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4-242 (Raw)

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author,male,Spence, William Guthrie,45 addressee
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Clark, 1975
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4-242-raw.txt — 5 KB

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Then how came you to have had so many strikes? Several employers were opposed to the principle of Unionism, and, as an instance, one of these cases lasted ten weeks.
What sort of a case was it? It was a lock-out. As soon as the men attempted to form a branch of the Miners' Association the owners posted up a notice that any man who joined would be at once dismissed. That was the common experience ten years ago, but after fighting for a time we would explain our object, and harmonious relations followed afterwards.
In all these cases where there have been strikes have there been harmonious relations afterwards? Yes; even at Kaitangata, where the men were practically beaten, because we were not near enough to take charge at the time. [...] We have now 25,000 members.
All these strikes you have enumerated have been authorised? Some of them were not at first, but afterwards we recognised them. In some cases we have refused assistance where strikes have been threatened, as we did not consider there was sufficient cause for the men to go out. Our object, when we take up a case, is that it shall be of such a character as will warrant the payment of the per week strike pay. In one case at Kadina we refused to consent to strike pay, and they lost £480 because we did not approve of their hasty action. By way of contrast, taking an approximation for this last year as I have not been able to get the exact official figures, yet I venture to say that the approximation is correct, we show that during the same period we have paid in accident and relief, £70,285 3s. 2d.; from the funeral fund, £14,010. 4d.;in donations, assistance to members and deserving widows, £16,334 ifs. 11 d., making a total of £100,630 6s. 5d. These are actual benefits that have been paid within the organisation, leaving out the Newcastle strike. Some portion of this £16,000 in donations has gone to the assistance of other Unions that have been on strike, but only a small portion of it.
Would £10,000 cover the whole of the money so spent? Not in addition to the £100,000. It covers altogether eighteen years, but the Association has only been anything like strong for this last eleven years. Previous to that it only numbered some 200 or 300 members. That would be about 1880, so that it has grown since then.
What is the average contribution of each miner? Sixpence per week, and 3s. per annum to the funeral fund.
And something extra in strike time? Strike pay is paid by levy, and not out of the general fund. We claim that that has a checking influence on readiness to strike. The executive will naturally be very careful before entering on a strike, as they have to find the sinews of war. Members would not like to pay levies for trivial matters, and if they had to it would create disunion. [760]
But you mean to say by that that in every one of these strikes you have had a ballot of members? No; the representative of each branch generally gauges the feelings of his branch.
But you do something that enables you to get at more or less the opinions of the people you represent? Yes; the matter is discussed.
Is there any one of these strikes the people have disapproved of? None, but the one I mentioned, and we rather blamed the men who were locally concerned; but other strikes were unavoidable under the circumstances. Some might have been avoided perhaps by a little better management on the part of the branches. In 1886 we took a further step in Victoria by appointing a joint Committee of miners, and asked the Mine-owners' Association to appoint a General Committee, seven of their men to meet seven of ours. They did so, and since then we meet together when occasion requires that anything has to be dealt with in connection with mining, and if any matters have to be laid before the Minister of Mines, the two bodies go jointly and see him. This has largely tended to make the two bodies work harmoniously.
How much strike pay have you levied during the year?
£6,614 8s. 2d. is all we have paid in eighteen years. I generalised this information from lists carefully obtained from the various branches.
How have all these strikes turned out? Successfully, with the exception of the one in New Zealand, already mentioned.
Out of twenty-nine strikes - three for shorter hours, two against the introduction of Chinese, thirteen resisting the reduction of wages, and the others - there has been only one in which the conclusion has been adverse to the Amalgamated Miners' Association? Yes; and we attribute this to matters being discussed in conference between the conflicting parties, the members of the conference being free from the heat and excitement of the persons who have raised the dispute. We are thus independent of local circumstances altogether, and in some cases we have to take a different view to our own people, and have to slate our own members, and have prevented them going out on strike. In many cases there was a mutual compromise, but in all cases the settlements were satisfactory, except the one that cost us the largest amount of money, although that was settled by compromise at last, a few days after I reached the spot. In fact, I visited New Zealand myself on purpose and settled the whole matter within two days after I got there.