Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Saturday 10 May 1890
The Yorkshire Coalowners and Local Wages Questions.
An Important Resolution.
A resolution of very great importance to the coal trade, and one which, if it be carried out in its integrity, must have a marked influence on the existing relations of employer and employed, has been passed by the South Yorkshire Coalowners’ Assurance Association.
It is short: —”That in future all local wages questions, all local advances whatever, shall be decided through the South Yorkshire Coalowners’ Assurance Association —but it is not, therefore, of small consequence.
The action taken by the association in the last general advance of wages movement shows that it is a numerous and powerful body, and that its influence extends considerably beyond the immediate circle of its own membership.
As the Yorkshire Miners’ Association in the worst of bad times, when its members are few, and its funds at the lowest ebb, still exorcises its influence over the men of the whole coalfield, as being the only moving body within it; so the owners’ association, though all do not belong to it, wields a power which all coalowners feel and acknowledge.
Though not accepted all at once, then, it may be taken that its example will be followed. Already at Mitchell’s Main, at Carlton Main, and at Denaby Main has been adopted, and the whole face of affairs has changed.
Instead of dealing with one owner and one colliery the men find themselves dealing with the principal South Yorkshire owners a body, and find opposed to them an organisation which may be as powerful their own. A new and unaccustomed force has to be reckoned with. It has been an ordinary thing for the men, strong in the power of their association, to enforce their demands by threatening to set the pit down. If the coalowners now are true then: resolution this will not be so simple matter in the future. The whole question wages has been placed on a higher level by the resolution.
Instead of isolated and vexatious questions to be fought promiscuously wherever they might chance to break out, all matters relating to wages will have to be brought to the decision of two powerful bodies the men’s association on the one hand and the owners’ association on the other—and thus taken out of the hands of local and prejudiced persons, reason, calm deliberation, and fair consideration may be looked for in their settlement. The strength of the parties is too great to make collision between them a light matter. They may be expected to weigh questions carefully before coming to an issue. Their very strength and equality will make for peace, and it may well be that what has not been conceded to good sense and good wishes in the past may evolve naturally out of the position which affairs have assumed, and that without any elaborate preparation and discussion system of conciliation and arbitration may grow up, which will put an end to the miserable strife which has so long disgraced the coal trade in our midst.
It is a consummation devoutly to be wished. Men and masters would be benefited by it, and the trade would achieve regularity and reliability it has never known. At first doubt the men will look on the action the owners as threatening to them. It need not be so. It is taken in self-defence. The men have shown the example. They cannot say the masters are ill – advised in following it. Let them meet it. Let them deal with it, and, meeting thus, on equal terms, employer and employed, learn to know each other, to trust each other, and, strong in the unity of their following, conduct their business that strikes may cease and reason and justice settle all disputes in future years.
Much has to be done before such a point is reached. All owners are not in the association. First attempts at settlement in this way are only now being made, but beyond doubt that the action taken contains within it the germs of a reasonable system of settling wages’ questions to a degree which has never been existent in proposals made in Yorkshire. With favouring circumstances there is ground for hope that they will grow and ripen and bear fruit.