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At a meeting of coal-owners held on February 7 the Welsh owners refused to discuss the question of a minimum wage and retired from the conference; and a strike then became inevitable, for the miners had definitely made up their minds to fight unless a settlement was arrived at in every district. It is not my intention to deal with the long and tedious negotiations that followed. The Government have been blamed in many quarters for not having taken action before February 22 with the object of effecting a settlement, but, since a section of the owners and many of the men had determined to fight, Government intervention was bound to be abortive. As to the merits of the dispute, it is only fair to say that, generally speaking, the majority of owners, where abnormal places have been met with in the mines, have treated their men fairly; but a considerable minority have not done so. This same minority have, during all the recent negotiations, adopted an irreconcilable attitude towards every proposal to improve the conditions of the men. I cannot too strongly press the point that the responsibility for the strike in the English area rests mainly on the owners of this class. They have persistently refused to pay men a fair day's wage for a fair day's work; and it is not to be wondered at that the men at last revolted against this unfair treatment. Though the relations between the English employers and their men have as a rule been fairly satisfactory during recent years, on the other hand there has been much unrest in mining districts owing to the reduction of earnings by the Eight Hours Bill, the refusal of some owners to meet the admitted grievance of men working in abnormal places, bad management of mines, increased cost of living, and the rise in house-rents. The two last-named causes appear to be largely due to the fact that the world's production of gold has increased by 50 per cent. during the past ten years, and now amounts to 95,000,0001. per annum. When a change in the value

. of the currency takes place, whether by way of appreciation or depreciation in the value of gold, wages do not move so rapidly as prices. Thus, when a depreciation of gold occurs, workmen naturally suffer, together with all classes of people who live on fixed incomes.

On the general merits of the question, whether a minimum wage is a just demand or not, I hold the view

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that, wherever the physical conditions under which work is done are of necessity-as in the case in coal-minesconstantly changing, men who have done a fair day's work are entitled, whatever their output, to look for a fair day's remuneration. This general consideration derives additional strength from the fact that in the mines, on an average, over four men are killed and 500 injured daily. A man's labour is his capital; and he is entitled, when he embarks his capital in a dangerous undertaking, to look for a higher remuneration than a man employed where there is no risk to life or limb. Now the owners do not openly dispute the general proposition that a man who has done a fair day's work shall receive a fair day's wage, but they have never put forward any proposals to ensure this object. Nor is the owners' contention, that the men will not do a fair day's work if they are paid a minimum wage, justified by facts, so far as our limited experience of its application goes. In many price-lists to-day the men are entitled to a minimum wage if, through no fault of their own, they fail to earn wages. Many of the largest companies in the county of Derby have worked under this arrangement for some time past; and, if the stallmen do not earn wages on contract (piece-work), they are paid 7s. 6d. a day. In the Leen Valley of Nottinghamshire 88. 3d. per day has been paid as a minimum for years past, and in other parts of the county 7s. 6d. per day.

All over Warwickshire a minimum has been paid for many years past, as also in other districts. And yet in these districts there is no complaint that the output of coal has been diminished by this system of payment.

Again, it is often said that the profits of coal-mining are so small a percentage on the capital employed that the contemplated rise of wages would reduce them below the level at which capital would be attracted to the industry. It is important, therefore, to see what the profits are, and into whose hands they go. In 1909 the gross profits from coal-mines were 15,000,0001.; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that about 6,000,0001. of royalties (and wayleaves) are included in this sum. This leaves a gross profit of 9,000,0001. which, on an output of 260,000,000 tons yielded approximately 8 d. per ton. This profit, however, is not net profit, for no

deduction is made by the Income Tax Commissioners in respect of depreciation of leases. When the minerals in a mine are exhausted, the capital is gone; and, generally speaking, in order to provide a redemption fund to wipe out the capital account, from 1}d. to 2d. per ton has to be charged against working costs for this purpose. It will thus be seen that the landlords, as royalty owners, receive nearly as much from the working of the mines as the masters who provide all the capital and take the risks. But here we should discriminate. Whatever may be

. said for or against the right to royalties, the claim to wayleaves is far less defensible. In 1889 a Royal Commission was appointed to enquire into the subject of mining royalties and wayleaves. In 1891 the Commissioners presented a valuable Report to Parliament, recommending certain drastic changes, particularly in respect to wayleaves. Though mining is now the largest industry in Great Britain, this Report has never even been considered by Parliament. We hear in these days a great deal about the rights of property, but there is no country in the world which confers on the owners of property such right to blackmail an industry as are possessed by them in this. Blackmail' is not a nice word, but I submit the facts wholly justify its use. An owner of a few acres of minerals leases his coal for, say, a royalty of 6d. per ton. After he has been paid in full for his own coal, he nevertheless insists that every ton of other coal conveyed through the underground workings - from which his own coal has already been worked-shall pay him a wayleave for the exercise of this privilege. Immense sums of money are annually paid by colliery companies to owners of land for the right to exercise this so-called 'privilege,' which occasions the landlord neither damage, loss, nor the remotest inconvenience. A landlord who owns a few scattered acres of minerals can render the working of a mine absolutely impossible by prohibiting coal being brought through his property, for, the law having placed him in this favoured position, he is able to make his own terms or stop the mine. Many owners avail themselves of their legal right, a right which Continental countries abolished many years ago in the interests of commerce.' These wayleave rents

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are a direct tax on the industry. The public complain of the high price of coal, and blame the miners for asking for improved conditions, yet against this scandal of legal blackmail hardly a word is said. In many cases the amount paid by colliery companies for wayleaves would exceed the additional cost of paying their men minimum wage.

The question is often asked, What would be the cost entailed by the granting of the minimum wage? This naturally depends on the amount of the minimum. In many districts the cost will be nothing, for, as I have already shown, many men before the strike took place were working on a minimum wage system. In other districts, where

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low, the cost will undoubtedly be increased; but, though it is impossible to

; give a trustworthy estimate till the figures are determined, I think it can be safely assumed-on the figures now under dispute-that the probable cost has been greatly overestimated. Such mistakes have been made before. When the Eight Hours Bill was before Parliament, we were told by the chief spokesman of the Mining Association of Great Britain that the additional cost would be 18. 6d. per ton. In point of fact, practically the whole burden has fallen on the miners; and the additional cost incurred by the owners is extremely small. Taking all the pits of the United Kingdom together, I doubt whether the cost has been increased on an average by more than 1d. to 2d. per ton. During the passing of the Mines Bill * through Committee stage last summer, we were told time after time that, if certain amendments to secure safety of life and limb were carried, the cost would be so excessive that the industry would be ruined. There is, however, no reason to believe that this will be the case. In badly-managed mines doubtless the cost of working will be increased, but, on the other hand, no owner has any right to object to safety legislation founded on the unanimous Report of a Royal Commission consisting of owners and men. The owners have so often cried · Wolf' that even the House of Commons is coming to perceive the exaggeration of their statements.

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* The regulations to ensure safety of working and other improvements in the conditions of work, contained in this Act, will come into operation on June 30 of the present year.

Further, there can be little doubt that the profits actually made might be largely increased by better management. Speaking generally, I am sure (though there are numerous exceptions) that less intelligence is brought to bear on the management of mines than on most other industries. In Scotland, as was pointed out in the Report of the Royal Commission on mines, the officials are paid even lower wages than the miners. Many managers receive miserable salaries varying from 1501. to 2001. a year; and even the salaries paid to some of the managers of the largest mines are wholly inadequate for the responsibility and work involved. Moreover, while in most trades the proprietors have an intimate knowledge of the technical management of their concerns, this is certainly not the case with mines. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that 95 per cent. of the owners have no technical knowledge whatever of the management of mines.

Finally, there is the question of safeguards against malingering and other causes within the men's control, tending to reduce output and thus render the enforcement of a minimum wage unfair to employers. The Government have left the provision of such safeguards to the District Boards, but it is to be noted that the men's representatives have shown themselves conscious of the necessity of some such provisions. In February last the owners in the old Federated area and the Miners' Federation appointed five representatives each as a committee to consider the question, with a view to ensuring that the owners should receive a fair day's work for a fair day's wage. The men agreed to the following safeguards. (a) 'If a man is informed at any part of the day that there

has been a breakdown of machinery or fall of roof, and he cannot continue at work as tubs cannot be supplied to him, he shall only be entitled to that proportion of the minimum wage which the time he was at work bears to the total period of his full time

in the shift. (b) 'In case of any accident or breakdown in the shaft

which would prevent the further output of fuel in that shift, and the workman is informed of it, he shall be entitled only to the proportion of the daily

minimum wage up to the time in relation to the total Vol. 216.–No. 431.

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