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PONTARDAWE WORKERS' MASS MEETING. THE SPIRIT OF CAPITALISM EXPOSED *1 A meeting under the auspices of the Pontardawe Industrial Council was held at the Public Hall, on Saturday evening, and was largely attended. Ati- Tom Jeremiah presided, and was sup- ported on the platform by Messrs. Geo. Smith, Tom Maddocks, M. James, Dd. John, D. J. Thomas, David Evans, M. Jenkins, T. Duncan, G. Harry, Moses Jenkins, W. Vaughan, Chaa. Williams, Dd. Jones, R. Poole, L. W. Rees, W. Powell and W. Howells, representative of the whole of the Trade Union branches, the members of which are employed at Gilbertson's Works. The meeting was convened by the Council for the purpose of placing be- fare the public the facts relating to the present dispute at Gilbertson's Works whereby between 800 and 900 men, boys and girls are affected owing to a question of seniority arising in the galvanzing department. The Chairman in opening the meet- ing stated that the majority of the workers of Pontarda-we were idle due to a dispute between the firm and a section of the workers. On the one hand the firm claimed the right to de- cide who was to "dip" or who was to roll. On the other hand the men claimed that they had a right to de- cide. The policy of "down tools" had been adopted because the men claimed that they had a man as capable of do- ing the particular job, as the man whom the firm had put on to do the job. The meeting had been convened for the workers of Pontardawe to decide whether the galvanizers or the firm had the right to place men in certain positions in view of the fact that the men had qualified for such positions by length of se.rvise. He did not think that any organization would support a man in his claim to any particular job unless that man was capable of doing the work. Otherwise it would be too nonsensical for words to describe their attitude. He claimed that the workers' duty was to see that they had a say in the matter as well as the firm-(ioad applause). Mr Chas. Williams having reviewed the position, the Chairman called upon Mr E. Skidmore to state the case. He congratulated those responsible for the formation of the Council, and said he be- lieved that there was plenty of work for their activities. It was a move- ment that should have taken place years ago in Pontardawe. Un- fortunately, there had been through- out the whole of the employees of Messrs. Gilbertson's a lack of unanimi- ty, and there had not been manifested that spirit of brotherhood that was being shown there that evening. On behalf of the Dockers' Union branch lie wished them every success, and hoped they would go forward and as- sist in helping them to remove the dis- advantages under which they were working. THE CAUSE OF THE STRIKE. In the galvanizing department there "had been no method of promotion which the men could insist upon being carried out. There were motione upon the minute book of the branch which dealt with promotion from one position to another, but when it came to the point, if the party who claimed pro- motion was hand in hand with the "powers that are" they got promotion, and the Union could go-(round the Tliore had been no fair play or security of tenure in thr> shop. He was not going to touch upon the capabilities of the two men who vere figureheads of the present djs- )ttto he believed that either of them du!d turn out equal wcrk with the tlier providing they worked under th 1 ame conditions—(eheors). One of ;<• "1en had been engaged at the- work s "or tsoven or right years, and holdir^ ..he same position or. tho other, gei- g iome day after day with ..> I NOT A DRY GARMENT ON HIS BACK. Some of those present knew what "tanking" was, others did not. One of the men had been employed in the shop for seven or eight years, and no fault, whatever, had ever been found with his work. The other man had, a short time ago, left Pontardawe, but had been brought back by the firm, and that was a point for them as Trade Unionists to consider. A fortnight or three weeks ago the Company decided to start a small "pot," and the ques- tion as to who was to go to work it was raised. Going on to detail the circumstances which led up to the firm appointing the outsider to work the "pot" the speaker said that at a branch meeting attended by over 200 members, not a single hand was raised to support the position taken up' by the firm. The question before them was as to whether Phil Humphreys or Harding should have the job, but they must not forget the principle at stake. Mr John Bodycombe: Have the men sent a deputation to see the manage- ment? Mr W. Vaughan: We have not sent a deputation since we stopped work- ing, but we did before we stopped. The reply we received was that he would allow these two men to go on working alternate weeks, one to "dip" this week, and the other to "dip" the fol- lowing week, and they should go on "dipping" for three or four weeks, and the man who had the greatest output, and would give the best yield in metal, or "flux" or "salt" as we call it would claim seniority—(shame). Workers, you who are in the tinning department know the danger of it-two men com- peting for seniority. The result of it may be that one may have his eyes blown out, and the other his hoad blown off in their eagerness to get the greater output. You know what "flux" is, and you know it is necessary to be very careful. We refused the offer like sensible workmen would do. Such an offer was a disgrace and an insult to the men. That is the spirit they want to foster. They want the young men to compete one with the other. They want to speed things up with the re- sult that when we reach the age of 40 we are too old. We cannot follow up. That was the offer made, and we re- fused it—(cheers). Mr J. Bodycombe: The reason why I asked the question was that it had been spread about the works that the deputation accepted those conditions. Mr W. Vaughan: Understand that no deputation has any right to accept anything—(loud cheers). The question was put to me, and I said that I would convey it to the men. I conveyed the whole truth to them, and they refused it—(cheers). In reply to Mr. Geo. Smith, Mr Vaughan stated that when he arrived at the works on Monday (19 January) all the "pots" were on stop. He asked the reason, and was told that Phil Humphreys had been put on at the new "pot" in the place of Harding. It had been decided in the branch meeting on the previous Friday, and the men promised to decide by the de- cision, that Harding was to continue, but they found out that he firm in- sisted upon another course. He (the speaker) asked the foreman if he could not stop No. 8 "pot," and the other seven would continue working, but the forman replied that he had received definite orders that if that "pot" was not going on all the machines would have to stop working. He (the speaker) then asked him to take the responsi- bility of stopping the "pot," and he would guarantee that all the other men would continue working, but he refused. The following resolution was then put to the meeting, and after discus- sion was carried unanimously: "That we, tho Industrial Council, think it advisable that a joint meeting of the delegates representing the various Unions should meet tho firm of Messrs. G'lbertson in order to discuss the mat- ter in dispute. In supporting the re«o!ufion Mr Skidmore sv.d there was nat (t izQrT employed at the v.0;1 w ho T. ishod to do any act or aerl.- v. 1 would bo detrimental to the :U!: Ti-ey as employees believed that their interests were centred in the interests of the firm, and he wished he could say that the firm's interests were centred in those of the men's—(ap- plause). Undoubtedly, efforts had been mude to foment strife and enmity by placing section against action. They had heard that Mr Chas. Gilbertson had wished to put these two particu- lar men into competition one with the other, and the better man in the in- terests of the firm was to be recog- j nised as the senior man. He bad never heard of a more audacious sug- gestion in his life. It was against every principle of Trade Unionism. They wanted a bigger output! Why? So that the office boys, the pen pushers and the slave drivers would get a bigger bonus—(cheers). That was the position, and that was what they were i suffering from. Trade Unionism stood for a fair day's work for a fair day's pay. The Company knew perfectly well that if the men only allowed Phil Humphreys to remain at that "pot" they would break the backbone of Unionism in Pontardawe, and it was for them as Trade Unionists to see that it was not done. After the resolution had been de- clared as carried unanimously, the Chairman said they had heard the position put before them by men who understood the position, and were speaking the truth. It was a question which concerned not only the men in the galvanizing department, but in every other department at the works. If the move succeeded in one depart- ment, very soon it would be made in another department, and if the em- ployers succeeded in getting what they were after in the galvanizing depart- ment, they would soon extend their in- fluence to the steel works and mills and every other industry in the coun- try. The speeding-up process in the mills was damnable, and was compell- ing them to move young men in to roll on shares. The employers were seek- ing for young men because they were better equipped, because their physique. enabled them to produce more tonnage with the result that their fathers were turned on to the industrial scrap heap —(shame). The remedy was in the hands of the workers, and they were strong enough to decide if they would only become united. The Trade Union movement was the only real weapon the workers possessed by means of which they could demonstrate their strength against the capitalist. If the workers refused to toil, the capitalist would be the first to fall to the ground. When a vacancy occurred in their Trade Unions the men claimed they bad the right to put the best equipped men into the position—men who thoroughly understand the economic position. The capitalist did not elect men who had gone through every stage in any particular department to supervise. Were the men in positions of authority at the works men who had "gone through the mill?" Were they fully qualified to hold these positions ? Yet, if there was anything wrong the firm said it was due to the inefficiency of the workers, even when the elected men knew nothing about the trade. These were the "gaffers," and he would not hesitate to tell the firm that if they had pl-iced 'men in -these positions who really knew their work, then there would not be the trouble they were experiencing—(loud cheers). Referring to the South African I trouble, the Chairman said that Lord Gladstone had bungled things in this country to such an extent that the Government had sent him to South Africa, and he was making a worse mess of things out there—(loud ap- lause). Whilst there was a strike in Staffordshire, and men were fighting for a minimum wage of 23s. per week, there was also a strike on in the Trans- vaal, and the men of the Staffordshire Regiment were in Johannesburg shoot- ing down the workers, whilst their fathers were fighting for a paltry wage of 23s. per week. He appealed to those present to fight unitedly with such determination that nothing should turn them a.«ide-(app!ause). < < ¿ ——-———







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