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ILedbury Produoe Market.

I__Ledbury Corn Market.





I FARM WORKERS' REVOLT. 1,500 Notloes Tendered In Hereford- shire. I What the Men are Fighting for. Herefordshire is at this time of the year, says the special representative of the Birmingham Post," literally a land of plenty, overflowing with p bounteous harvest, the richness and variety of which cannot fail to fascinate the eye of the jaded townsman. The fragrance of the hayfields fills the air; the hop harvest sways richly pendant in the light summer breezes, and the mellow fruitfulness of the cornfields patterns the landscape on every hand. Here we have, indeed, the veritable cornucopia, charged with the various offspring of the land, fruit, flowers, and corn." Not for four or five years at least have crops of all kinds promised so well. The wheat yield will probably exceed that of the last two years put together; the grain harvest is the best seen since 1910, and all apparently should be well for those who reap and sow and plough and hoe. But all is not well. The ugly spectre of industrial unrest has penetrated even into these fair pastoral scenes, and there is a possibility, or rather a probability, that in another two weeks' time we shall have the unedifying spectacle of masters and men wrangling over wages and hours and work- ing conditions generally, while the crops are awaiting their ingathering. Tfcfe fact of the matter, of course, is that the agricultural labourer has been seized with the strike fever with which we have long been familiar in the towns. The trade- union idea has taken firm root in this soil, and agents of the Workers' Union are sedulously cultivating it. Right through the centre of Herefordshire there are ramifications of the trade-union organisation; there are, at least, twenty branches, all of which are articulating their demand —it is no longer a request-for a higher standard of living. Only in April last the farm workers sent their delegates to conferences held in Leominster and Ross, and there was formulated a programme upon the main essentials of which masters and men are now at variance. I REDUCED DEMANDS. I The latest development is that, 1,500 labourers' notices to leave woi k in a fort- night's time were presented to the employers on Monday, through the Workers' Union whilst a considerable number of non union men who are in sympathy with the objects of the strike have also intimated their intention of personally notifying their masters of their intention not to work until their lot has been improved. The prospect, however, is not so black as it scorns in fact there are indications that the men's organisa- tion has come to the concluian that it is better not to press too strongly all' their demands upon employers who, in the majority, have a sincere wish to see their employes content, but object firmly to any dictation from a caucus of union officials. For one thing the men's leaders have decided, for the present, at any rate, not to insist on the recognition of the uuion-a point which the farmers are determined not to concede. They are quite willing to deal individually with their workers, when so desired, and they admit that in some cases wages are too low but," they say, let the aggrieved workmen come to us, and we will act in a reasonable manner, without the interference of union officials." And so there is good reason to hope that the threatened strike will not become general ,after all, but will be confined to particular farms. At their conference in April the farm labourers stipulated that geueral workmen should work a fifty-four hours' week in winter, and sixty in the summer mouths. Waggoners asked for a 7t hours' week in winter (including Sunday duties), and a 58 hours' week in summer, w-th a balf-day holiday in the seven days. For shepherds and stockmen 58 hours' work per week was the maximum, and in all cases the ra e of pay was fixed at fourpence rPf hour, with a minimum of £ 1 in the summer and 18s in the winter. There were other demands included, but these do not matter for the moment, inasmuch as the union seems to be concentrating chiefly on the wages question. Even in that regard they will have to go cautiously, for, if the trouble is fought out, there is every probability that the labourers' perquisites--free cottages, cider, and other pequisites together are worth considerably more than Cl per week. which is the minimum asked for by the men's repre- sentatives. It is stated, further, by the farmers that the men have got more than that to lose by a strike. Labour would be in less demand. One farmer who has 120 acres of clover declares that if the strike is persisted in he will not plough an inch of that ground again, and AO many of his present employes would be out of work. The issue of the quarrel, therefore, is dependent on a reasonable spirit of com- promise between masters and men. The masters apparently are. ready to be fair, but in some districts the men are disposed fool- ishly to play with the newly-found weapon of combination. I INTERVIEW WITH MEN'S LEADER. Mr S Box, who is the local secretary in the Hereford district, told me on Monday that there are slightly fewer than 10,000 agricul- tural labourers in the county, and thousands of these—all adults receive cash wages ranging from lis to 15s a week, without any perquisites. Even a casual labourer was paid at the rate of 2s 6d a day. Since the Workers Union bad started to organise the district, many of the best and largest employers of labour bad increased the wages of their men to the extent of from 2s to 4a per week according to the class of workman. Mr Box strongly condemned the system of tied cottages, holding that the labourer would be much more independent and freer to change bis p'ace of employment if the system were commuted for the equivalent cash. One of the largest landowners in the county, be added, purposed taking all his cottages out of the direct control of the farmers on bis estate. The cottages ought to be rented by the owners direct to the men. The men were more determined than their leaders, he said, that there should be an end to indi- vidual bargaining, and he also admitted that in cases were such men were able to arrange satisfactory term* with their employers they would not be called upon to strike so long as they were not called upon to assist black- leg farmers. They were not out against the generous and kind-hearted farmers, but solely against the sweaters." Mr Box explained that the strike-if there was one- would effect hop-pickers as well as the ordinary farm labourers, because the expe- rienced workers were many of them members of the union, and an attempt would be made to gain the sympathy of the unorganised workers who pour into the district from the towns during the season. We do not wish to force a strike," he concluded, and even now that the notices are in we are willing to meet the masters."