (Laughter.) What was seen at Church Lane and Denaby Main existed at a good many pits, and where there was such a condition of things was it a wonder that men sometimes turned stupid (” No.”) The only way to remedy that state of things was by ” taking the hull by the horns, ” and by saying, “We won’t allow this kind of thing.” (Hear, hear.)

The Denaby Main men had fought a good many battles, and had been true through them all, and when the miners “kicked off ” on the 10 per cent, question it was said, “If you get the Denaby men yon will get all Yorkshire,” and that practically came true. They had got the advance, and they were going to do their utmost to keep it. (Hear, hear.)

He referred to the fact of a meeting being held at Barnsley to raise steam coal 25 per cent., and said, when they saw how such a colliery as Manvers Main slipped up coal to 6s. and 9s. per ton advance, they could realise that the resolution just passed at Barnsley would have some effect. Coal waa now being sold in London at 25s. per ton of 20 cwt, and not 21 cwt. and 22 cwt., as it was a few years ago. Owners were glad that the wages had gone up, because it gave them such opportunities, and they were declaring all round, “We hope you will fight the first colliery owner that attempts to take back the 10 per cent.” He should take that advice. (Hear, hear.)

In conclusion, he urged the men all to stand firmly by one another, and assured them that the Association would give them full protection.

The resolution was adopted nem. dis.