The “Bag Dirt” Question – Dispute Again

July 1902

Mexborough and Swinton Times July 4th 1902

Trouble at Denaby And Cadeby Collieries

The “Bag Dirt” Dispute Again

During the week the question of payment for the removing of “bag dirt” has again occupied the attention of the men employed at the Denaby and Cadeby Main Collieries. The method adopted by the colliery company of dealing with this matter has long been the subject of dispute.

The contention of the company is that the removal of the “bag dirt” is a part of the men’s ordinary work, and no special payment is provided for it in the scheduled price list. On the other hand, the men argue that as the quantity of “bag dirt” is now much larger than it used to be when the price list was agreed upon, and consequently more difficult to deal with, an allowance ought to be made over and above the ordinary rate.

What the men have done is this: They have removed sufficient of the “bag dirt” to enable them to do their own work of coal-getting, but have left undone the whole of the “ripping” and clearing away necessary.

The colliery company have then set other men on to clear away the “bag dirt”, and have taken from the miners’ wages the amount paid to the other men. On Saturday for instance, when a number of miners who work in the Denaby pit came to draw their wages they found that the sum of 17s.9d. had been deducted from each miner’s wage, the total amount thus stopped being between nine and ten pounds.

On a previous occasion, when a somewhat similar stoppage was made in the wages, those affected, backed up by the Yorkshire Miner’s Association, sued the colliery company for the return of the money. The case was heard at the Doncaster County Court, before Judge Masterman. His Honour gave a verdict in favour of the colliery company on legal grounds, as the agreement between the men and the company, under the sum contracted to work, made no special provision for extra payment for the removal of “bag dirt”. To put the matter briefly, the County Court Judge said the removal of “bag dirt” was in the contract, and that if the men did not choose to do it the colliery company were not acting illegally in having it done by someone else, and charging the cost on the miners in the way they had done.

At the same time, Judge Masterman suggested that the subject in dispute might be submitted to two practical men as arbitrators with a view to a modification of the agreement between the colliery company and the men.

At the present time the “bag dirt” grievance directly affects only one district of the Denaby mine, there being very little trouble in this respect in any other part of the colliery or at the Cadeby mine. From time to time efforts have been made to get the whole of the men employed by the colliery company into sympathy and agree­ment with those directly affected, so that by some joint and unanimous  action an effort could be made to remedy what is felt to be an injustice. The adoption of extreme measures has been advocated, it being contended that nothing less than setting the pit down would lead to an improvement.

In September last year, after several mass meetings, a ballot was taken of the men employed at both collieries on the question whether or not notices should be handed in. The voting resulted as follows:‑

In Favour of Handing in Notices                                      1,136

Against                                                                                      907

Majority                                                                                    229

Including a number of spoiled papers, no less than 2,073 papers were marked. Lads under 18 years of age were not allowed to vote. Altogether there are over 3,500 men and boys employed at the two collieries.

By the rules of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association, it is necessary that there should be a two-thirds majority in favour of handing in notices before that course can be adopted with the approval and support of the Association. In this instance it will be seen that there was not a two-thirds majority, consequently there was no strike. The result of the ballot, nevertheless, showed that there was a general feeling of discontent.