Found Out !



A mass meeting of railway men was held in the Palace Theatre, Newcastle, on July 15, to hear an address from Mr. Richard Bell. M.P., General Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, on the subject of the mens grievances as discussed at the recent conference.


Mr. Bell was received with applause and much booing, and failed to get a hearing for some minutes. After the chairman had intervened, Mr. Bell said the movement which was commenced in November, 1903, was an all-grades movement, which meant a movement in the interest and for the benefit of those for whom the Society’s books were open for registration. Under the all-grades movement there would be in round figures 28,000 men. of which 11.000 were to-day members of the Society, He ventured to think that that was not given full consideration at the time the programme was formulated at Darlington in 1903. That programme had two points which, he ventured to think, had never had the full consideration of the men. (Laughter.) If, Mr. Bell continued after further interruption, the argument in support of higher pay for night duty was on the ground that night duty had so considerably increased, why not confine it to the grades thus affected? Instead of this, they were asking for time and a quarter for night duty for all grades. If they took time and a quarter for night duty for 28,000 men it meant that if everyone worked alternate weeks there would be a 12½ per cent. advance all round. The total cost of time and a quarter for night duty worked out by himself on under estimated figures, amounted to £123,000 per annum. That was one item in the programme. Another was the demand for an advance of 2s. per week for men with under 24s. It was estimated that at least 18,000 men were now in receipt of wages under 24s. per week. (Cries of “shame.”) If this increase were granted, it would mean an additional expenditure by the Company of £93,000 per annum. Here they had two items on the programme which alone would mean £216,000. (Cries of ”What are the profits of the Company?” and “Are you here for the Company or the men?”) He was there for the men— (laughter and booing)—and he was there to do that which was fair and just, in spite of all the hisses, hooting, and other circumstances.


The Chairman appealed for order.


Mr. Bell (resuming) said at the first interview with the Company they were told point blank that the Company were not prepared to discuss certain items in the Darlington programme. They considered the situation and tabulated the grievances. The conference sat eleven days, and he believed they had got more than they could have secured by any other means. (“No.”) There was absolutely no reduction to any single individual on the North Eastern system. (Uproar.) Enginenmen and firemen would all benefit to the extent of £7,800 per annum. The shunters’ hours had been brought down from ten to eight per day. There had been a slight improvement to passenger servants, and the increases altogether would amount to £25,000 per annum. That had been obtained without a strike. without causing bad feeling between the Company and the men. (Derisive laughter.) Was he to accept, then, that they desired that ill-feeling should exist between the Company and the men? (Cries of “Yes.”) Then they were about the funniest lot of men he had ever met. (Uproar.) The Executive had decided that he should write to the Company accepting the agreement and trusting that a conciliation board be formed. He was going to advise them to abide by the decision of the Executive. If some of the men had been itching for a strike, they must not forget that they had fellow-workmen in other places who had first to be considered. What had been done had been done in the interests of railway men alone, and he asked them to place some confidence in those whom they had elected.


Mr. James R. Bell, secretary of the all-grades movement, said be refused to sign au unconditional recommendation to accept the concessions, and only agreed when the matter was referred to the Darlington conference. That Body considered the concessions, and asked that the men. through their branches, should have the opportunity of considering them. That opportunity was denied them by the Executive Committee. (Applause.)


Mr. Dickinson moved a resolution to the effect that that meeting of the all-grades movement absolutely refused to accept the decision of the Executive Committee, or of the deputation having control of the all-grades movement owing to the unconstitutional methods adopted, also that they should continue a movement of their own to secure time and a quarter for night duty and 2s. per week for men under 24s. per week. He said he did not believe there were 28,000 men in the North-Eastern system eligible to join their society. He thought they might take 8,000 off that number. Very few men would benefit by Mr. Bell’s “substantial concessions.”


Mr. Brodie seconded, and said they had heard the Company’s side from Mr. Bell. He was going to put the men’s side. Rule 13 provided that the men should be consulted. Their general secretary seemed to think the men had got an all-round advance, which was a mistake. Whilst the company were building big engines and putting two trains into one the men were getting nothing. The signalmen’s advance of 1s. per week worked out at a 1s. per week reduction. (Laughter.)


Mr. Bell, in replying to the discussion, said he got his figures about the 28,000 workmen from Board of Trade returns, He disliked the sneers of men who talked about pilots getting only 4s. 3d. per day. Well, 4s. 3d. per day after seven years was better than 3s. 9d. which they had received. It was absurd to say that porters could look forward to a reduction. It had been said that only 3,000 men would benefit, but he calculated that 7,000 men would benefit. They could carry their resolution, but it would have no effect. They would get no support from the Society , as it was unconstitutional. (Loud hooting.)


The resolution was carried and Mr. R. Bell was hissed as he left the platform.