The Iron Workers' Strike at Ballarat in 1889

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A deputation consisting of Messrs. J. L. Anderson (president), T. Porter, of the Ballarat Trades and Labour Council, J. Sheldon (president) and J. Robertson (secretary), of the Ballarat branch of the Ironworkers’ Assistants’ Association, waited on the directors of the Phoenix Foundry this morning, with reference to the strike of the labourers at the foundry. The president of the Trades and Labour Council expressed regret at the strike, and trusted that they would be able to arrive at a satisfactory settlement of the dispute. He pointed out that the duty of the council was not to create strikes, but to prevent if possible their occurrence. He desired to know whether the directors of the company would be pleased to consider the wages question as suggested in the circular sent to them by the Ironworkers’ Assistants’ Association, giving the men a wage on £2 0s. 6d. per week, and time and a quarter and time and a half allowance for overtime. Mr. J. Shaw, the manager of the company, said he thought they had answered this when they wrote to the association, stating that they were quite willing to meet any of the employes [sic] who considered they had a grievance and to try and come to a fair and amicable settlement. Mr. J. Anderson said that if the directors were prepared to discuss this they would then discuss other arrangements. Mr. J. Shaw said that the representatives of the three foundries should be present at any such discussion. He complained bitterly that a portion of the press had stated that he went to Melbourne to obtain other labourers. This was absolutely false. It had been the rule for the labourers to attend at a quarter-past 7 o’clock each morning to start the fires. No objection had ever been raised to this, and if the men had objected he would have got a furnace man to light the fires. However, although the men made no objections, two of them had persistently neglected to start work at the proper time. He had consequently discharged them, as he did not believe in the men defying a master. They were warned, too, before they were discharged. He was never unreasonable with the men, and he did not know at the time that they were union men. It would have been better for the men to have said they did not wish to work. He had told Mr. Anderson the previous day that he would not discharge any more men, but he could not allow them to openly defy him. It was not true that at the time there were other men waiting at the door to go on. Mr. J. L. Middleton, one of the directors, said that since the beginning of the year they had had applications from fully 200 labourers. Mr. Shaw said he had not tried to get one man since the strike occurred, and he considered he had done nothing to justify the men leaving. He had always tried to have the greatest harmony in the shop, as the men worked better then. There was no bitterness in his mind towards the men, but he considered that the three men discharged should apologise. Mr. J. Sheldon said that the men considered that they had done no wrong, and that it was rumoured that there were four or five others who would have to go. Mr. Shaw denied this. He believed thoroughly in societies, as they did both parties good. He did not, however, think that the society men should act tyrannically. Mr. J. L. Anderson said it was a great pity to see such a large body of men out of work, and they wanted to see them all back at work. After further discussion, Mr. G. Perry (director) moved-
”That, subject to the consent of Mr. Hickman and Mr. Cowley, the proprietors of the other foundries, this board is ready to discuss the question of wages purely and simply between the employers of their hands and the Ballarat branch of the Ironworkers’ Assistants’ Association.”
The motion was carried. It was then decided that the men should be allowed to return to work under present rules pending the decision of the conference, providing that the three men discharged expressed regret through their secretary. Mr. J. L. Anderson expressed his satisfaction at the result of the conference, and thanked the directors for their courtesy. A vote of thanks was passed by the directors to the members of the Trades-hall Council, and the deputation then withdrew.
The men on strike met to-night, and agreed to submit the question of wages to representatives of themselves and masters, but not to go back to work until this matter was decided. They argued that, being all on strike, they might as well remain out until the wages question was settled. In thus deciding they are not following the recommendations of the Trades and Labour Council, that they should work under the old rules during the negotiations.[1]
Mr James Campbell addressed the electors of Brighton at the Sandringham State school last Monday night, was a large attendance, Mr G. Bundry occupied the chair.
Mr Campbell, who was very favourably received and obtained a patient hearing, confined his remarks to a review, of the Premier's speech. Of the greater part of the proposals he expressed his approval. He regretted that the Premier had not said more about railway extension. A bold policy in this respect should be pursued. In America, lines had been pushed out into the wilderness in advance of settlement, but the result had proved beneficial both to the railway companies and the country. There was no occasion to fear that any lines constructed in an economical way would not pay. They were the best investment for money the colony could wish for. The irrigation policy of the Government carried out with prudence, was a wise one. There was ample evidence to be seen at Brighton of what could be achieved by a proper cultivation of the soil. Though a freetrader in theory, he recognised that the fiscal policy of the colony could not now be changed without great injury to vested interests. He claimed however, that he had, by the assistance he gave to the Phoenix Foundry at Ballarat, when he twice became guarantor for large amounts on behalf of the company, done more in a practical form to assist native industry than many, who spoke loudly on the platform of their devotion to the cause of protection. (Applause.) Several questions were asked and answered, and the meeting closed by a vote of thanks to the chairman.[2]
(To the Editor.)
SIR.-I crave for a short space in your paper to give my reasons why I ask my fellow electors to vote for Mr Campbell in preference to Mr Bent. All those who had the pleasure of hearing Mr Campbell speak at his several meetings could hear that they were listening to a Statesman, a Gentleman, and a Scholar, there was no "Egotism" with him like his opponent, which was simply disgusting to hear. Such as "I did. this," "I did that," and the poor O'Loughlin government did nothing, but the Hon Thomas did all. Mr Campbell spoke well and to the point, and answered every question that was put to him, promptly and without the least shuffling, his greatest opponents have acknowledged this. Mr Campbell is strongly against the stock tax. Mr Bent is strongly in favor of it, which means that rich and poor will have to pay heavily for their meat, in order to put money in the pockets of a few already very wealthy graziers. Mr Campbell is against public houses being open on Sunday. Mr Bent is in favor of Sunday trading. Mr Campbell is in favor of Coalition Governments. Mr Bent is dead against them. Mr Campbell is in favor of having order and decency being conducted in Parliament House, and will, if elected, do all in his power to put down ruffisium and rowdyism. Mr Bent if elected, will still continue to obstruct business as he has done for so many years in the past, and thereby cause the fair name of Brighton to sink in the estimation of every respectable man in the colony. Mr Campbell owns property in Brighton to the value of Fifteen thousand pounds, (£15,000) so has a large stake in it. Mr Campbell came to the rescue of the Phoenix Foundry Co. Ballarat, some years ago, when it was nearly "up a tree," and he made himself liable to the bank for twenty thousand pounds, (£20,000,) he refused to take one penny for the assistance he rendered it, it is now one of the most prosperous companies in the Colony. Mr Campbell has travelled in almost every country in the world, so his wide experience and broad views would make him one of the most intelligent and active Members in Parliament. Mr Campbell when Post master-General, put down racing sweeps, thereby preventing Swindlers and Black legs from fleecing the public to the amount of several thousand pounds a year. Mr Campbell was the first to introduce sixpenny telegrams, and will, if elected, bring forward a measure for penny postage on all Victorian letters. I have Sir, several other reasons to urge why the independent electors of Brighton and Elsternwick should put such an able man into Parliament as Mr Campbell to represent them. But I am afraid I am taking up too much of your valuable space. I will only say in conclusion that I would not have written this letter only that Mr Campbell was vilified, and misrepresented by your contemporary in its issue last Saturday week, there was not a word of truth in what it said about him, but as he ably expressed it at his meeting last Tuesday night week in the Drill room, "Mosquitos" are very harmless creatures, they bite but, their sting is nothing, so he could laugh at the miserable " Mosquito " newspaper. Hoping the electors will do their duty next Thursday and return Mr Campbell by a large majority.
I am yours &c.
News and Notes.
At a meeting of the Ballarat Trades Hall Council a proposal was carried to submit the question of the Phoenix Foundry strike to arbitration. This proposal is likely to be carried into effect.[4]
The prospects of an early settlement of the strike at the Phoenix Foundry are not now so good as they were a few days ago. The directors of the foundry and the delegates for the men out on strike agreed upon a modus vivendi – that the wages question should be frankly discussed in conference, and that in the interim the men should return to work under the old rules. The members of the Ballarat Ironworkers’ Assistants’ Association, which body really is on strike, declined to go to work, however, until the wages difficulty is settled. The Melbourne branch of the association directs that the men must not go back to work until the union rate of pay is conceded. This is a decided rebuff to the local Trades-hall conciliation council, which has been, at the desire of the men on strike, endeavouring to effect a settlement. The council’s recommendations have been totally ignored, and their advice discarded by the men. The ironworkers’ assistants, by this arbitrary action, are alienating the sympathy of the other trades here, for it is felt that a strike could easily have been averted without their union being discredited.
The Ironworkers Assistants’ Association held a meeting to-night, which lasted until nearly midnight, to consider the strike at the Phoenix Foundry. The letters from the directors, complaining that the association had not fulfilled the conditions agreed to by the recent deputation, was read. The Trades-hall Council urged that they had not been treated fairly by the men in their going out, and staying out after arrangements had been made for the resumption of work, pending a settlement of the wages question. Ultimately the matters in dispute were referred back to the Trades-hall Council, but no pledges were given by the association.[5]
Matters in connection with the strike of blacksmiths’ labourers at the Phoenix Foundry are still at a deadlock. The directors are prepared to discuss the wages question frankly with the representatives of the men if the latter return to work as agreed upon at the conference. The men will not go to work except under the union rules. The directors have notified that they have given the men the opportunity to resume work, and as they have not utilised it they must consider the advisability of obtaining other hands.[6]
On Friday 5 April 1889 a conference was held at City Hall, relative to the Phoenix Foundry strike. In attendance were: [[Daniel Brophy (1832-1895)]Mr D. Brophy]], chairman of the foundry directors, Messrs Hickman and Cowley, proprietors of other iron working establishment in Ballarat, and Messrs Shelton and Robertson, president and secretary of the local branch of the Ironworkers’ Union, together with Messrs W. Brown, W. Carter, J. Mosson, W. Pawson and James Searll, members of the union.[7]
Ballarat Iron Workers Strike.
The conference relative to the Phoenix Foundry strike was held at the City Hall to-night; Mr. D. Brophy, chairman of the foundry directors, Messrs. Hickman and Cowley, proprietors of other iron working establishments in Ballarat, and Messrs. Shelton and Robertson, president and secretary of the local branch of the Ironworkers’ Union, together with Messrs. W. Brown, W. Carter, J. Mosson, W. Pawson and James Scarff, members of the union. Mr. Nylen, delegate from the Melbourne Union was also in attendance, and asked for permission to take a part in the discussion. The request was refused, and Mr. Nylen then asked to be allowed to remain in the room as a silent auditor, but the masters present objected, as they were against all Melbourne influences in matters appertaining to Ballarat, and only wished to deal with the Ballarat men directly interested. Mr. Nylen then withdrew, and the discussion proceeded, but nothing definite was arrived at. In reply to questions, the union men said they could accept nothing short of the increase of the wage from 6s o 6s 9d per day, with allowance for overtime, as stipulated in the circular issued to the employers. The masters than inquired what was the use of the conference when the men had come prepared to do one thing only. The men should yield a little in the matter, as the increase desired involves a heavy outlay. The chairman inquired if the men would be willing to submit all the points not conceded by either side at the conference to a board of arbitration. The union delegates said all points should be decided by the circular fixing the minimum wage and the charge for overtime. The chairman and other directors and employers asked whether it was not possible to withdraw the circular, and in order to allow the men time for considering this point they withdrew. The union men discussed this query, and finally they decided to write to the parent society in Melbourne, asking whether permission would be given to withdraw the circular. It was pointed out subsequently by the masters that if the men formulated a scheme of their own, irrespective of the Melbourne trade, nearly all their demands would be conceded. The conference was adjourned for a week, pending a reply from the Melbourne union as to the circular. In the meantime the men will continue work at the Phoenix Foundry. So far it must be said that the strike has been averted.-Age.[8]
The closing of the Phoenix and Union foundries here is regarded justly as a calamity. The cessation of wage-earning to the amount of about £1,000 per week will tell very seriously upon the tradespeople, as well as the wage-earners. It is generally felt that had the Melbourne Ironworkers Assistants’ Association left the matter to the local trades-hall council, there would have been no resumption of the strike, and the terms of the union would have been substantially obtained. There is a strong feeling here against the Melbourne association, which is regarded as having unnecessarily pushed matters to an extremity, and caused hundreds of artisans not directly concerned in the strike to be thrown out of employment. The directors of the Phoenix Foundry have for some time been considering the advisability of removing the establishment to Melbourne so as to save the cost of the conveyance of fuel, &c., and it is said that they have already obtained a site in a suitable place. The removal of the foundry from here would mean the loss to Ballarat of a turnover estimated at from £60,000 to £100,000 per year, and that would be a very serious loss. It is stated in some quarters that the pressure put by the Melbourne man upon the Ballarat association was inspired by the hope of crippling the Phoenix Foundry. There has been no disturbance amongst the men, who have quietly accepted the situation, but the artisans generally are not satisfied at the action of the strikers in declining to confer with the employers. The local ironmoulders had decided not to assist the strikers.
A special meeting of the Melbourne branch of the ironworkers’ assistants was held last evening at the Trades-hall for the purpose of discussing the present situation at Ballarat. The meeting was largely attended, there being about 150 present. Mr. Sheldon, the president of the Ballarat branch, was present, and spoke at some length on the position of affairs at Ballarat, Nothing fresh was to hand. The men now out on strike have fully determined not to resume work at present. A levy of 5s. per week was passed on all members of the union in Melbourne, which will amount to £140, leaving a total of 35s. per week for married members and 18s. for single men now out on strike. The action of the Ballarat branch was thoroughly endorsed, and the meeting closed.[9]
There is no fresh development in the strike and lockout here. The men are grouped in the streets in little knots discussing the situation, but beyond this, and the silence at the Phoenix and Union foundries, there is little manifestation of the serious check that has taken place at two of the principal manufacturing industries in Ballarat. Several of the artisans have gone afield in search of employment. These, of course, are not the strikers, but those who were deprived of work in consequence of the strike. The cessation of work at the Phoenix Foundry not only affects the men who were employed on the works, but a large number of wood-cutters, carters, and charcoal-burners also. The foundry is three months ahead of the contract for the supply of locomotives, and during the strike the apprentices will be employed in overhauling the machinery and effecting repairs. The contracts now under way are three:-For 20 goods, 25 tank, and 15 traffic engines respectively, and 13 of the first lot have been delivered. The stoppage at the Union Foundry (John Walker and Co.) is, it is an open secret, rather an advantage to the proprietor than otherwise. Business has been light lately, and he was keeping his men together at some expense to himself, and now they have elected to strike it will relieve him of the necessity of discharging some of them. Mr. Hickman’s foundry is a model establishment. He has at it a circulating library for the workmen, reading and smoking rooms, and a billiard room. He employed from 80 to 100 men, and his complaint is that his men never approached him upon the subject of an increase of wages, but struck on a circular sent to them from Melbourne. To-day 27 smiths from this foundry offered to return to work for labourers’ wages rather than see the place closed up. Mr. Cooley [sic] has not locked his men out. Thirteen labourers struck, but he has since carried on without them. He declines to admit any union men into his shop in future. Owing to some of the strikers assembling at this place and trying to induce his remaining labourers to leave, he obtained police protection.[10]
On Monday 15 April 1889 the Phoenix Foundry Company threw out almost 500 workers – not including the apprentices and the 130 ironworkers’ assistants already on strike - and suspended operations. At the same time, the Union Foundry laid off between 80 and 100 workers. For the first time since it began operating, on 18 April smoke could not be seen from the stack. These stoppages had a flow-on effect to eating houses in Armstrong and Doveton Streets. The stoppage amounted to about 900 pounds in wages lost from circulation in the Ballarat economy.
‘The assistants who struck work last week say, as a body, they must have the provisions of the Melbourne circular agreed to by the increasing of the wage from 6s to 6s 9d per day, with the stipulated allowances for overtime.’ The employers refused to bow to pressure from metropolitan sources.[11]
The Ironworkers’ Strike.
In accordance with the official announcement made yesterday, the Phoenix Foundry Company, the owners of that huge hive of industry in which Ballarat folk have taken so much pride for many years, suspended operations to-day, when close upon 500 hands were thrown out of work. The apprentices in the establishment, who number about 100, did not, of course, suspend operations, which are of a light, unimportant character. The news of the stoppage of work at “the Phoenix” caused much regret throughout the district this morning, and this feeling was greatly intensified when it became known that the Union Foundry, of which Messrs. John Hickman and Co, are the proprietors have also suddenly paid off their hands, who numbered between 80 and 100 workmen. The 500 hands who left the Phoenix Foundry this morning are irrespective of the 130 ironworkers’ assistants, who have been on strike for some days past, and whose action has led up to the marked aggressiveness on the part of the directors. Cowley’s Foundry was working to-day, but it is expected that the men employed here will be paid off to-morrow. This afternoon it was expected that a free fight would take place at this establishment owing to the presence of “rats” or “black legs,” but on the police being sent for the combat was averted. For the first time since the commencement of operations, smoke was not observed to-day issuing from the tall chimney stack of the [[Phoenix Foundry], and on all sides there were expressions of regret that so important and extensive an industry should be suspended when there was a chance of avoiding complications. Than Ballarat, there is not a more liberal or democratic stronghold in the colony, but the protectionists and friends of the working classes are in the present instance opposed to the action which has caused the locking out of about 600 hands. The now famous “Melbourne circular” has bred all the trouble, and not a few of the ironworkers urge that the whole dispute would have been settled without having recourse to an expensive combat. Inquiries are being made regarding what course the directors of the Phoenix Foundry will now pursue. Some people think that, as the contracts with the Government will allow time for strikes or other pursuits, the directors will “starve out” the discontented workmen, while other people consider that something more serious for the district will occur. At all events, no matter what happens, the outlook at present is very gloomy, and more than one eating house proprietor carrying on business in Armstrong and Doveton streets has to-day drawn a “long face” over his financial prospects in connection with the stoppage of operations in the Phoenix Foundry. But tradesmen all round will suffer, for the sudden stoppage of the circulation of wages, amounting to about £900, is no small matter in a place like Ballarat. “What is to be done?” is asked at almost every street corner. The assistants who struck work last week say, as a body, they must have the provisions of the Melbourne circular agreed to by the increasing of the wage from 6s to 6s 9d per day, with the stipulated allowances for overtime. The employers say, “No; we will give you within a fraction of what you want, but we will not countenance the circular or any metropolitan interference whatever.” Hence the trouble and general lockout. Large crowds of workmen surrounded the Phoenix Foundry this afternoon when the hands were being paid off, but everything passed off in a very orderly manner. For the sake of the district and the colony it is hoped that wiser counsels will prevail, and that the dispute will ere long be settled to the satisfaction of all persons concerned.
About 50 engineers and other artisans discharged from the Phoenix Foundry left for Melbourne by the late train to-night. They expect to be able to obtain work in the metropolis, where the iron trade is said to be brisk at present. It is intended to set the apprentices in the Phoenix Foundry at work cleaning the machinery and effecting repairs. The company have yet 53 locomotives to manufacture for the Government, representing a total value of £164,000. They comprise 13 heavy hoods engines, 25 tank engines and 15 passenger engines. The total of the contract was 70 locomotives, but 17 have been manufactured and delivered, the last leaving the work-shops this morning. The weekly consumption of coal at the works was 150 tons. The men employed in the Phoenix Foundry were the picked artisans of the colonies, and it is thought that the directors will have difficulty in again securing so efficient a staff of engineers and fitters. It is expected that arrangements will be made for the resumption of work at the Union Foundry on next Tuesday week. Pickets are on duty at each of the three foundries.-Age.[12]
The position of affairs at the Phoenix Foundry is the current topic of conversation here, and the general opinion is that the contest will be a protracted one. The directors are sanguine that they will succeed in establishing a non-union shop, as such shops have been established in Melbourne. All the smiths will apply for employment on Tuesday, and some of the fitters and moulders will do so. The difficulty will be in filling the fitting and moulding shops, and in obtaining labourers for the forges. Already outside workmen are coming into Ballarat, and popular sympathy is against the labourers who struck, as it is urged that they blundered right through the matter.
The origin of the strike is easily traced to the decision of the conciliation committee, which in Melbourne delivered an award on the wages question at issue between the iron« workers' assistants there and the employers. This award fixed the minimum day's wage for an assistant-that is a striker or labourer at the forges at 6s 0d per diem, with a scale of increase for overtime, and for Sundays, holidays, &c. Up till recently there was no union here in this branch of iron working, but one was formed taking in men from the Phoenix, Union, and Cowley's foundries, altogether 13S men (103 from the Phoenix, 20 from the Union, and 8 from Cowley’s), and it was called the Ballarat Ironworkers Assistants' Association. Mr. Sheldon, of the Phoenix contingent, was appointed president, and in January the following circular was forwarded to the masters:-
”United Ironworkers Assistants’ Society of Victoria.
”Ballarat Branch, January, 1889.
”To the Ironmasters of Ballarat.
”Gentlemen.-I am instructed by the members of the United Ironworkers Assistants’ Society of Ballarat, and by the consent of the board of management in Melbourne, to lay before you the undermentioned revised conditions of payment for labour for the various departments in connection with the members of the above society, and the same to come into operation on and after the 1st of March 1889. And I hereby give you one clear month’s notice, commencing from the 14th day of January, 1889. The work is dangerous, and very laborious, and we think the proposals before you are only just to ourselves, and by giving this notice you will have ample time to consider the conditions proposed. In conclusion, we consider what we are asking is only fair and reasonable, and in accordance with the award of the board of conciliation, which sat in Melbourne in February, 1888, and adopted on February 29, 1888, a copy of which we enclose. Hoping you will kindly give the award your earnest consideration, with a view to adopting the same, and let us know your decision on or before 14th February, 1889,-I have the honour to remain, yours respectfully,
”W. ROBERTSON, Secretary Ironworkers Assistants’ Society and Ironmasters’ Association.”
”The undersigned, constituting the board of conciliation, having considered the dispute between the United Ironworkers Assistants’ Society of Victoria make the following award:-
”1st. That eight hours shall be a recognised day’s work, at a minimum rate of wage of 6s. 9d. per day, or 10 ½ d per hour, and that no reduction be made to any workman receiving above the minimum. Any portion of a quarter of an hour to be paid as a quarter, and any member of the society working overtime to be paid at the rate of time and a quarter for the first two hours, and time and a half after the first two hours, and the same to continue until the usual time of starting next morning. In the event of any member being ordered to start work previous to the usual time of starting work, he to be paid at the rate of time and a half for the time worked prior to the usual starting time.
”2nd. In the event of any member working out on old work, or repairs, 1s. per day extra to be allowed as dirt money.
”3rd. In the event of a member being called away, after arriving at the shop to work, beyond 1 ½ miles and under 10 miles, without notice given on the previous day, he to be allowed 1s. extra for meals, in addition to travelling expenses.
”4th. When working beyond 10 miles a member is to be allowed his board, lodging, and travelling expenses.
”5th. In the event of any member working over the radius of 1 ½ and under 10 miles, he is to be allowed for the actual time occupied in travelling, computed from the time of leaving the shop until returning to the shop, with the usual rate for overtime when travelling during his own time.
”6th. That any member working on New Year’s Day, Christmas Day, Good Friday, Sunday, or Eight Hours Day shall receive double time, such days to be computed from midnight to midnight.
”Upon the questions, as to eight hours being a recognised day’s work; as to overtime being allowed time and a quarter for the first two hours, and time and a half after the first two hours; as to travelling expenses over 10 miles; also, board and lodging being allowed, and as to double time being allowed on the holidays listed, both parties to the dispute were agreed, and, although these points are necessarily included in our award, we were not called upon to adjudicate thereon.
”That the foregoing rates come into operation at and from Monday next, March 2, 1889.
”Melbourne, 29th February, 1889.
”{illegible list of names]
This is what is known as the Melbourne circular.
Circulars were also sent to Mr. J. Hickman, the proprietors of the Union Foundry, and Mr. Cowley, master boilermaker. The directors took no notice of it, and five or six weeks passed without a move on either side. Then the local ironworkers’ assistants referred the matter to the Ballarat Trades-hall Council, and that body passed it over to a sub-committee appointed to deal with labour troubles and, if possible, prevent strikes. When the sub-committee approached the directors, they replied that they had received no application from their employes [sic] for increased wages, but that when they did they would consider it. They certainly had received a circular, but that was inspired from Melbourne, and with Melbourne associations they wanted no contact. Meantime the impression grew amongst the men that the managers were marking out the leaders of the union for dismissal, and the men rather flagged in their fidelity to the newly-formed association. Their demand meant that all the hands employed at the forges, handling the iron, tending the fires, striking, and so on, should be entitled to £2 0s. 6d. per week minimum wage, besides the terms for overtime mentioned in the circular. These labourers include boys, youths, and men of powerful physique and mature years, whose pay ranged from 10s. to £2 10s. per week. All the work they did except the striking was entirely unskilled, and could be done by anyone without an hour’s training. The manager affirms that after the formation of the union the men did not work as they did before, and were not as amenable to the foreman as they should be; that, in fact, they became aggressive and independent, and that the shop was becoming disorganised. Mr. Sheldon, the president of the union, was dismissed for alleged neglect of duty. He says himself that the men kept taking his attention off his work, and that he could not call his dismissal altogether unjust, although he believes that his position in the union was at the bottom of the promptitude with which he was dealt with. The men grew restive at his dismissal, but took no step. The sub-committee from the Trades-hall Council was still endeavouring to effect an adjustment of the difficulty, and the master were meeting them when an inflammatory paragraph in the local press set masters and men at a great distance again. It was the duty of certain men to light the forges in the mornings a quarter of an hour before the others came on, and this quarter of an hour was included in their ordinary day’s work, while the new terms wanted would have made it overtime. One morning the manager found three men, members of the union, late at the forges, and he discharged them on the spot, and thereupon the whole of the labourers went out on strike. They did not consult with the local Trades Council at all, but wired an account of their action to the Melbourne union, which promptly endorsed it, and proposed to support their action in striking and displaced the local Trades Council; and at first it was disposed to let matters take their course. Ultimately the council tried conciliation again, and mainly though its intervention a conference was arranged between the masters and the men, and the men went back to work pending a settlement. The directors refused to take Sheldon back, but admitted the three men whose discharge had precipitated the strike. When the conference began, the directors make it a condition precedent that the Melbourne circular should be withdrawn. The representatives of the men refused to withdraw the circular, and the conference adjourned for a week to allow them to decide upon the matter, the men in the meantime continuing to work after consulting with the parent union. The men, when the conference re-assembled, refused to withdraw it; and the conference broke up without anything being done, except that the directors intimated they were prepared to make certain concessions, and handed a sealed packet containing these to the press. This packet is still retained at the Courier office. The men went out on strike again the next morning, and two days later the directors and Mr. Hickman closed their works. Mr. Cowley did not interest himself in the conference, but worked with such non-union men as he had.
It is generally felt by the trades here that the ironworkers’ assistants have muddled their case from the start, and that they could have got very favourable terms from the masters if they had gone about it in a reasonable and sensible way. Instead of trying to force the Melbourne award down the employers’ throats the closure of the works, of course, threw a large number of employes [sic] out or work-about 500 altogether, including boys-all of whom, except the strikers themselves, got no strike pay, and were forced into unprofitable idleness. This selfish policy of the assistants, and the way in which they muddled their case, alienated the sympathy of the trades generally, and they were rapidly becoming very unpopular. Moral pressure from all sides was brought to bear upon them to get them to withdraw the obnoxious circular. They, however, maintained from the first that the employers were trying to cripple their union, to divide and conquer it, while the masters affirmed that they had no hostility whatever to the union as a union, but were resolutely opposed to being “bossed” by the Melbourne Union.
The following letter, received by Mr. Shaw, the manager of the Phoenix Foundry, from an employe [sic], is believed to be very near the secret of the strike:-
”April 16, 1889.
”Mr. W. H. Shaw.
”Dear Sir,-I hope you will kindly excuse me writing to you on this matter. I do not know whether you know who is the cause of all this trouble-it is the young men chiefly in the smiths’ shop; it is not the men with families that have caused it. They have had pressure brought to bear on them by the young men; and I believe that the married men are willing to resume work with your permission. If there is not a check put on these young fellows they will cause further trouble, and the men who resume work will have the life of a dog, as they want to rule the firm. You can form no idea of the sneers a fresh hand gets when he first comes to work in the foundry. They take care you do not see it, and if a man complained to you he would get worried. Ir is not the men in years, not the sensible men that do this. It is these young fellows, and unless a check is put on them it will occur again. If I may offer a suggestion, why not let the smiths take a part in this affair by calling them together and allowing them to find [illegible] for themselves, with your approval. Hoping you will kindly excuse me troubling you.-I beg to remain yours truly.
”P.S.-I dare not sign my name, as I know what would be the result if it was known to some of them.”
It has been said that the labourers could not be got to see the full benefit of unionism, so the strike was organised to show it. The strike, however, was at first really an accident. The powder was lying about, and a spray spark fired it, but now it has assumed very different dimensions. The last action taken by the directors gives colour to the belief of the men that the directors were actively opposed to their union. The men after some delay got the Melbourne union to permit them to withdraw the circular, on condition that the directors opened their sealed packet of concessions. In the meantime, however, the directors had been inquiring quietly for employes [sic], and felt themselves strong enough to take a new departure altogether. They profess to entirely disbelieve the genuineness of the talk of conciliation from the men’s side, and have resolved to open their shop as a non-union one. They will get back some of their old employes [sic], but the attack thus make [sic] upon unionism will rally most of the tradesmen to the side of the men, and the strike and lock-out assume very different proportions. Although the tradesmen generally are greatly incensed with the blundering of the assistants and their association, they will not help the foundry now in any way. Public opinion is that the men deserve to be defeated for the tactical mistakes they made.
The directors intend to carry on work without union men, even if they have to do with a tithe of the staff they have space for. They are confident that they will succeed, and have many things in their favour. The public here would much rather see the labourers defeated than the local locomotive manufacturing industry injured.
Mr. Cowley has also opened his shop as a non-union one. At Mr. Hickman’s the men are at work already, but not the full staff. It will be impossible to tell before Tuesday how many men the foundry will start with, but one thing is certain that unless something is done to maintain the artisans locked out, a proportion of them will return to the shop in preference to leaving Ballarat for work, or staying here unprofitable idle. The Trades-hall Council will be actively arrayed against the foundries now that unionism is attacked by the directors. The manager (Mr. Shaw) attaches no importance to the removal of some of the artisans and foremen, and is confident that he will be able to fill their places without difficulty.
The men held a special meeting at the Trades hall this (Sunday) afternoon, but they have not allowed what took place at it to transpire.
A special meeting of the Ironworkers Assistants’ Society will be held at the Trades-hall, Lygon-street, to-night, to consider the latest phase of the dispute at Ballarat. It is probable that the meeting will decide to seek the assistance of all the united trades, through the Trades-hall Council, in continuing the struggle against the proprietors of the foundry, as the question has now resolved itself into a matter of the maintenance of the principle of unionism. It is not unlikely that the union hands remaining in the foundry will now be called out on strike by their respective societies.[13]
Whatever may be the result of the strike at the Phoenix Foundry in Ballarat, there can be very little doubt that it has been thoughtlessly ordered and badly managed. The ironworkers’ assistants entirely ignored the fact, well known to all who have been involved in trade disputes, that victory rests, as a general rule, with the side which can command moral support and material sustenance from the public. They appear to have acted impulsively, and without considering the question whether public opinion would favour them. It is evident from the full report from our Ballarat correspondent, which we published in yesterday’s issue, that the labourers in the Phoenix Foundry had no grievance with which even the bulk of the skilled artisans, to say nothing of the general population, could sympathise. It is clear, further, that they took the most objectionable way of urging their claims, and lost what support might have been accorded to them by insisting that the directors of the company should accept the Melbourne circular. This circular contained a demand for terms exactly similar to those which were awarded by the board of conciliation a year ago when a dispute occurred between the ironworkers’ assistants and their employers in the metropolis. But it does not follow that an arrangement which may be accepted here on all sides will commend itself to the people of Ballarat. As a matter of fact, Ballarat and Melbourne hold different views, and an agreement that is framed in the one city does not necessarily apply to the other. We may be sure, for instance, that the directors of the Phoenix Foundry will receive a great amount of local sympathy in resisting everything like dictation from a Melbourne trades-union. And, moreover, as a little reflection will show, there are some sound reasons, altogether apart from local sentiment, for maintaining that the trade regulations enforced in the capital are not applicable in their entirety to the provincial cities.
The strike in the Phoenix Foundry is almost a strike in a Government department. The works are kept open mainly by the large number of Government contracts which are there executed, and by the railway facilities which are given to the company. In general, manufacturing of every sort tends towards Melbourne, for the simple reason that in a colony where most of the raw material is imported the employers can manage their business more effectively on the seaboard. Were coal or iron seams of sufficient magnitude to be discovered in Gippsland, some of the factories might be transferred in that direction; but at present they are naturally, and almost necessarily, grouped near the wharves on the banks of the Yarra. The tendency, which has often been witnessed in England, also exists here; the tendency to establish factories in the locality where they can be most economically and conveniently managed. It was for this reason that shipbuilding was transferred from the Thames to the Tyne and the Clyde, with their great coal and ironstone fields; that the manufacture of cotton has always remained near the great Atlantic seaport; and that Glasgow has gained a special reputation for machinery. Similarly in this country, where coal and iron are both imported, the factories are built within easy reach of the harbour. If, therefore, the same rules are to be observed in a Ballarat factory that are accepted in Melbourne, the managing directors will be compelled to seek the same advantages, and transfer their works to a place nearer the shipping. But that would certainly be a blow at an important industry in an important city. The young assistants, who have taken none of these things into consideration, and who have impulsively rushed out on strike, are in reality throwing away their chances. They have been working in a well-equipped foundry, under rules that do not imply any grievance, and that satisfy the skilled artisans; and yet they are ready to jeopardise the whole industry.
The directors have met the trouble in the most straightforward fashion. They are determined, and, judging from the number of applications which they received yesterday for employment, with every prospect of success, to ignore the trades union regulations. This does not mean, as we understand it, that they will object to any man because he happens to be a member of a union. On the contrary, the doors are open to all artisans and labourers who care to work under the rules of the foundry, whether they belong to outside unions or no. But the employers decline to recognise outside regulations, and insist upon retaining the management of their workshops in their own hands. Probably the terms that they offer will be more just and fair to the real interests of the town and of their workmen than any system of rules that a trades-union could draft. At any rate, there is no lack of applicants, who are evidently prepared to accept them, and who feel that they are quite capable of judging for themselves as to the agreement they should make with the directors. Doubtless every conceivable pressure will be brought to bear, now that the directors have completely rejected the union rules; and as they have Government contracts in hand, the Government may be approached on the subject. But the hours of labour and the rate of wages in Ballarat are matters that ought to be settled by the employers and the men, or, we may say broadly, by the Ballarat people themselves.[14]
(By Electric Telegraph.)
Melbourne, THIS DAY.
The non-union man who went to work at the Phoenix Foundry, Ballarat, was followed to-day during dinner hour by 200 strikers and larrikins who hooted and yelled at him. A policeman took the man home.[15]
Considerable excitement has prevailed here to-day in consequence of the Phoenix Foundry Company commencing operations this morning with a mixed staff of hands. Every effort had been put forward by the assistants and their sympathisers to prevent the mechanics going in, and not altogether without success. The whole of the moulders, engineers and smiths, and machine men mustered before 8 o’clock with the intention of proceeding to work; but at the last moment the members of the Ironmoulders’ Trade Society were prevented from so doing by a telegram from their executive in Melbourne. The announcement of this fact called forth loud cheers from those present, who evidently from their expressions looked upon this as an important result in their interest. The whole of the others above mentioned, however, including three members of the Ironmoulders’ Friendly Society, went to work as usual, but later in the day the latter (the three moulders) also received instructions from Melbourne to cease work while union men were on strike, and they will probably be absent to-morrow. Meanwhile a member of each of the abovementioned moulders’ societies has left for Melbourne to attend executive meetings. The local boilermakers, as I indicated yesterday, declined to go in, and reiterate their firm determination to stand by the assistants, who are union men. Their places have been supplied partially only by two new hands, in addition to the new foremen, and the proprietors say that they can carry on with these, under present conditions. A full staff of labourers went to work, and applications continue to come in, but their ability to perform the work required of them is ridiculed by those who are out. The most important indication will be given to-night, when the executive of the Engineers’ Society meets to determine their course of action; the company asserting that the rules of the Engineers’ Society do no compel them to come out when non-union labour is employed, and grounding their reason on the fact that the members have not stood out with the boilermakers. They also base their hopes to some extent on the smiths, who are, with three exceptions, non-society men, and without whom the engineers are not likely to act. On the other hand, it must be remembered that, without considering their rules, the engineers and smiths were anxious on Sunday last, when the joint meeting was held at the Trades-hall, to act with the boilermakers and fight the battle out; but the moulders were then the obstacle, and their refusal to act in the direction desired, was the cause of so many finally proceeding to work this morning. Many of the engineers also claim that they cannot now work according to their rules, the foundry having been opened as a declared non-union shop.
The foundry proprietors are, so far as appearances go, not in the slightest degree wavering, and believe that they will have very little difficulty in securing a sufficient number of hands to carry on operations. The whole of the trades are also preparing to face a bitter and determined struggle – many of them, too, trades that did not entirely sympathise with the assistants in the manner, rather than the matter, of dispute at the outset, but who now feel that the latest actions of the company have indicated an attempt to strike a serious blow at unionism. A mass meeting of the trades is spoken of; but it is more than probable, from what I can hear, that each society will meet and decide upon the measure of support, and the real fighting will be directed by an executive representative of all societies. This, at least, is hinted at by some of the leaders, and seems acceptable to the following.
A desire has also been expressed by many of the business people to-day that a public ratepayers meeting should be convened by the mayors, and a committee appointed to act if possible as mediators, but so far no action has been taken in the matter. The officers (or rather I should say, some of the officers) of the local Trades Council, also think they could effect a speedy and satisfactory settlement if the assistants would allow them to act with full powers, but this the latter are not favourable to at this late stage.
Police were again told off to do special duty at the Phoenix Foundry to-day, but they had nothing to do. Fully 400 of the strikers and their sympathisers, as well as business people and others, were congregated outside the foundry during the dinner hour, and by some it was feared that a serious disturbance might occur, but these fears proved groundless, the men behaving very orderly throughout, only cheering when they succeeded in gaining a promise from four of the non-union labourers to cease work.
Rumours have been current that the three foremen to whom I referred yesterday had been discharged in consequence of having taken part in Mr. Bailey’s political candidature for Ballarat West at the recent election. Upon making inquiries, this was admitted by the management, who pointed out that Mr. Bailey, as a foreman and a labour candidate, occupied an invidious position, and, moreover, the proprietary hold their foremen in good esteem and wish them well, but state that, owing to the introduction of politics into the foundry, matters lately have not been working smoothly, and a change would have been absolutely necessary in the interests of the company had the assistants’ strike not occurred.
The Union Foundry work has been in full swing all day, and the whole of the old hands will go on as they can be accommodated. In fact, the feeling between Mr. Hickman and his employes [sic] seems as good as ever.
At Cowley’s matters are unchanged.
The intended meeting of the engineers’ executive did not take place to-night, but for what reasons members refuse to divulge. They will go to work as usual in the morning. The boilermakers and assistants have each held meetings, but they decline to give any information. There is every reason to believe, however, that some fresh move of an important character is on foot, and from hints dropped it is anticipated by the strikers that a settlement may be effected to-morrow evening or on Thursday at the latest. In consequence of the large numbers of persons congregated in Armstrong-street to-day, the police have received instructions to enforce the move on by-laws to-morrow. No disturbance of any kind has taken place, only a little good-humoured chaff having been indulged in. Feeling, however, is running very high.[16]
Matters were advanced another satisfactory stage to-day by a settlement at the Yuille street foundry. Negotiations were commenced this morning between Mr. Cowley and his men, and resulted in a very little time in a compromise being arrived at on exactly similar terms to those adopted at the Union Foundry viz., 6s. 9d. per day of eight hours, or a minimum wage of £2 0s. 6d. weekly, time and a quarter from 3pm to 7 p m , time and a half afterwards, double time for specified holidays and Sundays . These terms were accepted as satisfactory on both sides, and the men who were out returned to work this afternoon. The struggle has therefore been narrowed down to the Phoenix Foundry, and here also there were hopes of a peaceful settlement being arrived at to-night The outcome of last night s meetings was that this morning representatives of the men waited on Mr. Shaw and suggested that an attempt should be made to effect a settlement by the company and the employes [sic], without reference in any way to societies or any persons apart from themselves. To this Mr. Shaw, after consideration, agreed. The foundry continued on yesterday’s lines to-day, very little occurring worth mentioning in the way of alterations of hands except that the places of those labourers who yesterday came out were filled by fresh arrivals.
Meanwhile the excitement and anxiety are becoming more intense, and mounted police have been on duty to-day to clear the footways and roads, and prevent those on strike from congregating outside the foundry. Fully 400 men and boys have been out to-day, and both in the dinner hour, and at the time for ceasing work demonstrations of disapproval were made against the new labourers that have gone in. One man was followed about by the crowd from 12 to 1 and could not manage to obtain his dinner. This evening the same individual, with his son, who only went to-day, were followed from the foundry to Lydiard-street, and eventually were taken in charge by the police for their (the men’s) own protection, a serious disturbance being feared. Shortly afterwards a man named Henry Hunter, a carpenter, was arrested by Constable Rogerson, on a charge of using language calculated to provoke a breach of the peace. Several others were threatened, and it is plainly evident that a bitter feeling is growing. Last night one of the newly-engaged labourers was dipped in a water trough in Ballarat South by a number of young fellows, who are not known. The leaders of the societies that are out express strong abhorrence at any acts of violence, and the members one meets with at the Trades-hall, and in the street, as a rule do not think the union men have been, or will be, guilty of any such thing. They think there is a reasonable prospect of a settlement being speedily arrived at. The man Hunter, who was arrested, is not in any way connected with the strike or the strikers, but any breach of the law now will to some extent reflect on the strikers, and injure their cause. Both parties seem reasonably inclined to come to terms.
Unfortunately the dispute is apparently no nearer an issue, the negotiation for the conference of the Phoenix Foundry employes [sic] with the directors of the company having been resultless. The men were prepared to at once submit terms, but the directors declined to meet them. Preparations are, therefore, being made by the unions to sustain a prolonged struggle. The delegates from the two moulders’ societies returned from Melbourne to-night, and reported to their unions the result of a joint meeting of the metropolitan trade societies, when it was agreed that the men, including apprentices who were not bound, must all stand out. After a short discussion it was resolved by the Moulders’ Society to obey the resolution. The boilermakers also announce that they intent to remain firm in their resolution not to go to work with non-union labourers.
Much comment is indulged in regarding the demonstration of mounted police. Some of the citizens hold that it was perfectly justified and necessary, while others affirm that existing antagonism is only being embittered by it. The officers of the trades council have spoken to the head of the force, pointing out that unless care is exercised by the members of the latter body in the discharge of their duty serious results may follow, notwithstanding the sincere determination of the executive bodies to check any demonstration or violent acts. A far worse feeling was exhibited to-day than at any previous period. It is, however, urged by those in authority that men in the employ of the company are in danger, and that nothing short of decisive action by the police will prevent intimidation and violence.
The Moulders’ Society will not “picket” the Phoenix Foundry, as its members have no fear that skilled labour such as they provide is obtainable.
Work has gone on smoothly at the Yuille-street foundry, and the document containing the terms of settlement has been signed by Mr. Cowley. Votes of thanks were passed by some of the societies to-night to Messrs. Hickman and Cowley for the way in which they have met them in regard to the dispute.[17]
Melbourne, May 1.
Matters at the Phoenix Foundry, Ballarat, show no change to-day. Those who resumed work have refused to leave their employment. A [illegible] of strikers and idlers gathered about the foundry, and at noon one of the labourers, while going to his dinner, was followed by about 200 larrikins and young members of the Ironworkers Assistants’ Association, who hooted and yelled at him. A policeman, however, conducted him safely home. At about 1 o’clock an immense crowd assembled in front of the Phoenix Foundry, completely barricading the street. Although there was no disturbance it was deemed necessary to call out two troopers and all the available police, who managed after some difficulty to clear the passage way. The mob was composed mostly of idlers and onlookers. At Cowley’s foundry work was resumed at 1 o’clock, amid great rejoicing, on the terms already mentioned. At the request of some of the trades’ union Mr. Hickman and one or two leading citizens will wait upon the manager and directors of the Phoenix Foundry to endeavor to bring about a settlement of the difficulty. The labourers taken on at the Phoenix establishment are a very inferior lot, and some of them have not hitherto seen machinery of the kind in motion. Consequently a great deal of trouble is experienced, and their labor is expensive. It is the general opinion that if the ironworkers’ assistants would only be quiet, and not resort to foolish actions, the foundry proprietors would find it to their interest to pay the rate demanded by the association and obtain the best workmen.[18]
The Phoenix Foundry Company to-day refused to accept Mr. Brophy’s resignation, and gave him 12 months leave of absence.
The several societies interested in the Phoenix Foundry strike held meetings this evening, to consider the proposals brought from the conference last night, and decided in favour of accepting them. The ironworkers assistants did not meet until 10 o’clock this evening, and were late in arriving at a decision. At about half-past 11 they announced to the conciliation committee that they had decided to accept the terms offered. And the committee then held a meeting, and appointed the president, Mr. Anderson, and Mr. Porter to represent the Trades’ Council in drafting the agreement. They will probably meet and deal with the business to-morrow, and the men will resume work on Thursday morning.
Great satisfaction was expressed on all hands, and ringing cheers were given by a large crowd outside the Trades-hall when the result was made known.[19]
Strike to end on May 8.
The conciliation committee was finally successful in forging an agreement between the directors of the Phoenix Foundry and the workers – with the greatest outcome being the recognition of the workers’ right to legal union.[20]
The Ironworkers’ Strike
BALLARAT, Tuesday.
ANOTHER conference between the conciliation committee of the Trades’ Council and the directors of the foundry was held last Monday night, at the City Hall. The conciliation committee waited on the directors with the object of obtaining certain further concessions, and after a two hours’ discussion the proposals of the previous conference were amended as follows:_1. The directors agree to recognise local union subject to the guarantee of the Ballarat Trade and Labor Council that any future dispute or grievance be first referred to such council, in which case the council will also hear the employer; also, that no individual dispute between the manager and the work man be a dispute to refer to the council, the manager to be sole judge. 2. All written engagements made by company now in force to be fully respected. Such men under engagement need not join the union during the term of their engagement unless of their own free will 3. The directors will then be prepared upon the unconditional withdrawal of the circular to concede the minimum rate of wages, viz., 6s 9d per day, and payment of overtime same as now paid to the mechanics. 4. In the event of a settlement the manager, in taking on what men he may require, to be at liberty to exercise his own choice. At a meeting of the trades these proposals were laid before the various societies. The president of the trades’ council stated that the conciliation committee had waited on the directors, who had given their ultimatum. If it was not satisfactory there would be no further meeting. The directors had stated that they had given way on every point they could, and they could give no more. The president read the proposals made, and stated that of the questions the conciliation committee were desired to put by the ironworkers’ assistants, the directors had answered all but one favorably, but had declined to discharge all non-union men in their employ. The directors had also stated that all the employes [sic] who had been receiving above the minimum prior to the dispute would on being re-engaged receive the same wage. They could not expect more. The company had given way on every point but one, and offered no objection to getting these men into the union. The directors agreed if these amended proposals were accepted to meet two members of the trades’ council and have an agreement drawn up and signed containing the foregoing provisions, that if satisfactory to the ironworkers’ assistants, would enable work to be resumed on Thursday afternoon. Meetings of the respective societies are to be held this day (Tuesday) when the matter will be discussed.
The ironworkers see now that some of their number will not be employed should [illegible] be settled, as the manager of the foundry has given a twelve month’s agreement for work to those men who are at work at the present. He has no objection to their joining the union if they desire to do so at the termination of the strike, and will acknowledge the privilege of the union to require the men to join them when the time of their agreement expires if necessary to do so. The ironworkers feel agrieved [sic] that the manager should have put on a man on Saturday after promising on Friday that no more non-union men should be engaged. The facts of the case are however, as follow:-An application was received from Castlemaine for employment, and the answer engaging the man was posted on Thursday evening last, so that the man on arriving in Ballarat to start work on Saturday did so in compliance with an engagement dated Thursday, which the management were bound to observe.
(Ballarat Star, May 7.)
The strike at the Phoenix Foundry has now been practically brought to a termination, and work will be resumed at the foundry to-morrow morning under conditions somewhat similar to those which existed previous to the dispute. The forms submitted from the conference between the directors of the Foundry and the Trades’ Council Conciliation Committee were fully considered yesterday at the meetings of the various societies interested, who were called together for the purpose. A meeting of the Executive Committee of the Ironworkers’ Assistants’ Union was held yesterday morning, when it was decided to recommend the general meeting to accept the terms offered. At the meetings of the Moulders, Boilermakers, and Engineers’ Societies, held in the evening, it was also resolved to strongly recommend the assistants to accept the proposals. The latter body met at 10 o’clock, and unanimously adopted the recommendations from their executive. The result was supported by the president of the Assistants’ Union to the Trades’ Hall Council, who congratulated the assistants on their [illegible]. Mr. J. L. Anderson (president of the council) and Mr. T. Porter were appointed to meet the directors to-day and draw up an agreement. On the conclusion of the proceedings the men assembled in front of the Trades’ Hall gave hearty cheers for the various bodies interested, for the Trades’ Council, and the press. An adjournment was subsequently made to Pobjoy’s Unicorn Hotel, where Mr. Sheldon, president of the Ironworkers’ Assistants’ Union, proposed the health of the president of the Trades’ Hall Council. Mr. Anderson suitable replied. Meetings of the various trades will be held during to-day.[21]
Very general satisfaction has been expressed here to-day at a settlement having been arrived at in connection with the Phoenix Foundry trouble, and the opinion is freely expressed that the directors and manager of the company have dealt very reasonably with the men, and that the assistants would have been foolish to refuse the terms offered. Some few of the latter are inclined to grumble, but those are regarded even by the other unionists as extremists. Credit is specially due to Mr. J. Noble Wilson for his voluntary and successful efforts to bring about mediation, for notwithstanding the fact that the management were prepared to deal as reasonably as possible throughout if they were only approached in a proper and what they considered fair manner, it required some considerable amount of tact and sensible judgment to bring about the result that has been achieved.
The Ironworkers’ Assistants’ strike has absolutely terminated now, the agreement having been duly signed this evening, and the men required will commence work in the morning. The following is a copy of the agreement:-
”Agreement mad ethis 8th day of May, 1889, between Messrs. George Percy and R. G. Middleton, directors of and representing the Phoenix Foundry Company Limited, and John L. Anderson and T. B. Porter, representing the Trades and Labour Council, Ballarat, and the Ballarat Ironworkers’ Assistants’ Society,
”Whereby it is agreed:-
”1. That the Ballarat Ironworkers’ Assistants’ Society is hereby recognised by the said company as a local society, to be governed by the general laws of the United Ironworkers’ Assistant Societies, Victoria, as now produced.
”2. That, in the event of any future dispute or grievance between the said company and the members of the said society, such dispute or grievance shall in the first instance be referred to the Trades and Labour Council, Ballarat, who shall hear both sides, and whose decision thereon shall be final, and binding upon the members of the said society; but no dispute between the manager of the said company and any individual member of the said society shall be deemed a matter for reference to the said council, the said manager to be sole judge in such cases.
”3. All written engagements by the said company to be fully respected. Such men as are under engagement need not join the said society during the term of such engagement, unless of their own free will and consent, the engagements thus provided for not exceeding 23.
”4. The said J. L. Anderson and T. H. Porter, on behalf of the said society, hereby unconditionally withdraw the circular originally issued by the said society.
”5. The said company hereby agrees that the minimum of wages to be paid in future to the members of the said society employed by the said company shall be at the rate of 10 ½ d. per hour, and overtime paid for the same as now paid by the said company to mechanics; no reduction to be made in the wages of the members of the said society who may be re-engaged by the said company who were receiving above the minimum rate.
”6. The manager of the said company, in taking on what members of the said society he may require, to be at liberty to exercise his own choice.
A joint letter of thanks is to be sent by the directors of the company and the conciliation committee to Mr. J. N. Wilson.[22]
An agreement was signed between the Trades’ Council and directors of the Phoenix Foundry – that any future strikes could only occur with the permission of the Trades’ and Labor Council.[23]
OUR Ballarat correspondent writes:-The directors of the Phoenix Foundry met Mr. J. L. Anderson (president) and Mr. T. H. Porter, on behalf of the Trades and Labor Council, on Wednesday afternoon when the terms of the agreement were slightly amended. The agreement was then formally drawn up and was signed in the evening. The result is a pleasing on to both the public and the Trades’ Council as it provides for the settlement of future disputes, and will prevent a strike again occurring without the permission of the Trades’ and Labor Council. The foundry took on the men they required this morning. There are, however, a number out of work and these will either have to leave Ballarat or wait for opportunities of employment as the occur.[24]
The Ironworkers’ Strike at Ballarat.
The agreement arrived at by the Board of Conciliation and directors will be signed shortly. By the agreement the directors of the Phoenix Foundry will recognise the minimum rate of wages fixed by the Ironworkers’ Association, but in the event of a dispute in the establishment in future, the matter must be referred, by both sides, to the local Trades’ and Labor Council for arbitration. This virtually means that all local disputes shall be settled without the interference of any Melbourne organisation and in this degree the Phoenix directors have scored a victory, inasmuch as their first protest during the strike was against recognising the circular issued by the Melbourne branch of the Association.[25]
Since the departure of the last mail there has been an unemployed movement, as is generally the case on the approach of each winter. The movement, however, did not assume large proportions, the gatherings as a rule never exceeding 200. Deputations from the men waited on several occasions on the Minister of Public Works, who informed them that there was employment for a couple of hundred men at the railway construction works in Gippsland, and he has this week provided about 60 of the unemployed with free railway passes to enable them to reach that place. Mr. Nimmo has also written to Government contractors in other parts of the colony, inquiring whether they are in need of men, so that he can combat the statements made by the unemployed that there is no work offering outside of Melbourne. A deputation from the unemployed also waited on His Excellency the Acting Governor, who, whilst sympathising with them in their distress, referred them to the Government, as he was powerless to provide work for them. The Government, however, has resolutely set its face against establishing relief works, as it believes that the men can readily get navvy work in the country if they would only leave the metropolis. The ironworkers’ strike at Ballarat has been settled, and the majority of the employes [sic] at the Phoenix and other foundries at that city have now returned to work. The directors of the Phoenix Foundry, which was the largest establishment, have agreed to recognise the local Ironworkers Assistants’ Union, subject to the guarantee of the Ballarat Trades and Labour Council that any future dispute will be first referred to it, in which case the council would also hear the employers. The non-union men whom the directors engaged during the currency of the strike are to be allowed to finish their engagements, which extend over a term of 12 months. The directors have also agreed to concede the minimum rate of wage, namely, 6s. 9d. per day, and payment for overtime. No reduction was made in the wages of those men who went out on strike, and who were receiving more than the minimum rate prior to the dispute…[26]


The People


See also

The Melbourne Circular


  1. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), Wednesday 27 March 1889, page 5.
  2. The Caulfield and Elsternwick Leader (North Brighton, VIC. : 1888 - 1902), Thursday 28 March 1889, page 6.
  3. The Caulfield and Elsternwick Leader (North Brighton, VIC. : 1888 - 1902), Thursday 28 March 1889, page 7.
  4. Kerang Times and Swan Hill Gazette (Vic. : 1877 - 1889), Friday 29 March 1889, page 5.
  5. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), Saturday 30 March 1889, page 10.
  6. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), Tuesday 2 April 1889, page 6.
  7. Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 - 1954), Tuesday 9 April 1889, page 4.
  8. Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 - 1954), Tuesday 9 April 1889, page 4.
  9. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), Tuesday 16 April 1889, page 6.
  10. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), Wednesday 17 April 1889, page 6.
  11. Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 - 1954), Thursday 18 April 1889, page 4.
  12. Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 - 1954), Thursday 18 April 1889, page 4.
  13. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), Monday 29 April 1889, page 6.
  14. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), Tuesday 30 April 1889, pages 4-5.
  15. Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), Wednesday 1 May 1889, page 2.
  16. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), Wednesday 1 May 1889, page 6.
  17. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), Thursday 2 May 1889, page 8.
  18. The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), Thursday 2 May 1889, page 5.
  19. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), Wednesday 8 May 1889, page 6.
  20. Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 - 1954), Thursday 9 May 1889, page 3.
  21. Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 - 1954), Thursday 9 May 1889, page 3.
  22. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), Thursday 9 May 1889, page 6.
  23. Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 - 1954), Saturday 11 May 1889, page 2.
  24. Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 - 1954), Saturday 11 May 1889, page 2.
  25. Kerang Times and Swan Hill Gazette (Vic. : 1877 - 1889), Tuesday 14 May 1889, page 4.
  26. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), Friday 17 May 1889, page 9.


Further reading

External links

--Beth Kicinski 11:05, 25 January 2013 (EST)

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