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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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there 7 — They extend to a considerable extent. .

22159. What length of time do you think it would take
one man to examine those, workings in the way you think
the examination ought to be made 7 — ^I think it would take
a man a week to examine the Lady Victoria pit as it should
be done.

22160. Of course it would not be necessary for one man
to do it ; two or three men might do it 7 — I would prefer
that one man should finish the examination of one pit.

22161. And it would take him a week to do that 7— Yea.

22162. If you took all the collieries in your district,
how long would it take for this examination throuj^out
the whole of the collieries 7 — I dealt with the East Scotland
District, where there were from 50,000 to 60,000^that is
the district under the care of Mr. McLaren and his two
assistants. In this pit you are dealing with there are about
1,000 men employed, so that if the same area had to be
covered in proportion there would be about 50 times t^e
same amount.

22163. If it took a week in that case, then you would
want a year to make one examination 7 — It would take a
week to examine that mine thoroughly, I feel.

22164. And 50 times that would be about a year 7 -
Quite so.

22165. According to your examination, it would take
one man 12 months to make a complete examination of
the whole of the mines in your district 7 — While it would
take one man a week to examine a pit employing 1,000
men, it would not work out in proportion according to the
number of men employed in the pit ; and we are only taking
the number of men employed in the district under Mr.
McLaren's charge. I can quite imagine a pit employing
200 or 300 men, and it would take only two or three days
to do it thoroughly.

22166. It would take a long time to examine aU the pits
as you suggest 7 — Yes.

22167. You think inspectors should be appointed
sufficient in number to do that 7— Yes.

22168. Have you calculated whether one inspector to
every 10,000 persons employed would be able to do it 7 —
I think one in every 10,000 could do it.

22169. Have you any idea how many it would require 7
— It would network out properly, taking the number of men
employed, because there may be less or more in different
mines ; and one mine with fewer men employed might be
as difficult to examine as a mine with probably double the
number. I will put it I think it should be done once eveiy
three or four months at the least, whatever number it
should take to do it.

22170. You think that men qualifying for inspectors
should be men of practical experience, and yon want them
to have scientific knowledge aa well ; I think you put it

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Mr. Boheri theoretical knowledge 7 — ^I take it our inspectors now have
Brown, theoretical knowledge, and I would like practical knowledge

to accompany it.

12 June 1907 22171. Do you think there should be one man with
practical knowledge and another with theoretical know-
ledge, or that one man should have both theoretical and
practical knowledge T— I think, with respect to any
additional inspectors appointed, it would be to their
advantage to have practical experience.

22172. Do I understand you would confine the office of
an mspector to a person who had actually worked at the
face, or as a workman in the mine ? — ^Yes, I think it should
be confined to that — they should gain that experience.

22173. Now five years' experience with theoretical
knowledge is sufficient for the manager, the man who has
the sole responsibility of the mine ? — ^It may be sufficient
so far as he is concerned ; it is not sufficient, in my opinion.
I think even as a manager he would be all the better for
having practical exx>erience.

22174. Supposing a person has been in the habit of going
down the mine every day, not merely surveying, but
looking into the management, as, for instance, a fireman,
does it matter what class he belongs to if he gets that
experience ? — He cannot get the experience I want unless
he has actually worked or been at work in the face.

22176. You come to the conclusion that a man must be
a collier to qualify himself 7 — ^He will be better qualified
if he is.

22176. You think an inspector should oe drawn from
that class 7 — ^In my opinion it would be advantageous in
the view of safety. •

22177. With reference to general rule 38, Mr. McLaren
\(L gave some reasons why the men do not make use of these
"^ inspections. He says at Q. 260 i: " Do those accidents

not appeal to the men 7 Do they not think they can do
anything, by having then own inspection, so as to render
those accidents less frequent 7 (A). I think inspection
by the workmen would have a good effect in that way, as
it might help to keep things up to the mark. (Q). Ap-
parently they do not think so themselves in your district 7
(A). I do not \aiow what they think, but as a matter of
fact they do not make any inspection under general rule
38. (Q). You think they do not make any inspection
because they seem to thmk the work is too hard 7 (A).
WeU, I have spoken to several men, and they said they
would not take £1 a day and do the work that one has to do
in making an inspection — they have to crawl through the
roadways and airways. (Q). Do you think any arrange-
ment could be arrived at by which the men should be paid
something in addition to their ordinary pay, so as to induce
them to undertake work of that kind 7 (A). I think if
the Miners' Union would take the matter up and get it
done systematically, and pay the men well, they would do
it." Do you agree with that view 7 — Not whoUy.

22178. To Fome extent ? — ^I do not think the hardness
of the work is what prevents the mspection being done
at the instigation of the miners.

22179. You do not think it is not being properly re-
numerated prevents their doing it 7 — ^No ; the renumeration
has nothing to do with it.

22180. You think it is the risk of reprisals 7— Yes.

22181. Have you any reasonable giound for that 7 —
Only this, that when we have tried to put it in operation
we could not get the men to undertake the duties simply
from the fear that if they gave a coirect report of theu
inspection perhaps the after-effects would not be pleasant.

22182. You have never had any experience that that
was so 7 — ^No ; but that is the reason the men give that
they will not do it.

22183. What examination do you suggest the firemen
should pass to obtain a certificate 7 — I think they should
be able to satisfy the examineis in a general way that
they are capable of making an inspection of a mine.

22184. Do you suggest that the Home Office should
conduct the examination 7 — Someone at the instance
of the Home office.

22185. I mean you suggest it should be a Home Office
examination 7 — Yes.

22186. You are on the Examination Board for your
district 7— Yes.

I 22187. Do you think the examination for the second-
. class certificate would be sufficient 7 — I should think it

22188. That if a man had a second-class certificate he
I should be qualified to act as a fireman 7 — ^Yes.


22189. You think the districts are too large. Is that
general, or is it only exceptional 7 — It is general. The
district apportioned to a fireman in our mines, that
he has to go over in the morning, is so large that he
has not time to do it and to make an examination of the
sides and roadways and general safety of the place.

22190. That you have been aware of for some time 7—

22191. Have you made any repiesentation to the
inspector as to that 7— No ; we have been continually
urging in that direction, that the inspection was not as
it should be.

22192. You have not made any representation to the
inspector 7 — ^No.

22193. Have you made any representation to the
manager of the mine 7 — ^We never have an opportunity of
approaching the management in that way. I do not think
the managers would consider we had a right to approach
them on that subject.

22194. You have a right to approach the inspector, at
any rate 7 — I understand we have been approaching
someone in higher authority : wo have been approaching
the House of Commons, year in and year out, in that

22195. But the person who is answerable is the inspector.
You look to the inspector as a safeguard, to some extent 7
— Yes. Then the inspectors come to the pit-head and
see that the report is correct.

22196. You have never made any representation that
the district is too large 7 — I have not.

22197. Have you made any representation as to the
qualifications of a fireman, and that you think the fireman
aie not properly qualified 7 — ^No.

22198. What reason have you for thinking they are not
properly qualified 7 — ^They are not drawn fi-om the ranks
of the best workmen as a rule.

22199. Is that the only reason you have for supposing
they are not properly qualified 7 — ^From my own observa-
tion I have known they are not properly qualified. I
have known men act as firemen who had no experience of
working at the face at all.

22200. Acting as firemen 7 - The district I am speaking
of is a non-fiery district, and I am speaking more with
regard to the roo& and sides and^working faces — ^not for

22201. These are exceptional cases in which you think
the men are not competent 7 — As a rule they are not
competent for that work.

22202. As a rule the firemen, you think, are not com-
petent to examine for the roof and sides 7 — Yes.

22203. You think the firemen should not be dismissed
except subject to the approval of the Home Office 7 — Yes.

22204. The manager is responsible for appointing
competent persons 7— Yes.

2220.*!. If you take that responsibility from him and
place it in the Home Office, would you relieve him from
the responsibility of their default 7— No, they would still
be in his employment.

22206. Although you deprive him of his risht :o send
away a man who was not competent, you would make him
responsible for the misdoings of a man he could not select 7
— ELe is to have the selection, but he is to select from those
men who have the qualification.

22207. Would the certificate be a sufficient qualifica-
tion 7 — ^The certificate is to certify that that man has
passed an examination qualifying him to be a fireman.

22208. You want to take away from the employer a
part of that right; you want to say: " You may appoint
a man, but you cannot dismiss him " 7 — Yes. I want to
take away that power.

22209. Still you leave the manager responsible 7— Yes.

22210. If he thought the fireman was not competent,
you would still make him responsible if he neglected his
duty, although you depiive him of the right to discharge
an incompetent man 7— When he became aware that he
was not competent he would apply to the proper authority
to dismiss hiuL

22211. In the interim has he to be responsible to the |
manager if anything happens through his incompetence j
or neglect 7 — If it was oi such a glaring nature, then he ,
would have to get a substitute and suspend the man for |
the time being. '

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22212. You think that is an easy thing to do T— That
is done in the case of municipalities at Uie present time
with regard to medica] officers and sanitary inspectors.

22213. You do not suggest there is any analogy between
the danger to lives in pits and a sanitary inspector doing
his duty ? — Oh yes, there is a great danger of an outbreak
of disease in such cases.

22214. But you really suggest there is any analogy
between the two ? — I think if a man is responsible for
making an examination he should be in such a position
that he can give a fair and honest report of what has come
under his notice when he makes his examination ; and he
should not be removed from his position for giving that
report unless it is an offence which can be taken as justifying
his dismissal.

22215. If you are going to take from the manager the
right to appoint a competent man, or discharge a com-
petent man, is it fair to still leave upon him the responsi-
bility for anything that the man may do which is wrong 7
— Yes.

22216- 17. You really think it is fair ?— Yes.

22218. As to the timbering, the best man is the collier,
because he is there and he can see every minute the con-
dition of the roof and sides in his place, and put up the
timber if necessary ; but you think he is apt to neglect
that, because he wants to spend all the time he has got in
getting his coal, and therefore, in order to guard against
any mischief happening to him because he has not piit up
the timber, you transfer that responsibility to the manager
to put the timbering up ? — My view is that the miner ought
to be the best party to know when timbei is required and
to put it up ; but I would not relieve him of that duty alto-
gether while a man was being appointed to supervise a
section, and to see to the putfing up of the timber — I think
that the miner in the interests of his own safety would not
work where he saw danger, and there would be another
precaution in having a man to see that what he had
neglected was done.

22219. Your view is this, that the putting up of the
timber, whilst it should be done by the collier, should be
more carefully supervised and scrutinised by the officials ? —
I would rather have it that a man was told of! to see that a
certain district was properly timbered.

22220. Your view is that although the collier should be
answerable for the safety of his place there should be more
supervision tc see that he did what was necessary to keep
the place safe ? — When I say a man set apart to see it is
done, I mean set apart to do it. A man should be appointed
to do the timbering, and over and above that the miner, in
the interests of h» own safety, would do, in that man's
absence, what he thought was required.

22221. At the present time the collier has to do the
whole of the timbering ? — ^Yes.

22222. That is included in his tonnage price 7 — ^Yes.

22223. Would you consider it right thr>t if that work is
taken from him and his time put at his disposal to get coal, a
reduction should be made in his wages 7 — We will leave the
coalowneri to see to that.

22224. Do vou say that should follow 7— We aie always
very reasonable in this country, and wherever any re-
arrangement of the work takes place we try to discuss
matters and come to a fair agreement.

22225. The reason for the change, I understand, is be-
cause the collier might be anxious to get as much coal as he
could, and be disposed to neglect the necessary precautions
for his safety 7 — Yes.

22226. You suggest that piecework should be abolished
and the miners paid by the day or the week 7 — ^Yes.

22227. Would there be any security then for the miner
getting a full quantity of coal 7 — I do not see any reason
why the miner should object, any more than the men en-
gaged in the mine, to work by the day and the week.

22228. Do not forget there are good and bad colliers 7
— Yes, the same as with respect to every other class of

22229. When a man is paid by the ton it is to his interest
to get as much coal as he can 7 — Yes.

22230. And -it is to the interest of the employer 7 — ^Yes.

r 22231. You take away that inducement to a man to
get a full quantity of coal 7 — I am prepared to admit that
in the interests of safety if a man is paid by the day, instead
of being paid by the ton or by the piece, the output some-
times may be a little less, but still I see where it would be
a gain.

22232. But the output being less would be at the cost
of the employer, because it would be his loss and not the
workmen's loss 7— It all depends upon the wages fixed.

22233. If the output of the pit is not maintained it
cannot pay 7 — Quite so ; but I can quite conceive where
the output would be as great at the end of a period of time.
For instance, if that mode of working prevented a man
getting a broken leg, then he would not be absent in oonae-
quenoe of an accident, and the output would be as great
at the end of the year because there would not be that

22234. You think the output would be considerably |
reduced 7—1 do not think " considerably reduced," but I
it might be reduced. ^

22235. You suggest with reference to engine-winders
that there should be two men at each engine 7 — During
the time the men are being lowered.

22236. Do you think there might be a danger arising
from the two men talking and neglecting their duty 7 —
I do not think there would be so much (Sanger from that
as what may arise from the present system.

22237. What is the danger you want to guard against 7
Is it because a man may faint, or suddenly beoome
incapacitated 7 — ^Yes.

22238. Does that often happen 7 — ^I cannot say it does*
but the possibility is there, and so many men's lives being
at stake, it directs our attention to what is likely to happen.

22239. This system has been going on for many years ;
and have you ever known an accident of that sort ocourring 7
Remember that thousands and millions of men are taken
up and down the shafts every year almost witlK>ut an
accident. Are you justified in anticipating that such an
accident is likely to happen 7 — It is in anticipation that
we want to direct attention to it. It is too late to wait
until an accident occurs, and it is better to have a pre-
vention than a cure.

22240. (Mr, Enoch Edwards.) What have the men who
are appointed firemen been usually employed at previously 7
— Some may have been engaged working on the roadways
as roadsmen, and sometimes they just come up from
being pony-drivers and working in the employers' time
until being capable, m the employers' opinion, of being a

22241. Is that the class they are drawn from chiefly 7
— Yes.

22242. It is rather a revelation to those who come
from England, to be told that the firemen are almost
exclusively taken from men who have not had practical
experience of working at the face 7 — We call them firemen
in our district, or inspectors. It is a non-fiery district,
and their principal work is to inspect the roadways and
faces before the men go to work in the morning. I think
the strongest reason I can give that they are not drawn
from the best class of men is that they are not paid as high
a rate of wages as the other men who work at the face.

22243. The duty of the fireman is to see to t}ie ventilation
and to examine the working places 7 — Yes.

22244. I^ou say that you think this class of men are
invariably appointed from men who have had no experience
at the coal face 7— Invariably.

22245. Have you had much experience of men being
fined for breaches of Rules 7— Now and again I have
complained of a part of a man's wages being stopped for
something for which he has been blamed for doing in the
pit ; and of course if he submits to that then there is no

22246. Have you been able to trace and find out in many
cases whether there was any justification for those fines 7
— We have had cases where the men could prove they were
not at fault, and we have asked that the money should
be refunded where no prosecution has taken place. Some-
times I have found the manager was acting in good faith,
but the information he got was wrong.

22247. That is to say the information is conveyed to
the manager by some other official in the pit 7 — Yes.

22248. And whilst the other official reports the breach
of a rule, the manager has the power to inflict a fine and
decide the amount of the fine 7 — When a man goes for his
wages he is told that so much is deducted for the offence,
and then he can take what action he likes.

22249. You, in your Union, think that discipline is
necessary 7—1 never miss an opportunity of insisting
upon the Rules being observed by our men.


Mr. Boberi

12 June 1907

Digitized by




Mr. RobeH


22260. Ton do not think the method of enforcing
discipline by fining the men is the best ? — ^I do not think it ig
the proper remedy to prevent a similar occurrence.

22261. What would you do ? — ^Whenever the manager
fines a man at fault for a breach of a rule, let him be
prosecuted in the Court, so that both sides can be heard.

22262. You suggest that practical men should be
engaged for propping and timl^^ring the roof. You mean
by that men over the colliers getting the coal ? — Yes.

22253. Have you heard that is largely the rule in the
North of England ? — I have heard that system prevails
in some parts of England.

22264. And you say you would abolish piece-work and
pay men by the day T — ^Yes.

22266. Have you yourself, or any members of your
Federation, had any experience of the number of accidents
where men were engaged by the day ? — ^My experience —
and I have been dealing with claims for compensation
since the Compensation Act was introduced in 1897 —
is that we have a lower percentage of men paid by the day
injured, in proportion to those engaged, than those working
at the face.

22266. Much would depend upon the nature of his occu-
pation ?— Yes.

22267. Timbering roadways in done by day wage ? — ^Yes.

22268. Are there not a great number of accidents in
roadways through timbering ? — Not in our districts.

22269. The returns would show it. All that is done by
day wage ?— Yes. We find that 68 per cent, of the accidents
in our district take place at the working fcbce by the falls of
roof and sides.

22260. This is a phase of the question which has not
come before the Commission hitherto, and I should like
to put it to you. When you express that opinion does
that convey the desire of the Scottish miners ? — ^It has been
before our district for a number of years, and I held that
opinion years before I left working the coal myself. I
have put it forward at our mass meetings time after time,
and the men seem to approve and think it would be much
better to be paid by the day or the week.

22261. You think that the men contracting in the pit
would accept the position of day wage rather than work
by contract ? — Some men will object, but I think it is a
general opinion that it would be much better. It is like
everything else, that some men do not know what is to
their advantage sometimes.

22262. Of course wages are much higher by contract
sometimes ? — As a rule.

22263. If we were arguing elsewhere we should say they
were much higher ? — Yes.

22264. It is rather new to be suggested here upon this
Commission for the first time that the men are consenting
parties and willing to work by day wage rather than by
contract. The other aspect of it, whether some of them
—especially those engaged outside getting coal — would
want to put up the 'timber, is another matter ; that is to
say, the men work by contract, but the company undertake
to do the timbering, as they do in';:the North of England ?
—I may say, with regard to the amoimt of money earned,
it is generally understood in our district that while miners
are engaged at so much per ton, and may make more
sometimes than a man paid by the day, at the end of the
year the man working under the company and paid in
that way is earning the most money by the steady employ-
ment he has, and he is not subject to the fluctuations
of want of work and such things.

22265. He is not engaged in getting coal ? — I mean those
getting coal A man may make a greater wage to-day
getting coal, and he cannot get work to-morrow. It is
generally understood that a man engaged at a regular
day wage i>aid by the company has more money at the end
of the year than a man engaged on piece-work.

22266. He is working more time ?— Yes, and steadier.

22267. He is found employment when the other is not ?
— ^Yes. The miner would have his day wage when he is
in the mine the whole time, but now it happens that some-
times ^ey are in the mine a whole day and only get half a
day's work on piece-work.

22268. With reference to the certificates for firemen, of
course, now the collieries are managed by the manager, the
under-manager, the fireman, and so on, and the manager
has a certificate and the fireman has not. You suggest the
fireman should have a certificate to show he is competent
to do the work T— Yes

22269. You prefer, whether he is a manager or otherwise,
that he should have had some practical experience before

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 26 of 177)