Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/1056

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1030
STRIKES AND LOCK-OUTS
Within the federation districts proper there were some localities

in which no notices of reduction were posted, but the policy of the Miners' Federation was to make the stoppage as universal as possible, and all its members were required to leave work. The Cumberland miners, however, though members of the federation, were for special reasons permitted to continue at work. By the middle of August nearly 300,000 men were idle, or nearly half the total number of coal-miners in the United Kingdom. The early stages of the dispute were uneventful, but as the funds of the unions affiliated to the federation became exhausted, and the pinch of distress was felt, feeling ran high, and in some districts deplorable acts of violence were committed. At Featherstone, in Yorkshire, an attack was made on a colliery, in the course of which the military fired on the rioters, two of whom were killed.

The decision of the federation requiring all its members to leave work, whether under notice of reduction or not, had from the beginning met with considerable opposition in certain districts, and this opposition naturally grew stronger as the distress caused by the stoppage increased. At the end of August a ballot on the question showed a small majority still in favour of a universal stoppage, but the experience of another month led to a formal reversal of policy in this respect, a meeting of the federation at Chesterfield on the 29th of September deciding to allow all men to return to work who could do so at the old rates of pay, such men to pay a levy of 1s. a day in aid of those still on strike. Up to October no step was taken towards a settlement beyond an offer on the part of the miners on the 22nd of August to pledge themselves not to ask for an advance until prices reached the 1890 level, and also to assist the employers to prevent underselling—an offer which was rejected by the coal-owners. On the 9th of October a meeting of the representatives of the parties was held at Sheffield, at the invitation of the mayors of six important towns affected, but without definite result, beyond leading to an amended proposal on the part of the coal-owners for an immediate 15% reduction, and the regulation of future changes in wages by a conciliation board. The men, however, still refused all reduction, and during October a number of coal-owners, especially in the Midlands, threw open their

pits at the old rate of wages.
A further advance towards a compromise was made by the

owners on the 25th of October, when they offered that the proposed 15% reduction should be returned to the men in the event of the conciliation board (with an independent chairman) deciding in their favour. In consequence of this offer a meeting was held between the representatives of the owners and the men in London on the 3rd and 4th of November, but without arriving at a settlement. Matters had now reached a deadlock, and accordingly, on the 13th of November, the government addressed an invitation to both parties to be represented at a conference under the presidency (without a casting vote) of Lord Rosebery, who was then foreign secretary. The conference took place at the foreign office on the 17th of November, and resulted in a settlement, the men to resume work at once at the old rate of wages, to be continued until the 1st of February 1894, from which date wages were to be regulated by a conciliation board, consisting of fourteen representatives of the coal-owners' and miners' federations respectively, with a chairman mutually elected, or in default nominated by the Speaker of the House of Commons, the chairman to have a casting vote.

This agreement terminated the dispute. The Speaker appointed Lord Shand as chairman of the board. In the middle of the following year, by mutual arrangement, the constitution of the conciliation board was modified so as to provide for limits below and above which wages should not move during a definite period. These limits have since been modified from time to time, but (with a gap from July 1896 to January 1899) the conciliation board continued to regulate miners' wages in the federated districts, and its formation has been followed by the institution of conciliation boards in most of the other important centres of the mining industry.

During the summer of 1893 there was also a strike of about 90,000 men in South Wales, which lasted about 5 weeks. 1894 saw a prolonged dispute in the Scottish coal-mining industry, the men vainly attempting to resist the fall of wages which followed the fall of coal prices from the abnormal level to which they had risen during the English stoppage of the previous year; 70,000 men were out from 15 to 16 weeks. In 1898 there was an unsuccessful stoppage lasting 25 weeks in South Wales and Monmouth affecting 100,000 men, for the abolition or amendment of the sliding scale agreement. In 1902 the dissatisfaction of the pit-lads with a reduction of wages awarded by the conciliation board threw a large body of miners idle for some time in various parts of the “federated districts.” In 1906 a series of local strikes occurred in South Wales in order to compel non-unionists to join the Miners' Union, while in 1910 strikes in the Tonypandy district led to much rioting.

The record of strikes and lock-outs in the Cotton Trade goes back to a time before the repeal of the Combination Laws. Thus the year 1810 was marked by lock-outs of spinners in Lancashire and Glasgow, the former caused by a strike in the Stalybridge district to enforce Manchester rates of wages, and the latter having for its object the break-up of the men's union. In both cases the

employers were successful. In 1812 there was a stoppage of
40,000 looms in Scotland for some weeks, arising out of a wages

dispute, in which the men were beaten, their union broken up, and their leaders imprisoned. Another unsuccessful strike attended with imprisonment of the men's leaders took place among the Manchester spinners in 1818, when 20,000 to 30,000 men were out for three or foui months to obtain an advance of wages and reduction of hours. The year 1853 was one of great disturbance in the Lancashire cotton-spinning trade. For seven months 20,000 to 30,000 spinners in the Preston district were engaged in an unsuccessful strike for an advance of wages, and in the same year there was a stoppage of 65,000 spinners in Lancashire generally. The period of bad trade culminating in 1879 was marked by bitter disputes in the cotton trade, the men vainly trying to resist the reductions of wages which marked that period. Partial disputes at Bolton in 1877, and Oldham in 1878 were followed in the latter year by a general stoppage in north and north-east Lancashire affecting 70,000 persons for 9 weeks. The general dispute was attended with violent riots, and 68 persons were tried and convicted. The next important dispute was a strike of 18,000 weavers in north-east Lancashire in 1884 against a reduction of wages, which ended after 8 weeks in a compromise. Next year there was a strike at Oldham against a reduction of wages affecting 24,000 persons in the spinning and weaving branches. The dispute ended in a compromise, half the proposed reduction of 10% being agreed to. In 1892-1893 a great dispute in the cotton-spinning trade took place, 50,000 persons in the Oldham and surrounding districts being out for 20 weeks against a proposed reduction of 5%. The dispute was ended by the so-called “Brooklands Agreement,” which provided for a reduction of about 3%, and also contained rules for the settlement of future disputes by conciliatory methods. These rules do not, however, provide for a final appeal in cases of deadlock. A considerable strike in 1910, brought about by a dispute as to the allocation of duties of a single operative, was terminated by the intervention of the board of trade.

The Building Trades have in most years been characterized by a large number of local and sectional disputes sometimes affecting comparatively small bodies of men. Often, however, all branches of building trades in a given district have been stopped simultaneously, but few of the building trade stoppages have affected a sufficiently large body of men to be noticed here as important disputes except in London. The years 1810 and 1816 were marked by strikes on the part of the London carpenters, the first being a successful attempt to obtain a rise in wages, the second an unsuccessful resistance to a fall. In 1833 an important dispute laid idle the building trades of Liverpool and Manchester. The dispute arose out of the objection of the men to the contract system, and led to a general lock-out to compel the men to leave their unions, in which the employers were generally successful. In 1859-1860 a partial strike in London against the discharge of a delegate led to a lock-out of 25,000 building operatives for 7 months, and in 1861-1862 a renewed strike for a reduction of hours resulted in a compromise. In 1872 there was a successful strike of 10,000 London building operatives for a rise of wages, a shortening of hours being also obtained. In 1891 there was an unsuccessful strike of carpenters in London for a rise in wages, affecting 9000 men and lasting 24 weeks.

Engineering, Shipbuilding and Metal Trades.—Among the most noteworthy disputes in the engineering trade was that in 1852, soon after the formation of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers by the fusion of a number of local and sectional societies. The dispute originated in Lancashire, and turned on demands from the men for the abolition of piecework and overtime, the dispute being further complicated by questions relating to the employment of labourers in working machines. The men ceased working overtime, and were locked out to the number of over 13,000 for periods ranging from three to nine months. The men were completely beaten, and many engineering shops required the men to leave the union before resuming work. In 1871 a strike of 8000 to 9000 men in the north of England for a reduction of hours from 59 to 54 was successful after a stoppage of 20 weeks, and led to the general introduction of the

nine-hour-day throughout the country.
In 1897-1898 there was a widespread and prolonged dispute

turning on questions of hours and of freedom of management of works, which lasted 29 weeks and affected 47,500 men. The immediate occasion of the stoppage was a demand on the part of the men for an eight-hour-day in London workshops, but this issue was soon overshadowed in importance by other questions relating to the freedom of employers from interference by the unions in the management of their business, especially in such matters as piece-work, overtime, selection and training of workmen to work machines, employment of unionists and non-unionists, and other matters affecting the relations of employer and employed generally throughout the United Kingdom. For some time previous to the general dispute there had been a growing dissatisfaction on the part of the employers with the encroachments of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and other societies in kindred trades on matters affecting the management of business, which the employers considered to be outside the legitimate functions of trade unions. In the absence of any general combination of employers, the unions were able to

bring their whole force to bear on employers in particular localities,