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UNDERSELLING IN COAL. .

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UNDERSELLING IN COAL. MR D. A. THOMAS, M.P., AT PONTYPRIDD. "BLACK-LISTING" OF COLLIERS. THE TRANSATLANTIQUE CONTRACT ATTACK ON MABON. HOW TO AVERT THE CRISIS. Mr D. A. Thomas, M.P., addressed a meeting of miners at the Empire Hall, Pontypridd, on Monday morning upon the Control of Output Scheme. Sliding Scale agreement, and the Work- men's Compensation Act. Much interest was centred in the visit of the hon. member, inasmuch as it was understood that he would reply to a charge of underselling preferred, it is alleged, against him in the speech delivered by Mabon at the meeting of the Cambrian Miners' Association on the previous Monday. There were about 500 miners present, and the chair was occupied by Mr Moses Severn, checkweigher at the Maritime Colliery, who was supported on the platform by Mr D. A. Thomas, M.P., Messrs Henry Davies, Abcraman W. H. Gronow, Cilfynydd J. T. Williams,Ynysybwl; William Highley,Cyfarthfa; Evan Jones and Thomas Lewis, Cilfynydd and Dther checkweighers. The CHAIRMAN, in opening the meeting, said Mr J. Davies, the owner of the hall in which the meeting was being held, asked him to state that tf there were any miners in the district in real want he would give half the proceeds of a night's performance at the hall, (Applause ) He paid a compliment to Mr D. A, Thomas for the services he had rendered to the miners, especially in reference to the question of controlling the out- put, and declared that the sacrifices which he had made in their behalf and the risks he had run wera likely to make him one of the most pepular men in Wales. (Applause.) The various Sliding Scale agreements largely attended to make matters worse for the workmen, and the 1892 agreement was, in his opinion, extremely stupid, illegal, and unjust to the workmen. He con- trasted the condition of the workmen of South Wales to that of the miners of Northumberland, seating that the latter were much better off, and had their house rent and coal for the nominal sum of Is per month. He had, he added, no quarrel with miners' leaders, and he was pre- pared to co-operate with them in any just cause that would be likely to better the condition of the miners. (Hear, hear.) Miners' leaders, how- ever, should always lead instead of being led. Mr D. A. THOMAS, M.P., who was very heartily -received, dealt at the outset at some length with the Compensation Act in its relation to the Permanent Fund. Adverting to the discussion that took place a short time back at the Aberdare District Council, when the Abernant men sought employment on public works, the hon. member said he would express no opinion on the merits of the unfortunate dispute itself, nor did he wish to prejudice the decision of the Council, but ne would like to sav a word on the statement reported to have been made by the chairman that it was illegal for men who had worked out a month's notice to be prevented from obtaining work elsewhere. The chairman of the Council was a gentleman of very great experience, and had a knowledge of the law possessed by few outside legal circles. Yet they knew very well that, whether legal or not, men coming from a colliery where there happened to be a strike and seeking employment elsewhere were boycotted, and, indeed, Article 91 of the Coalowners' Association provided that -No workmen em- ployed at a colliery immediately before a strike or stoppage thereat takes place shall during such strike or stoppage be employed by any member." This was the association that Mabon was so anxious for him to join. (Laughter.) The Coal- owners' Association, strong as it was and with the large fund behind it, was not even yet strong enough apparently to cope with the men in their disorganised state. The old Trade Union motto was United we stand, divided we fall." But Mr Abraham gave a different rendering—" Divided we stand, united we fall." Perhaps before he touched apon the control scheme they would allow him to finish with Mabon, now that he had started. He read a speech a few weeks ago in I' which Mabon said he was not going to continue the controversy. He appeared at the time to have had enough of it. (Laughter.) But when he found that he (Mr Thomas) was being attacked by the North Wales Press and others, then pre- sumably Mr Abraham thought he might safely recommence operations. There was not much originality in Mabon when he was thoroughly worsted in argument he always brought forward the same old charge of underselling, and always without foundation. No sooner did the Coalcwners' Association abandon the scheme than Mabon showed his anxiety for the pre- vention of underselling by advising the men in his celebrated one-blessing-a-year speech not to presa for the scheme. (Laughter.) But he was always ready, nevertheless, to charge coal- owners outside the charmed circle of the associa- tion with the crime of underselling. Three years ago Mabon had complained almost WITH TEARS IN HIS EYES that he (Mr Thomas) had taken a contract away from Sir W. T. Lewis, the chairman of the Sliding Scale Committee. But when he (Mr Thomas) applied for information to the officials of the Lewis' Merthyr Company they expressed complete ignorance as to what Mr Abraham referred. Mabon declined to name his inform- ant. Of course, it could not have been Sir William. (Laughter.) Only a few weeks ago it was Mabon Fach who, on the authority of Mr Archibald Hood—another member of the Sliding Scale Committee—denounced him for taking trade away from the Glamorgan Colliery, but here again Mr Hood, when chal- lenged, came forward promptly, and positively denied having even mentioned his name to Mr Evans. (Hear.) Now it was Mabon Fawr who accused him, not only of under- selling, but of a distinct breach of faith. This time Mabon and Co. were running in double harness with the Tory organ. (Laughter.) Three times had Mabon returned to the attack in reference to the Transatlantique contract. True, Mabon did not refer to him by name in any of his speeches-that was one of the peculiarities of his methods of controversy. He publicly charged some person unknown with a crime even went so far as to say he did not know to whom he was himself referring, only it was somebody. (Laughter.) Then he hurried from one friend to another, giving the name of the unknown-of course in the strictest confidence. (Laughter.) Not a. very straightforward and manly course some might think. (Hear, hear.) Perhaps not, but one, nevertheless, that had its advantages, for unless it chanced to come to the ear of the unknown he had no suspicion that he was the one implicated, and I THE LIE CONTINUED ITS COURSE in an ever-widening circle. Fortunately, a common friend of Mabon and his own had told him in this case that Mabon in ordinary conversation accused him and wanted to know whether there was any truth in this latest story. He had at once written to Mabon denying the charge and risking him for his authority, but this the hon. member, perhaps wisely after Mabon Fach's experience, had declined to give. (Laughter.) Now of what had Mabon accused him He had referred three times in as many weeks to the Transatlantique contract, and even with his experience of Mabon he never remem- I- -A seeing so many misrepresentations con- tained in so few words. He would deal with them categorically, and he was prepared to accept the fullest responsibility for the action of the Cambrian Company in entering into the contract. (Hear, hear.) The first reference was at a general conference of colliery workmen at Cardiff on November 15th. The Press was not ad- mitted, but in the official report afterwards supplied to the newspapers, Mabon was repre- sented as having said, For a few days after the notice had been given trade seemed to improve. Shortly afterwards representatives of large local firms went to Paris to negotiate for a certain contract, and it was said that, although these representatives agreed among themselves as to what price they were going to accept, one of them, without the knowledge of the others, accepted 6d per ton less. He did not know who the guilty party was, but some of their professed friends did, and this was an opportunity for those to do the workmen a kindness by giving them the name." That was the official report. But Mabon, when challenged, at once backed down from the word agreed," and substituted the more vague word, understanding." It would be observed that Mabon said he did not know who the guilty party was, but he had told his friends that it was Mr D. A. Thomas. He (Mr Thomas) now stated EXPLICITLY AND WITHOUT QUALIFICATION that in regard to this particular contract he had hever entered into any agreement or understand- ing as to what price he would take, and con- sequently there could be no question of his having accepted sixpence or any other sum less than he had undertaken Ito do. (Hear, hear.) The Transatlantique contract was made about the 26th or 27th of October. The notice to terminate the Sliding Scale produced no effect upon the market, because merchants had got to see that nothing ever came of these notices, and that in the disorganised state of the workmen, and under the influence of Mabon's peaceful instincts, a crisis was always averted. As tb the alleged improvement in trade. The Cambrian Collieries worked two days during the week pre- ceding that in which the contract was made. A few days later, on the 27th November, Mabon addressing a mass meeting of the workmen employed in th Gelli, Tynybedw, and Pentre Collieries, the property of es Messrs Cory Bros., was reported as follows :— Referring to the depressed state of the trade, the speaker remarked that recently a Trans- atlantic contract for coal was given in Paris to a certainfirm in South Wales. The Fern dale Colliery Company and Messrs Cory Bros., Cardiff, used to have that contract between them, but another partv had obtained it at 6d per ton less. The workmen, he added, should ask who were those cut-throat sellers." But if Mabon claimed to know who the guilty party was, why was he not man enough to tell them ? (Hear, hear.) He could understand now Mabon's alarm when he (Mr Thomas) was invited a few months ago to address these same workmen. Mabon preferred regaling them with misrepresentations to letting others speak the truth to them. Now if that statement at Pentre meant anything, it meant that he, the guilty party "—(laughter)—had taken a contract from the Ferndale and Pentre Companies, a contract usually held by them and had secured it by taking it at a lower price. THE ACTUAL FACTS WERE THESE. The Pentre Company had no contract with the Transatlantique Company over the present year. The Cambrian Company had had a con- tract with the Transatlantique Company for many years without a break. They led a contract for the current year for 100,000 tons, and they had renewed that contract for the same quantity over next year at a higher priee-this was the contract to which Mabon referred-and at a higher price than that of the Ferndale contract now running with the Trans- atlantique. He could scarcely believe that Mabon had entirely evolved all these misrepresentations out of his own head, but Mabon refused to give him the name of his informant. Probably some disappointed party—very likely some employer on the Sliding Scale Committee—for he observed that these misrepresentations as to his under. selling which Mabon and Co. grasped at so eagerly and disseminated with such evident enjoyment emanated generally in the first instance, from that sources. It was a pity in the interest of truth and fair dealing, and for other reasons, that the Press were not admitted to the proceedings of that august body. (Loud applause.) However, who- ever had given Mabon his wrong information it surely could not be his friends of the Ferndale Company, who were in Paris at the time of the contract in question, because they knew the facts of the case, and were too honourable under any circumstances to wish to prejudice him (Mr Thomas) with the workmen, or to do such work through Mabon. They, he felt, must be on his side in this matter, and could illustrate to Mr Abraham from their own experience the futility of agreements to maintain a minimum price even when confined to only a couple of firms. Only last year, on behalf of the Cam- brian Company, he had entered into an agreement of that character with a single other firm, and the agreement was promptly broken and not by the Cambrian Company. Of course it was the foreign agent of the other firm who broke faith. It was ALWAYS THE FOREIGN AGENT who did these things. (Laughter.) Mabon had repeated his story with slight variation to the Cambrian Association on Monday last, and had added the alleged fact that the contract had been taken at 6d per ton less than it was possible to get for it." Cobbler Mabon had better stick to his last and not express his opinion so freely on matters that he knew nothing about. (Laughter.) He (Mr Thomas) assured them that with every liking for his Paris friends in acting on behalf of Cambrian,' he did not allow any feeling of sentiment to influence him to take less than he could possibly get. For Mabon's guidance he might tell him that before he went to Paris-from information received, as the policemen say, and which he knew to be of a perfectly reliable character-he had ascertained that contract had already been entered into for Rhondda steam coal of the best quality at prices, having regard to all the circumstances, practi- cally the same at or below what Cambrian accepted from the Tmnsatlantique Company. Further, it might be news to Mabon to learn that among the contractors with the Transatlantique over next year were the proprietors of two Rhondda steam coal collieries contiguous to Clydach Vale, and that the prices they accepted were below that taken by the Cambrian Company. When Mabon preached on the iniquities of underselling, let him make sure of his facts and when he next preached from that text, might he suggest to Mabon that he should move his pulpit from Pentre, where the men hardly lost a day—he was told not a single day this year-from want of trade, to Clydach Vale, where the men had for some time been working often only two and three days a week, and explain to them how the Cambrian Company have been 'BOBBING IESSRS CORY BROS. of their trade. (Laughter.) He did not know how it struck them, but to him it appeared to be rather reversing the natural order of things, for the man who had advised the workmen to abandon the only practicable scheme to prevent underselling to bring these charges against the man who had done his best to promote the scheme. (Cheers.) They would see that the only truth contained in the references in Mabon's three speachos to this business was, that he (Mr Thomas) had been over to Paris and had made a contract with the Transatlantique Company. All the rest was misrepresentation. (Laughter.) However eloquently Mabon might preach on the Sabbath, it was clear that they must take what he said on week days with a very large quantity of salt. (Hear and laughter.) Why Mabon entertained this personal animus towards himself he was at a loss to know. Mabon had admitted that he (Mr Thomas) had given invaluable information to the men on coal trade matters. Why, then. did Mabon single him out from among the employers for attack ? (Hear.) He would much prefer working shoulder to shoulder with Mabon in the interests of the men, but his friend seemed determined to make this impossible. The curious part of the affair was that while Mabon was pursuing him week after week and day after, day with these vindictive misrepresentations relating to matters of private and personal concern, Mabon was at the same time whining to his friends at the cruel perse- cution of Mr D. A. Thomas, trying to pose, in short, as ST. MABON .THE MARTYR. He (Mr Thomas) never went into Mabon's family affairs, hut he only dealt with him as a public man and confined himself to his public actions and utterances. Let Mabon follow the same rule and give up listening to the cliques of dis- appointed competitors. (Hear, hear.) He honed nothing that he had said would prevent MaSon from continuing to give the world his view3 upon the coal trade, for these discourses afforded an endless fund of amusement to merchants on 'Change. (Laughter.) His description last week of the half-million wagons—rather more than 20 times the number of wagons full and empty employed in that particular trade—of coal waiting to be tipped, and the Is 6d increase in the f.o.b. cost that had resulted from the rise in freights was inimitable. (Laughter.) By all means Jet him continue these entertainments, but let him confine his imagination to general t matters. Mabon now characterised the action of the men in giving notice to terminate the scale as foolish, but was it not Mabon himself who bad pointed out the grave defect in the scale that enabled employers to sell ahead at low prices in the knowledge that they would be compensated by low wages and cost of production ? And was not Mabon responsible to some extent for the disappointment among the men that led to the notices being given ? Had he not first aroused the hopes of the men by advocating the scheme of control, and then helped to dash those hopes by urging the men to agree to its abandonment ? (" Shame.") Mabon had more recently expressed his entire approval of the proposal to dovetail the control scheme into the Sliding Scale; let him then undo the mischief that he had done and assist with all his might in bringing that proposal to a successful issue. (Cheers.) He would thus render better services to the workmen than in traducing the friends of the latter by misrepresentations. (Applause.) The hon. member then proceeded to strongly urge the adoption of the control scheme, as an amendment to the Sliding Scale, as the most simple and satisfactory means of terminating the present crisis. MI J. T. WILLIAMS (Ynysybwl), who submitted the first resolution, referring to his position, said he did know why a man could not be seen in company with Mr Thomas without being thought antagonistic to miners' leaders in general, and one leader in particular. (Hear, hear.) He moved, That this mass meeting of colliery workers in the Pontypridd district heartily approves of the Control of Coal Output Scheme', and is strongly in favour of the said scheme being mutually adopted by the South Wales coal- owners and their workmen before the end of the present notice to terminate the Sliding Scale agreement." Councillor W. H. GRONOW (Cilfynydd) seconded, and the resolution was adopted with enthusisasm. Mr ISAAC LILES (Pontypridd) moved that copies of the resolution be forwarded to the members of the Sliding Scale Committee, re- questing them to take immediate action to secure the adoption of the Control of Coal Output Scheme. This was likewise carried. Mr THOMAS, replying to a vote of thanks, said the Control of Output Scheme did not mean restriction of output. He would be no party to keeping the output down to its present low level, because that would mean no development in the future. He was proud of his country, and wanted to see its resources developed. What was wanted was to prevent competition between one colliery and another. A vote of thanks to the chairman terminated the meeting.

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