Extracts from the Annual Reports
Extracts from 1902 ITUC Conference, at Cork Municipal Buildings
The Lord Mayor, Ald E Fitzgerald said it was his duty was to ‘most cordially wish them a hearty welcome to Cork. He did that with the greatest pleasure. Since he was elected to the high position he at present held, it had been his lot to preside at various meetings. Indeed, not many days ago he was in presence of Royalty, but he begged to assure them that he never came before any meeting at which he considered himself more at home than he did at this meeting. … He was not going to enter into the spirit of trades unionism. He did declare publicly that it was absolutely necessary in the interest of the working classes that they should have combination. It was perhaps right and well that there would be amongst what were known as capitalists, if not a combination, at all events somewhat of an understanding, and he wished to explain himself. He believed that if both did not exist that perhaps either of the two might be oppressive to the other.
He felt sure that when going into the various details of the working of their trades unionist body their first desire would be the prosperity of our native country; that it was also their desire, and they had given evidence of it on many occasions, that while they were mainly concerned with the cause associated with themselves, that they did not wish it to be understood as opposing those who were known as capitalists. Our poor country could not afford two parties in opposition to each other. They wanted co-operation, but at the same time each body minding their own interests. That to his mind was best calculated to advance the interests of them all.
In response the ITUC President, Ald William Cave said, ‘I believe also that the time has arrived when labour might be more fully represented in the House of Commons by distinctly labour members. Don’t for one moment imagine that I have any fault to find with our present Irish Parliamentary Party, for I am firmly convinced that they are doing noble and herculean work for Ireland under circumstances of a most difficult and trying character (hear, hear)… Gentlemen, I would like to suggest for your consideration a few points which are frequently arising of late in labour disputes.
We often read of the wrongs done by workers when they agitate for shorter hours or increased remuneration. Hardly any language is strong enough to use against us. We are too often condemned in sledgehammer style. I believe this arises most frequently from want of thought. If people reflected they would find that all wealth is the fruit of land, labour, and capital; that aided by monopoly the landlord adds to his rents, the capitalist his prices. In fact, the capitalist changes his prices perhaps monthly, perhaps weekly, even daily, and sometimes hourly.
He curtails supply. He takes advantage of short supply or of abnormal demand. He combines, “pools,” joins syndicates, practises a thousand and one schemes to benefit himself without a thought of the consumer; but let labour engage in legitimate combination and it is immediately and unequivocally denounced—most unjustly, as I think. What is right and proper for capital ought to be equally so for labour. But custom, the iron-bound law of custom, will not have it so. It is, therefore, part of our duty to destroy this inequality. Again, we are frequently told that we are not ratepayers; that we do not contribute to the rates of our city or county. But such is not the case because in rent and the selling price of all goods, rates and taxes, and, indeed, expenses and profits, in addition to the cost price, are included; so that it is beyond doubt that it is the consumer who pays everything (hear, hear).
Public Libraries and Reading-Rooms in Ireland
Mr E L RICHARDSON (Dublin Trades Council) moved: —
“That this Congress declares that Free Public Libraries and Reading Rooms under the Public Libraries Acts should be established in all the cities and large towns, and suitable village libraries and reading-rooms should be provided in the villages of Ireland; that the Congress deplores the fact that the Urban Authorities have, with rare exceptions, neglected to establish libraries in the municipal towns, and calls upon the Trades Councils and trades bodies in every Urban District in which no Free Library at present exists to enforce their rights under the Public Libraries Act of 1894, by compelling the local authorities to take the opinion of the voters with respect to the establishment of Free Libraries; and that as the income raisable bythe maximum library rate of one penny is and would in many townships be so small that the library would be inadequately equipped, and as neither County Councils nor Rural Councils have power to establish libraries or reading rooms in Rural Districts, or combine with Urban authorities for this purpose, this Congress calls upon the Government to bring in a Bill for the necessary amendment of the Libraries Acts, so that efficient libraries can be maintained.” He said if a requisition signed by twenty ratepayers of a district were presented to the local body they would be bound to take a plebiscite as to the establishment of free libraries (hear, hear).
The Fair Wages Resolution
Mr GEORGE LEAHY, PLG (Dublin) moved: —
“Whereas much difficulty is experienced in obtaining particulars relating to Government contracts in Ireland, and in identifying the persons entrusted therewith; and whereas serious complaints have frequently been made against such persons for breach of the Fair Wages Resolution: Be it therefore resolved—That, in order to remove these difficulties and to secure a more rigid observance of the conditions laid down by the House of Commons, this Congress strongly urges—
1st. That concise particulars of all Government contracts, together with the names, etc, of all persons whose tenders are accepted, be given in the Labour Gazette;
2nd. That a penalty of not less than five per cent, on the amount of the tenders, be imposed upon all contractors who fail to comply with the Fair Wages Resolution in executing the work;
3rd. That the names, etc., of such contractors be published.”
Mr WILLIAM WALKER, PLG (Belfast), seconded the motion, and asked that the following addendum from the Belfast Trades Council should be adopted: “That contractors be deemed to violate the Fair Wages Clause who shall pay to any section of their workmen less than the standard rate of wages of the district in which the contract is executed.”
Mr HENRY REILLY (Sligo) supported the motion, and requested the Congress to accept the following further addendum from the Sligo Trades Council: “That where the Fair Wages Resolution has been adopted by any local body in Ireland it shall be imperative on the Local Government Board to insist on its practical observance, with power to cancel any contract given to employers who may violate its terms.”
The Resolution, with the Belfast and Sligo addendums, was adopted.
Female Factory Inspectors in Ireland
Councillor GAGEBY (Belfast) moved: —
“That in the opinion, of this Congress efficient inspection of the mills, factories, and warehouses of Ireland cannot be obtained without the assistance of permanent female inspectors; and we hereby instruct the Parliamentary Committee to have this question raised in the House of Commons, either upon the estimates for the Home Office or by such other method as will best promote this end.” He said there were over twenty thousand female workers in the city of Belfast alone, and they were continually complaining because they had not one of their own sex appointed to this important duty.
There were questions affecting their interests which they could not nor would not communicate to a male inspector.
Miss GALWAY, Irish Textile Workers’ Society, Belfast, said one inspectress was urgently needed in the city of Belfast alone. Every day in Belfast there were violations of the Truck and Factory Act in regard to female workers because there was no inspection by a female. The long hours worked by the young girls under fifteen was a disgrace.
Mr H REILLY (Sligo) suggested that they should add the following to the motion: —
“And we are further of opinion that sanitary inspection in urban and rural districts in Ireland cannot be efficiently performed unless by the appointment of independent sanitary inspectors who shall be free from local influences.”
Mr GAGEBY said in Belfast they were prevented by the Local Government Board from appointing anyone they liked because the Local Government Board paid half the salary, and that was the reason he could not accept the addendum.
The resolution was adopted without the addendum.
State Purchase of Irish Railways
Mr ALEX TAYLOR (Belfast Trades Council) moved: —
‘That in the opinion of the Irish Trade Union Congress the time has fully arrived when the Irish railways should be owned and worked by the State, in the interests of the taxpayers, the travelling public, and the commercial and agricultural community. As a means to this end, it is desirable that the Irish Members of Parliament should press upon the Government the necessity of appointing a Special Commission, to sit and examine witnesses in Ireland, and to report to Parliament with the least possible delay.”
He said that the railways were in the hands of monopolists, and would not be to the country the benefit they should be till they were owned and worked by the State. When coming to the Congress the delegates had the greatest difficulty in obtaining cheap fares. For some extraordinary reason the Belfast Corporation when coming to the opening of the Cork Exhibition were allowed to travel first class for 35s.; but the delegates from the same place who travelled third class were charged 38s. 6d.
Councillor MCCARKON (Londonderry), in seconding the motion, said if anything would kill the Cork Exhibition it was the attitude of the Irish Railways. Three years ago there was an excursion from Derry to Dublin, a distance of 166 miles, and the tickets were sold at 4s per head. This year he thought that they could have an excursion of the kind much cheaper, and the Managers of the Great Northern Railway and the Great Southern and Western Railway were written to, but the fare was fixed at 15s. It was the railway companies across the water who controlled the fixing of the Irish railway rates, and these English companies did not wish to see Irish industries developed.
Mr HUDSON (Irish Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants) said the rates on the Irish railways were higher than those on any other railway in Europe.
Mr HARVEY (Belfast) said the great success of the Glasgow Exhibition was due to the cheap fares given by the different railways.
The motion was adopted.