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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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that should be compulsory.

21257. Do you favour some method of either blocks or
runaway points, or a slip rail in order to derail the hutches

in the event of a rope breaking on the haulage road ? —
Yes, I think ordinary precautions of that kind should be
taken ; but of course the haulage varies so much, according
to the seams in the different pits, that I think it is a matter
for engineering experts to go carefully into and draw up
rules that should be compulsory.

21258. Now let us deal with the question of unskilled
labour in mines. I think in Laharkshire there is the largest
proportion of unskilled foreign miners that there is in any
part of Scotland : almost the whole of the foreign mining
population live in Lanarkshire ?— Yes. >

21259. Have you any idea of the number ? — About
three years ago we sent out for returns from our own local
officials, and they had great difficulty in getting accurate
materials ; but at that time we had in Lanarkshire
considerably over 2,000 men, foreigners, and they were
mostly all Polish miners.

21260. Out of wbat number ?— Out of 32,000 employed

21261. Have they had any experience of mining before
coming to Scotland ? — I think it is generally admitted
they have not. They come from agricultural districts in
Russia and Poland, and some of them have not seen
coal pit before, and do not know anything about it. I
may say they are brought over here by relatives, and one
man may bring four or five over for the purpose of making
a profit from them. Certainly the great majority have no
previous knowledge of coal mining at all before they come
into Lanarkshire.

21262. Many of them select remarkably Scotch or Irish
names, do they not ? — They nearly all select a Scotch
name immediately after they start work. As a matter of
fact at a pit at which I was checkweigher some of the
miners, for a joke I believe, called one of the newcomers,
when he was asked to give a name, by my name, so that
he took my name, after his first shift. It is quite a regular
thing for them to take up some ordinary workman's

21263. I take it from you that the name they select is
the name put into the colliery office book ? — Yes.

21264. That is, a person bearing a most unpronounceable
name to us, may, on the first day he goes down a pit, secure
a very plain name when he comes to the pit bacJc ? — Yes.

21265. And that name may go into the office T — In
almost every case that is so.

21266. And the manager of the colliery would not know
that that person is a Pole ? — Unless by conversation. The
manager of the colliery must have a record from the fireman
or overman ; but by the names in the books it would be
impossible to tell.

21267. Can you suggest a method by which a manager
could have a conversation with them of some sort ? — There
is no method, because not understanding their language
he cannot converse with them.

21268. What I want to point out is really this : that
accidents may occur, and do as a matter of fact occur, to
foreign workmen, and it is Impossible to find out the pro-
portion that occur to foreign workmen, as compared with
others, because of the fact that they take local names ? —
That is 80.

21269. Do you know whether or not it is true that the
manager and the overman in many of our collieries in
Lanarkshire are not aware of the changes which take
place between those foreigners, that some may leave and
others come and the manager knows nothing at all
about it 7 — Only about a fortnight ago a manager himself
made that statement to me. He said '' It is nearly
impossible to prevent them ; they are in the habit of
having strange men with them, and unless the attention
of the overman is called to them, they may be working a
good few days before it is detected." It is admitted they
get into the pit without the cognisance of the overman, \\
and that is a breach of the Mines Act. «

21270. Is it possible for a workman who has been there
some years to employ three or four, or even as many as 12,
under his supervision ? — That is generally so at first, and
it is continued until the newcomer learns a little of the
language, and when he begins to understand the condition
of affairs, then he blossoms out into a contractor himself
and does the same thing. These men have been getting
a low wage in their own country, and they aie content to
work for as little as 2s. a day for a fellow countryman, and
they still continue that until they find out that they are
being exploited.

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21271. Do you know the Bothwell Park Colliery which
belongs to WiUiam Baird and (Company ? — ^Yes.

21272. Ib the general manager Mr. Forgie ? — Yes.

21273. Have yon any idea what proportion of foreign
workmen are employed at that colliery ? — In the couise
of my work I have met these men a good many times, and
the 83r8tem of canying on the work is generally tc have a
short meeting in the morning so as to get the men as close
to the pit as possible and then speak to the whole number
of them. They arrange themselves on two sides, the
British worker and the foreigner, and without any exM^ra*
tion I should say that three-fourths of the men were Folish
miners. They were reduced last year, but at the present
time my information is from the check-weigher that more
than 50 per cent, of the men employed getting coal at the
coal face are Polish miners.

21274. Dc you think that the employment of those men
in the Scottish mines leads to greater danger ? — ^Un-
doubtedly, especially in fiery mines.

21275. I suppose there would be difficulty in preventing
that ? — ^Very great difficulty. We have had statements
made to our executive committee in connection with one
case, which I have no reason to doubt, that two Polish
miners working in one place were made to undeistand that
they could not go into their place that morning because it
was dangerous, and they took them into a different place and
left them there. They found the coed there more difficult
to get, and in the course of an hour or two they left that
place and went back to their own original place — the
dangerous place — ^cmd the fireman discovered them there
and put them out, and he had to do that three times in
the course of one shift. Our information was from the
fireman. He reported the matter, according to his state-
ment, to the manager, but nothing was done, and it simply
ended with that. Of course, if that had been made public
property, in the way of getting into Ck)urt, the fireman
would have been at the mercy of the employer, and might
have lost his situation. I have no reason to doubt the
truth of the statement.

21276. There have been cases in the Law Courts from
time to time in which foreign workmen have been involved.
There was one about a fortnight ago decided in
the Court of Session here in Edinburgh in which the
compensation had been refused in the case of a fatal
accident to an overman at the Glenboig fireclay pits. The
insurance company refused compensation on the ground
that he had allowed a PoUsh miner to go into a place in
which thei-e was gas, and the result was an explosion
was caused, and the overman lost his life. The judges
held that he could not protect himself so long as the
employers allowed that sort of thing, so that they over-
ruled the objection and gave compensation to the widow
on that ground.

21277. You are opposed to the emnloyment of unskilled
foreign workmen in the mines who ao not understand the
language ? — ^Yes,

21278. Not on the ground of any objection to the men
themselves, but they do not understand the language and

\ they are a source of danger to the other men underground ?
i^jj^ — Yes, that is so.


21279. Now, on the question of drawing up Special
Rules : do you know whether or not the lAuarkshire
miners, or their representatives, have at any time been
consulted in the (hrawing up of Special Rules ?— They
have not.

21280. Do you think that they should be consulted
with respect to the drawing up of Special Rules ?— I think
so. I think if the miners were consulted they would have
jgreater interest in seeing that they were carried out
more strictly. Half the responsibility would be on the
miner to see that the rules were carried out. As
things stand at present the rules are posted up at
the collieries, and a miner has scarcely any time to read
them — ^I should say not one in a hundred would carefully
read them — ^with the result in a great many cases they
have been ignorant of the nature of the rules until
some accident takes place, when the whole subject of
course at that time is threshed out. I think it would be
more satisfactory if in drawing up timbering rules the
workmen were consulted.

21281. Op in reference to any other Special Rules ? —
Yes, in reference to any Special Rules.

21282. You think if they were consulted through their
representatives there would be in all probability more care
taken in carrying out rules which were mutually agreed
upon, if there can be mutual agreement upon rules ? — ^I think
there would be.

21283. The latest timbering rules which have been Mr. D.
adopted have not led to any great diminution in accidents ? Gilmour.
— No. I do not think that the rules have been very —
strictly carried out. In some cases it is very difficult to ^^ June 19 07
strictly carry them out to the letter, and I must admit that

that is through causes over which the workman has not
sufficient control. There is not sufficient care exercised
to see that they are canied out strictly.

21284. Is there not a feeling amongst the workmen in
Lanarkshire that some of the special timbering rules, if \/
carried out, would render it almost impossible to carry on
mining there ? — ^That is so.

21285. And to some extent they are a dead letter ? —
They are not observed, and the employers know in many
instances that they are not, and they never try tc enforce

21286. Now I will ask you about the duties of the winding
enginemen. I suppose as mines are extending there ia
greater responsibility on the services of the winduig engine-
man ? — That is so.

21287. Do. you favour a winding engineman holding a
certificate of competency ? — I think it is very necessary.

21288. You are aware that under the Act the manager is
supposed to appoint a competent person ? — ^That is so.

21289. Do you know whether or not he makes any test
of the ability of the person whom he appoints, or does he
usually take it for granted that the person appointed is a
competent person ? - Generaliy, of course, the men appointed
are competent — they could not do the work unless they
were — ^but there are cases in which men have been appointed
to fiU a gap, as it were, who were not competent. For
instance, officials about a colliery who have a slight smatter-
ing of knowledge about engine- winding have be^ appointed
to take the place of a man who has' had a dispute.

21290. You agree with practically everybody that the
colliery engine-winders of Great Britain are an exceptionally
fine class of men ? — Yes.

21291. And no fault can be found with the vast majority
of them ? — ^None whatever.

21292. Have you ever known of what is called the
* tramp " engineman ? — Yes.

21293. Is he a pretty common person in Scotland ? —
We had a case in the upper end of the Larkhall district
some time ago, in which two or three of the enginemen
were afiFected, and the management got such a man to take
the place, and the men refused to work. We had no
responsibility and we did not support them, because we
had not anything to do with it, but tne miners, being in fear
through being in the hands of an unskilled man, refused
to work.

21294. A manager being in that position might not be
too careful in his selection of what ne would feel to be a
competent person ? — Naturally he is anxious to get coal,
and ne risks something.

21295. Of course a certificate would not always carry
with it a guarantee that the man was the best possible
man, but it wouldprove thathehad paasedan examination? —
Yes. I think the holding of a certificate should becom«

21296. At some collieries there might be 30, 40, 50 or
100 men in the shaft at the same time, and their lives might
depend upon the competency of the engine-driver ? —
Yes. In very many instances the duties of the engine-
winder require him to be a practical, steady, temperate
man. He is standing there almost like a machine for
8 or 10 hours at a stretch, especially at large collieries
where the output is great.

21297. I suppose some of the members of your Associa-
tion, and the men in your county, are sometimes guilty
of a breach of the Mines Act ? — Yes.

21298. And they are charged before the court with it ?
— They are.

21299. You have no system of fining for breaches of
Special Rules or breaches of the Mines Act ? — ^There is no
system of fining, although I have heard it said that the
managers, in orSer to have their ideas of discipline carried
out, instead of raising a prosecution, have taken the work-
man into the colliexpr office and asked him to agree to pay
a fine, which fine, of course, is paid over to some charitable
institution, rather than go into court.

21300. Is that for a breach of the Mines Act or some
slight breach which might have been a danger to his own
life ? — Something like that. For any serious breach,
generally speaking, I think the employers would raise a


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11 Jose 1907




21301. Haa your Miners' Association, so far as you know,
ever defended workmen who were charged with a breach
of the Mines Act ? — ^We have not.

21302. As a matter of fact, is it true that you have
decided not to defend any workman in such a case ? —
That is so. The ExegutjiYftCommittee— it does not matter
what the charge is — ^have always refused to take up any
such case. We have had a good many appeals to us to do
so. For instance, the worlunan has come to us and said
the charge was very unfair, or it was through spite or
malice, and argued from that standpoint and asked us to
defend him, but we have refused. We have simply
resolved that where a worlonan is charged with a breach
of the Mines Act we do not defend him in any way.

21303. Of course, if it was perfectly clear that a con-
spiracy was on foot against a person, and you had good
grounds for thinkinghewasnotguilty,andhewas amember
of your union, you might undertake to assist him in a case
of that kind ? — ^We might, of course, but we have never
been called upon to do that. In the cases that have been
reported to us there is just the word of the workman as
against the manager at the colliery.

21304. You do not encourage breaches of the Mines
Act ? — We do not.

21305. And you would not spend the union's money
in defending them if they were guilty of a breach ? —
Quite so ; we believe it is as much our duty as it is the duty

I of the manager at the colliery to insist on the Act being
-A properly carried out.

21306. {Sir Lindsay Wood.) I think you said one reason
for not carrying out Rule 38 was for fear of oflFending the
management ? — ^Yes.

21307. Have you any particular case of that ? — I said
that it was a most difficult thing to get proof of that kind,
but the workman, knowing in mining how easy it is to
punish him, is afraid to do that work thoroughly. As a

Eunishment he may be put into a place where the coals are
ard to get, and he may not be able to earn near the
standard wage. That is a form of punishment which it is
very difficult to get at.

21308. Do they not draw lots for their places ?— There is
nothing of that kind in Scotland. It is a case of individual
bargaining in circumstances such as I have mentioned.

21309. You do not know any case in which the men
who have made the examination have been punished ? —
I do not say that we could prove any case of that kind.

21310. You have a suspicion that there might be some-
thing of that kind ? — Yes, there is the fear of me workmen.
The workmen generally are afraid to make a very damaging
report against the manager at the colliery if they make an
inspection. As a matter of fact I had a case reported to me
in which two of the workmen appointed to inspect the
North Motherwell Colliery belonging to Messrs. Merry
and Cunningham sent a report to the office in which they
said there had been bad ventilation in several places,
and that it was dangerous pretty generally. I drew the
attention of the mines inspector to that point and had
the reply that we had a different report sent to us from
what was put in the colliery book. I investigated that, and
found that the colliery book had been entered up as being
all right and safe. That was a case in point in which they
sent on the statement through ignorance, I suppose,
that it was their duty to send a copy of the statement
they put in the colliery books. That is a case in which a
different report was sent to us.

21311. It might be the other way, that a different report
was sent to you to please your side ? — I think the workmen
would know as a matter of fact. We are alwa3rs better
pleased to get reports showing that there is no danger.

21312. Is not the owner pleased if the men go round
the pit and he gets a report that everything is safe ? —
That is so ; if a report is put in the report book showing
that the pit is generally unsafe, the manager is held to
some extent to blame for that.

21313. The management would be only too glad to know,
if that was so, because it would reflect on the officials
imder the general manager ? — I frankly admit that the
majority of the managers do not put any hindrance in the
way of the men carrying out their duty properly. We
are not able to prove anything except the general feeling
that the men are afraid on account of the chance of getting
at them with their daily labour. They are afraid to put
in a damaging report in the book.

21314. You said that the reports were not sometimes
sent to the inspectors 7 — I instanced a case in point.

21315. That was only supposition ? — The mines inspector
in his reply to me admits that, because the inspection
was made three or four weeks ago, and when I sent on a
copy of the report he writes back and says the matter
would be attended to, clearly proving that it had not been
up to the present time.

21316. That does not say the report had not been sent.
It does not show a breach of the Act by the owner ? —
My experience of the Government inspectors is this : when
their attention is called to danger in a mine it is attended
to at once. I do not know of a case in which that has not
been done.

21317. There were no steps taken with the management
for not having sent that report on ? — ^None yet ; there •
may be later on.

21318. It only occurred just lately ?— Yes, within the
last fortnight. I have the reply from the mines inspector^

21319. Generally speaking, do you think that the
firemen are competent men ? — Generally speaking, they

21320. There might be improvement if they had less
work to do, other than the inspection of a mine ? — I think
thev would be able to do the work better if not overloaded
with other things.

21321. Do you think that the number of the Govern-
ment inspectors ought to be increased ? — I certainly do.

21322. Would you have the districts under the head
inspector increased ? — ^No, I think that the district
inspectors have too much to do already.

21323. You would increase the districts, and instead of
one have at least a number under them ? — I think so.

21 324. That would tend to safety in the smaller districts ?
— ^I think that would tend to safety.

21325. Instead of having a large number of assistant
inspectors ? — Both things. I think it is an absolute
necessity to have a considerable number of assistant
inspectors for the work to be properly carried out.

21326. The last witness told us he thought that there
ought to be one inspector for every 10,000 men employed
in and about the mine ? — I think that would be sufficient
work for an inspector to do.

21327. One inspector ? — One inspector to inspect mines
in which 10,000 men are at work. Do you mean without
assistants ?

21328. I am referring to Clause 7 of your Bill ?— I think
that one inspector who is responsible for looking after
10,000 workmen has too much work. I do not think
that the inspection can be properly carried out to cover
such a large number of men, more especially in the pits in
Lanarkshire, because there are a very large number
employed as a rule in each pit.

21329. How do the Polish men come over so much to
Lanarkshire ? — I do not know. They are located there
to begin with, and then they send for relatives and tell them
what an Eldorado this country is. THey get them to work
for low wages and make a profit on them, and so they go
on increasing.

21330. They were not brought over for any special
purpose ? — Not in coal mining.

21331. (Mr. Batdiffe Ellis.) Were they not brought over
in connection with another industry ? — Yes, with Furnaces.
So far as disputes in coal mining are concerned, they have
not been brought over.

21332. {Sir Lindsay Wood.) The management did not
know that Polish men were employed ? — 'fiiey admit that.

21333. How were the men employed ? — As a rule the
manager of the colliery does not interfere in the matter of
employing the workmen He leaves it entirely to his
overman, the under -manager. He employs and dismisses
all the men. The manager does not interfere in the work.

21334. The under-manager knows ? — Yes.

21335. {Mr. Smillie.) Do contractors employ workmen
without the knowledge of the manager sometimes. Could
he not employ the men ?— Yes, but as a rule coal con-
tractors do not employ Polish miners.

21336. A Polish coal contractor ?— The Polish con-
tractor I refer to is not a contractor who is recognised by
the colliery company, he is only a man who may get the
material put into his name and pays the workmen anything
he likes. The company do not know about that ; they
do not let out a contract to a Polish miner. I do not know
a case in our county.

21337. {Sir Lindsay Wood.) How does the man get the
money for the Polish miner ? Do they not draw their own

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wagee 7 — It is the custom in Lanarkshire, where there axe
four men working together in one place, donble-shifting,
that all the four men's material goes into one man's name,
and they divide the money.

21338. They are contractors ? — That is not contract
really. Instead of having each individual miner's name
on the paybook, they may have one name for four work-
men. That is left to the men's own free wHL

21339. Instead of dividing the money amongst the four,
one man gets over so much less ? — ^That applies in the case
of the Polish miner who comes to learn the language. When
his oountiyman first comes who is used to Is. a day, he
thinks he is getting on all right if he gets 2s. If he earns
on an average 68. and pays 2a, to the workman he benefits
4s. from the man employed. The colliery company do not
experience any benefit from that. It is not to their benefit
to allow that to go on.

21340. He must know it, I should think. It is rather a
curious system ? — He takes it that it is not his business,
and he does not interfere.

21341. Tou said that winding enginemen ought to have
certificates 7 — ^I think so.

21342. What certificates would you give them? — A
certificate of competency. They ought to be passed by
some expert as being qualified men.

21343. You mean for someone to give a character ? —
No, to test them aa to their ability to work winding engines
before they get a certificate of competency.

21344. You mean a practical test ? — Yes.

21345. Winding so many tubs a second or so many men
a minute ? — ^I should not say that was desirable.

21346. I do not know how you can get a certificate. You
can only get the opinion of a man who can give characters.
You can only get a man to say, *' I believe this man is com-
petent." I do not know what examination he could pass ?
— ^I think it would not be an impossibility for the Govern-
ment to carry out a system of examination to give men
qualifying certificates.

21347. The Government would want to know what
examination he has to pass ? — An examination as to his

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 18 of 177)