Extracts from the Annual Reports
Extracts from ITUC Conference on June 4th, 5th and 6th, 1906, at the Longworth Hall, Athlone
On banning workplace fines
Councillor O’Lehane (Dublin), moved: That all deductions from wages in the form of fines, inflicted as punishment for alleged offences or as indemnity for spoiled work, should be rendered illegal, either by a special Act of Parliament or by the requisite amendment of the Truck and Factory Acts. That, whereas the Irish Trades Congress has condemned the principle of making deductions from the wages of workers in factories on any pretence as contrary to the spirit of the Truck Act, the Parliamentary Committee be, and they are hereby instructed, to take all necessary steps to secure the inclusion in any amending Bill of a clause prohibiting deduction from the wages of workers engaged in the distributive trades in lieu of board and lodging, as, in the opinion of this Congress, the Living-in-System, which is being perpetuated by these deductions, is reprehensible in practice and a menace to public health.
He expressed regret that Miss Galway (Belfast Textile Operatives) was not there to move the resolution. He was sure they were all in sympathy with it. They were all agreed that deductions of any kind from the workers’ wages should be declared according to Act or Parliament illegal. As regarded that question, he was sure the delegates there were thoroughly acquainted with that portion of the resolution which referred to the system which prevailed in all classes of shops, but more especially in those in the drapery line—viz the deduction of wages in lieu of board and lodging.
They all knew that in a great many cases wages were deducted in lieu of board and lodging. Last year he had made an unfortunate prophets announcement which had since been sadly illustrated by a great fire which took place in Dublin during last year, and in which three valuable lives were lost. The same thing might occur if a fire broke out again, and it would be only by a miracle that a number of lives would be saved, and there was scarcely a town in which similar fires did take place, and in which the same thing occurred.
They wanted to introduce into the Truck Act a clause which would prevent the giving of employment under such conditions. Then again, they had the question of the rights of citizenship. As they were aware those who lived in such shops were deprived of the franchise, and he believed they would all agree with him when he would say that those assistants should have the right to exercise that franchise as well as anybody else. They considered that a most disgraceful state of affairs.
The speaker then dealt with the system from a health point of view and spoke of the system of supervision exercised over them by their masters, and which was tyrannising and unfair. He also said the system of deducting wages had a deterrent effect upon young men who wished to marry, and to this he ascribed in a great measure the low birth rate with which they were cognisant already.
Mr David Barry, UDC (Athlone), seconded.
On carriages and funerals
Mr J J O’Farrell (Coachbuilders), moved: This Congress is of the opinion that practical coach makers should be appointed Hackney Carriage Inspectors instead of policemen, as is the custom at present, policemen having no technical knowledge to fit them for such positions; that job carriages should also be subject to inspection. That the Board of Trade should insist that practical coachmakers be appointed carriage inspectors on all railways, and that the Parliamentary Committee be instructed to bring this matter before the Chief Secretary and the Parliamentary representatives of Ireland.
He said he wished to bring under their notice the fact that it would be desirable to have a copy of the resolution, if passed, forwarded to the Cork Corporation. There was just such a vacancy there now, and there were a couple of policemen applying for the job. With regard to the second part about job carriage inspection, he did not believe some of them were ever inspected, leaving a good many men idle, whereas if they had a practical man who knew his business instead of a policeman they would be enabled to give a good deal of employment.
They knew well that a good many of the carriages sent out of Dublin, even to funerals, were a disgrace to the City and the citizens. If competent men were appointed they would be kept respectable and men could get employment during the winter months. Then they would like to see a competent carriage examiner appointed by the Board of Trade to examine railway carriages and find out any defects, and render them fit for the travelling public, or, in order words, to have a proper coach maker appointed to examine them—a man who had properly served his apprenticeship to the trade.
Mr Milner (Dublin), in seconding, said the matter was one which had been before Congresses not alone in Ireland but in England and Scotland as well. He agreed thoroughly with Mr O’Farrell’s suggestion to have a copy of the resolution sent to the Cork Corporation as it might and probably would lead to one of the members of the trade being appointed to the vacancy spoken of.
The job carriage was quite a new thing in the resolution. The Board of Trade in the majority of decent railways had coach makers appointed—men that knew the vital points and parts of a carriage. The matter was one which should be very thoroughly and warmly supported.
Mr Egan (Cork), said he regarded the question as a hardy annual. They might say that notwithstanding the move they had made year after year that no good accrued from it, but he sincerely hoped good would accrue from it, and that it would make for the betterment of the workers throughout Ireland. He might say that a vacancy would arise in Cork for a hackney-coach inspector, and it was to the public interest that a practical coach maker should hold it, because such a man had a practical knowledge of the business.
Look, he said, at the hackney carriages in Cork, Dublin, Belfast, or anywhere, and you will have to be pretty well insured before you would get into any of them. He agreed it was a good thing to have the resolution sent to the Cork Corporation, and in that connection, he might tell them, the Cork Council were not as bad as they were painted.
Mr Hudson (Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants), MP, said the question was one which introduced a new characteristic—viz, that the Board of Trade should insist that practical coachbuilders should be appointed to inspect carriages on the railways. He would ask the mover did he mean the appointment of inspectors to examine the railway carriages as they were standing in the station?
Mr O’Farrell—Yes; carriage inspectors. They have such a one at the present time, but he only examines the wheels at the platform to see if they are fit for the road.
Mr Hudson said he did not think the Board of Trade would move so far as they were asked. Carriage inspectors, as they knew them, were made up of various classes of men. The passenger trains and more important expresses were examined by a class of men who were chiefly trained in the work of putting them on me wheels, and had to look after the fittings, bearings, &c. Consequently if they wanted a coach maker to do that work they would have to make him competent in these matters.
Mr Milner said that was out of order. They did not claim the fitting department.
Mr. Hudson said they would have to be practical in appointments of that character. On the British lines they had men expert in all these matters.
The mover of the resolution said they wanted the body of the carriages only.
Mr Hudson-That being so, they cannot be inspectors in the proper definition of the word as understood upon the railways to-day.
Mr Geo Leahy (Dublin), said it was the duty of a coach maker to do so. He was a man who understood the work, and they were in his opinion, the best judges of what the duties of a railway carriage inspector should consist of, and he trusted the Congress would forward the resolution to the Cork Corporation as requested.
Mr O’Keeffe (Dublin), also supported the resolution; also Messrs. Duignan, Chambers and Daly, TC. The latter said he would like to take from the Dublin Corporation the onus of their doing anything wrong. In connection with carriage inspectors, they had no control over them. In Dublin they had no control over the carriages or licenses. He had known a car man in Dublin who carried certain men who were not persona gratia with the police, and he having refused certain information, his car was condemned the following morning by the police. That was simply because he refused to give the name of the man who occupied his car. In that connection, whilst the policeman could use his power, he passed over several other cars which were practically falling to pieces in the city of Dublin.
After some further discussion the resolution passed unanimously.
On Belfast strike
Mr Charles Darcus (Belfast), then moved: That the Congress desires to place on record its deepest sympathy for the female operatives in Belfast, both organised and unorganised, in the splendid stand they have made for better conditions of labour, and hope they will be triumphant in their demands.
He said they were already aware of the facts. For the past eight or ten days a crisis had arisen in connection with the trade in Belfast in connection with the weaving and winding. There were at present 15,000 women workers affected, and were suffering considerably. Now that the trade had been revived, they considered they should have an increase in their wages. Others had benefitted considerably by the increased prosperity, and he could not understand how the weavers should have been left out, and why they should not have been placed on the same level as other workers. The workers were told they would have to resume work at the same wages, and employers hoped to starve them into subjection. He believed the matter deserved their sympathy and he moved the resolution.
Mr. Murphy (Belfast), seconded. He related the history of the struggle going on in Belfast. The flax workers and the spinners had got an advance, and, the weavers were refused upon the allegation that the price of clothing had not gone up to the same extent as yarn. They were convinced that the employers could afford to give an advance to them.
Messrs Hillis and Gordon (Belfast), having spoken to the motion, it was unanimously adopted, with an instruction to the Secretary to wire it to Belfast.