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I BRIDGEND PROTEST MEETING. I » Who Are the Expleiters? At the Town Hall, •* CkristMas Eye, a public meeting, wrftUMeed fey the Ganr. Dis.trict of the Miners' Federation and the Trade Unions of Bridgend, was held for the purpose of protesting againtft the attacks made by certain members of Bridgend Council on the millers and Mr. FTank Hodges (the Garw dis- trict agent). Mr. Evaii David, J.P., Bla-engarw (secretary of the Garw District) presided, and said there was a splendid maxim, "Mind your own busi- ness." (Applause.) The observance of this moral would prevent a lot of unpleasantness. ('Laughter and applause.) The miners had the right to show that they were not guilty of the charge of exploitation which had been made against them in a rather insulting fashion. Mr. irank Jtlooges, J.F. (miners agent), who had a rousing reception, said he wished to in- troduce the people who had come there from the valleys and surrounding districts to a township which was a classic example of private mon- opoly, where the Town-hall (which was cold), the water supply, the gas supply, the land, the birds of the air, and the fish in the se-a near by, were privately owned, and where there was no recreation ground or public park. He hoped they would appreciate the significance of these facts. There were plenty of good men in Bridgend, the only regrettable thing about them being that they had not taken the trouble to organise themaelves, but now there was the nucleus of a strong. Labour party in the town. The members of Bridgend Council had been invited to attend this meeting. He no- ticed that Mr. J. G. Jenkins, the chairman, was present, and he invited him to take a seat on the platform. Mr. Jenkins accepted the invitation, and as he walked up to the platform he was given rounds of applause for the attitude he had taken up at the Council meeting. Mr. Hodges, continuing, said he had also re- ceived a letter from Mr. Henry Abbott, another member of the Council, regretting his inability to attend, and expressing his opinion that the "exploiters" were not the miners, but the "freighters, shipowners, colliery proprietors, landowners, mining magnates, manufacturers, and wholesale and retail dealers, whose doings were winked at by the Government." (Ap- plause.) Mr. Hodges remarked that there were evidently food elements, even among the Bridg- end Council. (Laughter.) Continuing, he said that the miners of the coalfield had been des- cribed as "exploiters of the public," and this meeting was the only opportunity they had to repudiate this charge. After indulging in un- seasonable personalities, Mr. Hodges, ooming to the crux of the question, said when the war broke out the average wage of the miners was 7s. 4d. per day. It was now 12s. 21<1. per day—an increase of 66.47 per cent. But the increase in the cost of food was 106 per cent. The increase in the cogt of living as a whole was estimated by the Board of Trade to be 80 per cent. If this latter figure were taken, it showed that the miners, in spite of their increase in wages, were 13J per cent. wo-r4, off than before the war. In July, 1915, Mr. Robert Smillie, cn behalf of the Miners' Federation, told the Gov- ernment that if they would prevent the price of coal being raised against the consumer, the miners would not ask for any increase in wages, but that if the coalowners were allowed to in- crease the price the miners would not allow the increase to go entirely into the pockets of the owners. Returns by 29 colliery companies in South Wales showed that in 1916 these compan- ies increased tTieir profits by nearly a million pounds as compared with 1915, and showed an increase in dividend of at leaat 7 per cent. Pits in the neighbourhood of Bridgend had had to close down because of extortionate royalities. The average labour cost per ton of coal (large and small) was only 13s. 4d., including the driv- ing of headings and sinking of shafts, but house- holders in Bridgend had to pay X2 per ton. If royalties and wayleaves were abolished the price to the consumer could be reduced 5s. per ton at once. Owing to the sinking of our ships by enemy submarines, the owners of woods in this country had put up their price for pitwood 500 per cent., and collieries were stopped for want of timber. He knew of one farm on which the timber was sold at a price which exceeded the whole of the original value of the estate. If timber in this country were reduced to pre-war prices, the price of coal for the consumer could be reduced a further 3s. -per ton. On the motion of Mr. Mervyn Payne, secon- ded by Mr. Meth Jones, a resolution was unani- mously carried expressing "disgust at the con- duct and language of certain members of Bridg- end Council towards the miners and Mr. Frank Hodges, and declaring that the charges of ex- ploitation could only be laid at the door of the landed and capitalist classes." The Chairman, calling upon Mr J. G. Jenkins (chairman of Bridgend Council) to propose a vote of thanks to the speakers, said that he wished that the cheers with which Mr. Jenkins had been received by that great meeting of Trade Unionists could reach the ears of the edu- cation authorities, who had meanly refused Mr. Jenkins, after all his years of public service in the teaching of the children of the people, a paltry half-day to attend the recognition ser- vices of his late pastor. (" Shame") Mr. Jenkins said he supported the proposal that Mr. Hodges and other Labour members should be elected to the Bridgend Food Control Committee because he thought that they would render useful service. He added that the sugar card return., showed that Bridgend supplied food for 20,000 people in the town and the neigh- bouring mining districts, and it was therefore important that the miner should be represented on the Food Committee. Councillor Woods, seconding the motion, re- marked that the two most unfair attacks on miners in that district since the outbreak of the war, came from land agents. (Applause.)