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Colliers' Wages.

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Colliers' Wages. Five Per Cent Reduction. Owners' Demand Conceded. On Monday afternoon Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, the independent chairman, met the members of the Conciliation Board of the coal trade of South Wales and Monmouthshire at Cardiff to con- sider the demand made by the owners for a reduction of 5 per cent. in the wage- rate. After a lengthy discussion, the right hon. gentleman decided that his casting vote must be given in favour of the claim, and as and from the 1st Dec. next the wage-rate will be 38..t per cent. above the standard of December, 1879, instead of 43t per cent. as heretofore. 4 This is the fourth application which has been made by the employers for a varia- tion in the wage-rate since the board was established and dealt with by the inde- pendent chairman. In two instances they were unsuccessful, but on the 21st Novem- ber, 1903, Viscount Peel, the then chair- man, awarded them a reduction of 5 per cent., and now Sir Michael has decided that the wage-rate must be still further lowered by a similar amount, making 10 per cent. in close upon two years. During the morning both sides held separate meetings to consider their re- spective cases and how they should be presented. Shortly before 2.30 Sir Michael Hicks- Beach arrived at the coalowners' offices, and a few minutes after that hour the Board assembled in the conference, with the right hon. gentleman in the chair. In the absence of Mr. F. L. Davis, Mr. T. H. Deakin presided on the owners' side, and Mr. W. Brace (Mabon being in America) acted in a similar capacity over the workmen's leaders. The case for the owners was at once opened by Mr. Deakin, who presented result of the audit of selling prices taken on behalf of the employers by Mr. Kirk, their auditor. This showed the average selling price of coal for the past three months to be 12s. 6d. per ton f.o.b., and exclusive of the coal tax. On the basis of Sir David Dale's award, that the 30 per cent. minimum wage was to be cal- culated as equivalent to a selling price of lis. lOd. per ton, the owners submit- ted that 12s. 6d. was really equivalent only to 34 per cent., calculating a rise 4 and fall of 8-jj- per cent. to the shilling. They were entitled, therefore, to a re- duction of 8:i per cent., but as when they 4 had to give notice of a demand for an alteration in the wage-rate only two months' figures, showing the average sell- ing prices, were available, they decided to ask 5 per cent. Still the result of the audit demonstrated that they were entitled to a greater reduction. Mr. Deakin also pointed to the stoppage of several collieries as an indication of the present state of the coal trade. Mr. W. Brace then forcibly replied on behalf of the workmen's section. He traversed the arguments put forward by Mr. Deakin, and urged that the audit taken by the owners was unsatisfactory, inasmuch as it failed to take into account the volume of trade-an important factor -the margin of profit and the prices realised for small coal. With regard to Sir David Dale's award, Mr. Brace argued that this should not be utilised for the purpose to which it was now being put bv the owners, for it only had relation to the minimum of 30 per cent. A lengthy discussion followed (in which Mr. T. Richards, M.P., Mr. Alfred Onions and others took part), mainly upon the arguments of the owners' sec- tion as to the interpretation to be put upon Sir David Dale's award. Sir Michael asked several questions, and judging from one or two remarks which fell from him he appeared to rather favour the view adopted by the employers. A suggestion by the independent chair- man that the parties should endeavour to agree amongst themselves without call- ing upon him to give his casting vote, did not produce the desired effect, and shortly after 4.30 the arguments were concluded. Sir Michael then retired to Mr. Dal- ziel's private room to consider his decision and in about 20 minutes the board re- assembled in the conference room, when the right hon. gentleman announced that he had decided, to give his casting vote in favour of a reduction of 5 per cent. He had not arrived at this conclusion without some doubt as to whether the employers were fully entitled to this figure, but having regard to the whole of the circumstances he had finally decided in the employers' favour. There could be no doubt that Sir David Dale's award must be regarded as a factor in consider- ing any claim for a revision of the wage- rate, and further there was an indication that the prices still had a downward tendency. A hearty vote of thanks was accorded Sir Michael, and the meeting terminated. Official Report. The following official report was fur- nished to the Press by Mr. Dalziel, the secretary of the Coalowners' Association On the 14th November, the owners' and workmen's representatives met at Cardiff to consider an application from the owners for a reduction of 5 per cent, in the general wages rate. The parties being unable to agree, the meeting was adjourned until Monday, in order that Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, the independent chairman of the board, might attend for the purpose of giving his casting vote for or against the proposal. At Monday's meeting, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach presided, and there was a large attendance of owners' and work- men's representatives. Mr. T. H. Deakin presided over the employers' section, in the absence of Mr. F. L. Davis, and Mr. W. Brace presided over the workmen's section, in the absence of Mr. W. Abraham, M.P., who is in America. Mr. Deakin very fully set forth the case for the owners in support of their application, and Mr. W. Brace replied on behalf of the workmen. The question was discussed at considerable length. Sir Michael Hicks-Beach offered a sug- gestion that the parties should endeavour to come to an agreement upon the matter, and he retired for that purpose. As the result of a brief adjournment, it was found necessary to take Sir Michael's definite ruling, and at the con- clusion of the whole of the arguments, Sir Michael gave his casting vote in favour of the employers' application. Consequently, the workmen's wages will be reduced to the extent of 5 per cent., placing the wage rate at 381 per cent. above the standard of 1879, as and from the 1st December next.

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