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The Out-of-Work Fund,

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The Out-of-Work Fund, Mass Meeting at Porth Speeches by Messrs. Watts Morgan, Ben Davies & Tom Evans On Wednesday evening, at Salem Chapel, Porth, Mr. John Hughes (check- weigher) presided over a representative meeting of the workmen of the district. The meeting was held with a view of ascertaining; the feeling of the members of the. Federation towards providing an out-of-work scheme, whereby men would be able to obtain support when out of work through colliery explosions, owners' liquidation, lock-outs, &c., and which scheme would be incorporated into the rules of the present organisation. After a brief address by the Chairman, Mr. Ben Davies (miners' agent) addressed the meeting. He expressed his apprecia- tion of the opportunity afforded him of addressing them on this important ques- tion. He was sorry the day was not an opportune one, inasmuch as there were counter attractions in the district, it being St. Patrick's Day; and the Territorials were also holding a meeting at Porth. He feared, however, that before the end of June these people would be prepared to listen more anxiously to the particular business which affected them more directly. They had thought—and were led to believe so by the employers!— that the clause for a minimum wage was settled. They had practically agreed upon this question. But the employers had gone back upon their word, and now w anted to terminate all existing contracts and rearrange all their prices. Judging by the present actions of the owners, they were quite justified in saying that it was time that extremities should be resorted to. The employers were endeavouring: to force prices upon men which would not give them a living wage. Was it fair to have machines to cut coal, and ask skilful miners to fill it for lO-i-d. a ton? (Cries of No "). It was absolutely absurd, and manifestly unfair. When they first approached the masters upon the ques- tion of a clause for a minimum wage in abnormal places, the answer was directly in the negative, and that very emphatic- ally. The prevailing conditions under which men worked were deplorable, and demanded a living wage. There were dozens of men at the Standard Colliery working for 2s. 6td. per day (" Shame "). Was this a living wage for any man, with- out taking consideration of his family? No Then it is to avert this iniquitous system that we wish to incorporate the out-of-work scheme into oar organisation," continued the speaker. Ours is the only Federation in Great Britain which has not got this provision incorporated into its rules. The other organisations pay 2s. a month contributions, yet some of them do not pay anything like the amount of money we pay out to meet our contin- gencies." The best and only remedy to prevent strikes, and also to finance the funds, was by drafting an out-of-work scheme to meet these emergencies. The best way to prevent war was by preparing for war. and this method had proved the safety of the other Federations to a, very large extent. Had they been properly organised in 1898, there never would have been such a lamentable crisis. But to have struck when in such a disorganised state and held out nearly six months was a fitting example of the determination of the South Wales miners. Thousands of men were on the road through no fault of their own, and if they had but made a provision similar to the scheme they now advocated, these men would be amply provided for. Mr. Davies concluded with an earnest appeal to the loyalty of the men to give the scheme a full considera- tion. Mr. D. Watts Morgan followed, and in a brilliant speech, which could not fail to awaken the interest and capture the sympathies of the audience, he outlined in Welsh, and afterwards in English, the whole scheme. A large number of men, he said, were out of work through no fault of their own; thus was the con- clusion forcibly thrust upon them that some measures must be taken in order that these and other men should be adequately, supported. If the present new scheme" was not acceptable, they were bound to make other provisions whereby these men would obtain the help they sorely needed when in such predica- ments. The expenses incurred by the Federation in fighting cases, &c., ren- dered it absolutely essential that they should raise funds through some channel or other'. The speaker referred to-sonie owners who had close^ down their col- lieries and had invited the workmen to inspect their books to see for themselves that the expenses were too heavy to allow of these collieries being worked at the present rate of wages. These pro- prietors and all owners of lower grade collieries have ouir sympathy," exclaimed Mr. Morgan, but we cannot for all that allow a reduction of wages. Far better for these collieries to be closed down for a season than they should be subservient to a, reduction of wages." It was apologetically said that some of the men did not want work; that they were habitual loafers. It was not for the men to say these things, said Mr. Morgan, as the employers were too fond of depriving men of work, and that upon the slightest pretext (hear, hear). He did not believe in, or see why men should be forced into such difficulties. Under the out-of-work scheme, men would be in a position to go to the secretary of the lodge and say, "Look here, I have been out of work for so long a time, and I want some pay," and he would get it (hear, hear). Speaking of the recent Aberaman crisis, the Agent said: youi know these men received notices—nearly 2,000 of them. This matter was discussed at the confer- ence at Cardiff, and while extreme measures on our part were not resorted to, yet a subsequent meeting of the Con- ciliation Board terminated the drastic policy of the Powell Duffryn, and the men were allowed to resume their work. What was the reason of their changed attitude ? Probably this. You will remember at the beginning of the year a case was fought before his Honour Judge Bryn Roberts at the County Court, and during the hearing of this case his Honour said that money for abnormal places was purely gratuitous; that the men had no legal claim for anything. Such a thing had not been heard of before," continued Mr. Morgan ("Shame"). "Why did they agree to appoint a separate committee to discuss this question ? If an agreement had been obtained, then these men would have had restored to them the right which, in their opinion, Judge Bryn Roberts had taken away. On the 31st of October, the employers made a proposal, which was accepted with but a few exceptions; They agreed to make up the men's wages in part when working in abnormal places. They wanted to establish a con. rate which was as low as 3s. 6d. and 3s. 8d. They were willing to pay the standard day's wage paid at each colliery respec- tively. But what we want," exclaimed the speaker, with firmness. is an agree- ment similar to that we obtained for the hauliers; a fixed standard wage, so that there would be a uniform wage through- out the entire coalfield (hear, hear). Referring' to the Eight Hours question, he hoped that the masters would yet see

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The Out-of-Work Fund,