Great Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on Mines.

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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34993. And if it is unreasonable the excess can be
recovered from the employer 7 — Yes.

34994. You know all that 7— Yes.

34995. Can you suggest any other provision that might
be necessary to secure a worlonan from oppression on the
part of a manager imposing a fine 7 — You have in this
case the proper protection. Instead of leaving it to the
manager to aeciae absolutely and take full control as to-
the amount of the fine, say a representative of the working
men should be there with the manager in deciding the

34996. The representative of the workman is not
necessary. You could go to the county court if a fine is-
excessive. First of all the man who imposes the fine is

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liable for committing a breach of the Truck Act, and to
pensJties. In addition to that the excess could be re-
covered from him in the county court. What more pro-
tection could he have than that ? — It is a very awkward
thing, once a manager has fined a man, for him to take
action and sav " You fined me too heavily." We know
what the result would be if he took the manager into the
county court and recovered what he considered the excess.
Very few workmen would care to do so.

34997. In what respect do you propose to alter the
law ? — I think there ought to be a mutual arrangement
between the manager and the workmen at the collieries
with regard to this. I have had experience of certain

34998. What sort of arrangement do you propose ?
That is what I want to understand ? — I do not know that
I could define it. If you want me to define it in a legal
form I could not, because I am a collier and not a lawyer.

34999. Would you have a list put up to show that men
are liable to such a fine 7 — ^I would not agree to a list of
fines. I would take every case on its merits.

35000. That is what the Truck Act does, and the agree-
ment must be come to between the employer and worlonan
as to whether he would pay a fine or not, and there are
various provisions to guard him from any oppression.
Do you not think that is enough ? — So long as the work-
man has a friend, you mean to say, who would have a
voice in deciding the matter.

35001. That means a trial in each case ? — It is a mutual
trial I have an objection to taking a respectable man
before the police court in particular cases.

35002. You do not think the protection given by the
Truck Act is sufficient ? — I believe so far as the Truck
Act is concerned that there is protection, but I do not
think that the protection given by the Truck Act would
be available, or that the man would avail himself of that
protection except in a few instances.

35003. You can give a man facilities, but you cannot
make him exercise them ? — It is venr difficult for a man
to avail himself of the provisions of the Truck Act against
a colliery manager.

35004. If a man says, " I ought to have fined you so
much," and the workman says, ** I will not pay it," there is
an end of the thing ? — There is prosecution.

35005. Or dismissal. If he says, '* I agree to pay a fine,"
notwithstanding he agrees to it, if it is excessive ho can re-
cover it back. — I think if he has the right to say he will
agree to a fine, he ought to have some right in saying how
much that fine will be.

35006. He says, ** I will not pay it.*' — You have a cum-
bersome form to go through to go to the County Court to
recover what is excessive.

35007. You must go to somebody. — Why not recognise
the workmen's representatives in the matter, and finish
with it ?

(Sir Lindsay Wood,) If a man commits a fault he is called
to the colliery to explain, and the manager says, '' I fine you
5s.," and the man says, " I will not pay." " Very well,"
says the manager, ** I will prosecute you," and there is an
end of it. If he says *' I wul pay 5s.," he pays it.

{Mr. Baicliffe EUis,) You do not want to discuss the ques-
tion with the workmen's representatives. The man says,
*• I will not pay," and then the manager says, •• I will
prosecute you."

35008. {Mr. Smillie.) You agree that the law should be
the same for miners as for managers ? — Certainly.

35009. You admit that there might be offences which
would be met provided that the fine was mutuaUy agreed
upon without any threat or friction on either side ? —

35010. Would you be prepared to go the same length with
regard to an offence by the manager. Would vou be pre-
pi^ed to go the length of putting power into the hands of
the mines inspector to fine a manager for a breach of the
Act ? — No : it would not be in exactly the same position.

35011. Do you not think a manager would gladly pay a
fine rather than go to Court about a breach of the Mines
Act ? — ^Yes, but the position is this in the one case I am
suggesting tiiat there should be a joint Court of workmen
and management, and in the other case you are suggesting
tliat the workmen should be excluded altogether from the

35012. The prosecutions and fines you have been dealing
with are for breaches of a special rule, or some clause in the
Mines Act,which may endanger the lives of the workmen ? —

35013. Do you think any fine at all is adequate in a Mr. W»
case of that Idnd where a person deliberately commits an Harris.

act of danger ? — I would not agree to a fine under those

circumstances. It is only under exceptional circumstances 13 Dec., 1907

that I would be prepared to consider a fine.

35014. Take the case of a person who may innocently
take down matches in his vest or jacket without knowing
it, and it could be clearly proved that he was a non-smoker
and took them down accidently, would not a warning from
the manager be sufficient witliout a fine at all ? — I would
agree to a warning rather than a prosecution.

35015.. If the principle of fines is admitted at all you do
not know where it is going to stop. — You want to be very
careful with them, I agree.

35016. Had you colza oil in the firemen's examining lamp
as well as t&e ordinary workmen's lamp ? — In the ordinary
lamp there was coLsui, but in the fireman's testing lamp it
was a vegetable oil. One was a spirit and the other a veget-
able oiL

35017. That is rather a scientific question which it is as
well should be decided by scientists ? — Yee.

35018. That is the reason you mention it 7 — Yes : I
mention it to bring it before you.

35019. You think the examiner should have the best oil
and the best possible lamp ? — I think he should have the
most sensitive lamp possible.

35020. Do you think it is a common thing in your own
district of South Wales to appoint the least competent men
to the position of foremen or overmen ? — I would not say
it is a common thing. In justice to some of our managers
I must say there are some of them who are training young
men and bringing them up in the coUieries who have at*
tended the mining classes and have taken certificates, and
there are some managers who have given them every en-
couragement, whereas there are others who take the oppo-
site view.

35021. Is not that the best way to get efficiency 7 — Yes.

35022. To train them under the eye of the company
themselves, and if possible give them the highest scientific
knowledge and also practical knowledge 7 — Certainly.

35023. The question of remuneration sometimes has to
do with it 7 — Sometimes. It is difficult to get colliery
examiners to take on the position because the pay is too
low and the hours too long.

35024. Mr. Abraham and myself are very glad to have
our own witnesses to give praise and admit honour where
honour is due in every case. In vour case many employers
you know are doing their very best to obtain the highest
efficiency 7 — There, are several, I may say, who are doing
their best.

35025. There have been cases in which the best men have
not been appointed ? — ^Yes ; there are two instances now
close to our district, the one I have just given, and the other
instance is where the conditions under which the firemen
have to work are such that they would prefer what I call the
better class of workmen not applying for the position.
The result is that they have to take inferior men for the

35026. With regard to hours 7 — With regard to hours
and with regard to wages.

35027. Taking the hours into consideration, and the low
wages, you thii^ that the best class of workmen are not
likely to take the position 7 — Yes.

35028. {Mr. Cunynghame.) You agree that working
miners ough't to get help in bettering their knowledge by
lectures or anythmg else to improve Uiem 7 — Yes.

35029. What sort of help do you get in South Walea
towards bettering yourselves 7 What is there to enable
young men to know more about the dangers and the work
and everything 7 — ^We have technical classes instituted
under the County Council Secondary Education Committee.

35030. How far is the place irom where you work where
the class is held 7 — It is a matter of about a mile.

35031. How often do they hold a class of this kind 7 —
The classes are held through the winter, say once or twice a

35032. Do you know what pay is given to the teacher at
those classes 7 — I could not tell you exactly.

35033. What is his position and rank 7 — His position and
rank is in one case the holding of a second-class manager's
certificate, and having passed through the same classes, and
the other one in another class has had three yeai's ex-
perience of teaching at the University College at Cuidiff
in the Mining Schools there.

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Mr. W.

13 Dec., 1907


35034. Has he apparatus to show experiments ? — ^That
is a difficulty, I understand, from members of the classes at
Abertillery, which they are all suffering from.

35035. He has not money enough to spend on lamps and
things that might be useful ? — That is so.

35036. I am not asking you to criticise any particular
man, but would it be better for you if you had a man of
greater skill and knowledge as a lecturer ? I do not ask

ou to condemn that man, because I am sure he is doing
lis best and is as good a man as can be ? — If we had what
I mav call a thoroughly good man for the County, he
would be able to assist those others at the variQUS classes
and get around — say pay periodical visits and assist the
local teachers. I think greater care should be given to
the question. Glamorganshire, for instance, has been
fortunate in getting an excellent Director of Mining
Instruction, but I do not think that we have been so
fortunate in Monmouthshire. I think there is a weakness

35037. Do you think that the County Council is doing
all they can to promote the miners' education, or do you
think that they might spend more money than they do
now 7 — I think they might spend more money on that
purpose. I think there is a wrong spirit prevailing at the
County Technical Committee. I will give you an instance.
The U^t two or three years the classes in Abertillery have
not been so successful in mining as hitherto. We say
owing to certain facts that there is no encouragement
given to the young men to attend the classes, because
after years of study they find somebody who has not
troubled to acquire knowledge is promoted over their
heads. The result is the classes have gone down, and the
County Council Committee in allocating grants to the
various centres have taken last year's grants or the last
year's percentage of earnings as a basis for this year.
The result is that where a district is really on the down-
grade so far as technical instruction is concerned, instead
of assisting the County Council Committee are really
bringing pressure to press lower instead of assisting U>
raise them.

35038. In your opinion some steps would be more useful
that would promote the education further, purchase of
apparatus, and so on ? — I certainly think so.

35039. {Mr. F. L. Davis.) With regard to Rule 38, you
have told us in this case you mentioned here to-day where
a man had to apologise ? — ^Yes.

35040. Do you know any cases where the men have had
to suffer 7 You say the general complaint is that men
are afraid of making these examinations because they
may suffer 7 — It is most difficult to trace. The men con-
lend, of course, that they know — ^in fact I have had an
experience of my own, where men have said they would
not come with me again because I gave too bald reports,
and they say ** You are sure to be marked one of these
days." That is the general impression.

35041. In this case you mentioned the man did not
suffer. He was not discharged. Things were not made
unpleasant for him ? — It is made that impleasant he is
afraid to take on an examination since.

35042. I understand that the men do not care about
making these examinations ? — ^The result is we cannot
get the best class of man to make these examinations.

35043. You were the agent in the district ? — I have been
connected with it for the last ten or fifteen years.

35044. You are one of the officials in the district ?—

35045. If any of these men had suffered it would have
come to your knowledge 7 - Things come to our knowledge
that very often we know are true but we cannot prove
them. The difficulty is to prove the case up to the hilt.

35046. Any cases of injustice in your opinion in your
district are brought before you to investigate and try and
put them right 7 — ^Very often the punishment is not
meted out by the manager in the form of dismissal, but
possibly by the under-manager or fireman, or overman
of that particular district The only instance I know
where a manager has taken action is the instance I have
given. That is as to the pressure brought by imder
officials. I believe there are quite a number.

35047. Is not one of the reasons that the men do not
care about these examinations that it is rather hard work
and the pay allowed them by the Federation is notveiy
good 7 What do you pay 7— We pay 8s. a day, and in the
neighbouring coUiery to us they pay 10s. a day.

35048. Ih it not a fact ^^ the present time that with
wages at the maximum a p^tty good collier can earn a
good deal more than Ss. a day ? — ^That is a maximum
and it is a minimum with us. It is the same all through.

35049. Is not that one reason why the best men who
earn good wages as colliers will not make the examina-
tion 7 — If the refusal had been during the last few months
that might be so, but it has been during the last few
years, so that the refusal was made when wages were low.

35050. On the question of fining I suppose you
thoroughly approve of discipline in the colliery 7 — Cer-

35051. Discipline can only be good if the manager has
a free hand to deal with his own officials and the men 7—
I believe this, that the manager can succeed in obtaining
discipline very often more by taking the Workmen's
Committee into consideration than ignoring them. That
has been my experience.

35052. He may do it in several ways 7 — ^That is the
most efficient I have seen.

35053. It depends on the manager 7 — It depends on
the co-operation of the manager and the Workmen's

35054. It depends certainly on the co-operation of the
men, but the manager is the man who is responsible, at
any rate 7 — ^Yes.

35055. There is one thing I could not undersatnd with
regard to the fines. You do not approve of the manager
being the determining factor 7 — ^Not the sole determining

35056. Who do you suggest the other man should be 7
Is it the check weighman 7 — ^No, the chairman of the
Works Committee, or a deputy of the workmen.

35057. Do you think that would tend to discipline 7 —

35058. If a manager wanted to fine a man for a breach,
and the chairman of the Works Committee said " You
shall not," and they could not agree, what then 7 — The
manager has the cdtemative then of prosecution.

35059. Do you not think the result of your suggestion
would be that there would be no fines at aU to speak of,
but all prosecutions 7 — Ifo. 1 am hoping to find that
there would be some reasonable managers.

35060. I suppose that there are never any unreasonable
chairmen of Works Committees 7 — Sometimes ^ere are,
of course.

35061. My point is the manager is responsible and has
to maintain discipline and H he says this fine shall be
inflicted, unless the man likes to be prosecuted, and another
man says ** You shall not fine him," he cannot have
discipline if he is to be dictated to 7 — I cannot conceive a
chairman ot a Works Committee who is anxious that a
certain man should not be prosecuted, being unreasonable
in deciding the amount of the fine, because he knows the
manager has the alternative of imposing prosecution,
which is a greater punishment than a £1 fine.

35062. I understand you agree that for the less serious
offences fines would be better 7 — ^Yes.

35063. How often have you acted under Rule 38 as a
mines inspector yourself 7 — I have acted more or less for
the last 15 years.

35064. As an inspector under Rule 38 how often have
you been down the mine inspecting on behalf of the men
and reporting to the management 7 — 30 or 40 times.

35066. You have sometimes made an unfavourable
report 7 — Certainly.

35066. Have you ever suffered from making an un-
favourable report 7 — ^No, but it so happens I am in that
position, and I would bo less likely to suffer than most

35067. Why 7— -Because I am a district official

35068. And always have been 7 — I have been for the
last 10 or 15 years.

35069. During the whole time you have made these
inspections you have been a district official, and con-
sequently a man of some importance, whom it would be
rather a difficult matter to punish 7 — ^That is so.

35070. {Chairman.) Do you wish to say anything
more 7— No.

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Mr. Michael Roach» called and examined.

35071. (Chairman.) You appear on behalf of the South
Wales Miners' Federation, Monmouth Western Valleys
District ?-— Yes.

35072. Does that mean you are only empowered to speak
on behalf of the miners in the Monmouth Western VaJleys
District, or on behalf of the whole of the South Wales
Miners' Federation ? — I speak for the whole as well as
the district.

35073. We have had a good deal of evidence on behalf
of the miners which pretty weU agrees with what you say :

f' * That additional inspectors be appointed of a different
class, with wages in accordance of about £156 to £175 a
year salary with travelling exx>enses. The number of
^ men reduced over which such inspection made." It has
been suggested to us that these additional inspectors
should have their work apportioned out, that the district
should be divided up, that diere should be a chief inspector
and one or two or three assistant inspectors, and perhaps
three or four third-class inspectors for each district, and
these third-class inspectors should have a separate district
assigned to them ? — ^That is so.

33074. So that each of these third-class inspectors would
only, have a comparatively small district. They would
have over them an assistant inspector, who would have
general supervision, I suppose, over three or four, or two
or three, at all events, of these third-class inspectors,
and both the assistant inspectors, and the third-class in-
spectors would be under the chief inspector, who, in case
of necessity, could tell these third-class inspectors to go
where he pleased, even outside their district ? — They should
be under the entire control of the chief inspector.

35075. That is to say, under the immediate control
of an assistant inspector and the ultimate control of the
chief inspector of the district ? — That is so.

35076. How many would you require of these men in
order Hiat the mines might be inspected in accordance
with what you consider sufficient inspection ? — I think
there should be a sufficient number appointed to make a
thorough inspection at least once in every three months.

35077. Not a sample inspection, but to go through every
mine thoroughly once in three months ? — ^That is so.

33078. Have you formed an opinion as to how many
you would require ? — No. I think they should be ap-
pointed to meet circumstances, and so as to be able to
thoroughly examine every mine once in three months.

35079. With regard to the examination for the men
who would be inspectors, you would have them pass a
qualifying examination 7 — ^Yes, but they should be prac-
tical and competent as well. There ought to be a qualifi-
cation such a« you suggest — that they ought to hold a
second-class certificate.

35080. They need not be so fully qualified as the other
two classes of inspectors ? — No, only to have the practical

35081. You would not, as a rule, suggest that they
should be promoted to be assistant inspectors or chief
inspectors ; but if a man showed great ability, he might
pass the examination for chief inspector and become a chief
inspector or an assistant inspector ? — ^That is so.

35082. With regard to General Rule 38 you say, **The
examination be tiJcen without any limitations by the work-
men." That is, taken as often as the workmen desired ?


35083. You do not think at least once a month is suffi •
cient ? — ^There is a colliery in our district where it has been
obvious we ought to make the inspection on two or three
occasions in the month.

35084. Occasions may arise where it would be necessary
to make two or three inspections a month, but as a rule
once a month would be enough ? — Yes.

35085. Do you agree with what has been said by the other
witnesses, that the men who make these inspections are
afraid of giving a truthful report of the mine if it is un-
favourable ? — I agree that to a certain extent that is so,
but there are exceptions. Of course I have a case in my
mind where the workman made an inspection of a certain
colliery in my district where there are 1,500 men employed,
and through the truthfulness of his report the men laid
idle for two days. Without offence to the manager of
that colliery, I do not think any advantage has been taken
of the man who made the inspection. I fauave made careful

35086. You have known where men have made unfavour-
able reports, and where the management have taken it in
a proper spirit ? — Up to now that is tlie only case I have
in my mind. In the majority of cases the men are some-
what afraid to make a truthful report. If they do, they
know there is a penalty attached to it.

35087. With regard to inspection by officials under
General Rule 4, you are prepared to say very much the
same thing as the other witnesses have said. You say, ^
" The places of inspection should be limited." That is to | y/
say, the districts ought to be less than they are at present ? ( ^

35068. " That the examination be done leisurely by the
officials — a different method of selecting firemen other than
by the management" What other method do you sug-
gest ? — I think in accordance with the recommendation
of the management to the chief insx>ector of mines.

35089. That the chief inspector of mines should be
given power either to accept or reject the reoommendation
of the muiagement ? — ^Ves.

35090. What would he act upon in rejecting or accept-
ing his selection 7 Would the workmen make representa-
tions 7 — The management could give the qualification
of the individual.

35091. Supposing a workman objected to a person being
appointed fireman, it would be open to them to communi-
cate with the manager and say t^ey do not think he Id an
efficient person for the reasons set forth 7 — Yes.

35092. '*The hours be reduced to eight— the duties
should be confined to firemen alone." We have had a
great deal of evidence upon that point. I do not know
whether you care to add an3rthing 7 — Tliere is one matter
with regard to the appointment of the firemen I would
like to call attention to in my district. In June 1906 one of
the firemen at a large colliery, where there are 1,700 men
and three pits which are in direct communication and
ventilated by the same ventilating apparatus, permitted the
men in June to go in the working place when charged with
^as, with the result that he was dismissed. It is essential
in such cases that the man should be thoroughly practical,
and have a proper knowledge of the work with which he

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 140 of 177)