Extracts from the Annual Reports
Extracts from 1904 ITUC Conference on May 23rd, 24th and 25th, 1904, the Town Hall, Kilkenny
On the need for an ‘intelligence department’
ITUC William Walker said: The men’s representatives are still unequipped with the knowledge which an intelligence department in the Trade Union movement would bestow. They go from the bench or the lathe with just so much knowledge as their leisure time (which is not much) will enable them to become possessed of, and they are confronted with men who not merely have every advantage that leisure, travel, and their intelligence department can bestow, but confronted with an employer’s advocate in the shape of their secretary, who is specially retained because of his ability and training…
In addition to their combinations, their intelligence departments, and their specially retained advocates, the employers had called to their aid (and their call has not been in vain), the whole of the British judiciary. Action after action has been entered upon by the employers against our Unions until almost every phase of our work has been crippled, and our funds appropriated to redeem the losses the employers allege are due to the actions of the Unions…
Is it not time to cry ” halt,” whilst we calmly and judicially determine what is to be our position in the future, and what, if any, powers we are to retain. Let us “come and reason together,” and see what solution will solve our difficulties… Long enough we have been the victims of the unredeemed pledges of the various political parties, and to-day there is the determination to end this dependence upon the whims of party leaders and to secure for ourselves such a position in the legislature as will ensure the social condition of the people having prior consideration. The many great and absorbing social questions which await solution can only be adequately dealt with by those who in themselves have suffered from the bad social conditions prevailing to-day. The housing of the working classes, amendments to the Workmen’s Compensation Act, amendments to the Factories Act, the fixing of standard hours of employment, the improving of the condition of the rural labourer, and the many other necessary improvements can only be sympathetically grasped by a strong and vigorous Labour Party.
Click here to launch page 10 the 1904 Annual Report (PDF)
On Chinese labour in South Africa
Councillor Edward Mclnnes (Belfast), moved: That this Congress strongly condemns the Chinese Labour Ordinance sanctioned by the Home Government, whereby Asiatics are being introduced into the Transvaal, where abundance of native labour can be obtained at reasonable rates, and where Europeans are at present unemployed to an alarming extent; and that we regard the Ordinance as a wholesale resuscitation of slavery in a Crown Colony, and a complete surrender of the functions of Government to a ring of greedy capitalists.”
He asserted that the latest Blue Book on the subject showed that ample Kaffir labour would have been procurable in South Africa had the Kaffirs not been abominably treated by the mining magnates and their hired overseers. The blacks had been ill-treated, they had been assaulted and severely injured, and promises made to them as to wages and conditions had not been carried out. Besides, it was clearly proven that the wages of black labour had been reduced by over 50 per cent., and, naturally the black workers were holding aloof until their old wage rate had been restored.
An attempt was being made to introduce a servile race in South Africa, a race condemned to the lowest form of manual labour so long as its members should remain in South Africa, for the three years’ contract was renewable, and their only recreations would be an occasional forty-eight hours’ pass to the Johannesburg dens in order that the Chinese might spend their earnings, and never be able to return to China unless as paupers. Their wives were to be imported with them, or after them—so the Government had promised—but even if the Chinese labourers and their wives could be compelled to return to China, would not, he asked, a new race spring up, the yellow children born of this haphazard arrangement under the flag of freedom?
Were they to be compelled to go to a foreign country—China—and leave the British colony in which they had been born? Would they not rather be retained as a fruitful source of profit, out of which the German Jew millionaires could purchase diamonds for their relatives in Park Lane and provide orgies for their remaining satellites in Covent Garden or Monte Carlo? If the Chinese were such a low type of civilisation that they were unfit to mix on equal terms with the present inhabitants of the Transvaal, the remedy was to keep them out, as the Australians and Americans were doing. (Cheers).
That would be the only form of ordinance which Trade Unionists could approve of. Freedom to labour, freedom for every race and for all mankind, was an inalienable right, which force, and force alone, would prevent Trade Unionists fighting for, and what was being done by the Government to support a wealthy industry in South Africa to-day would be done to-morrow by a similar cheap labour-compelling ordinance for some of the British capitalists, if the present ordinance was allowed to become effective (applause).
Mr Murphy (Belfast), in seconding, said—Trades Unionists always held that the war was one for the benefit of the capitalists, and the introduction of Chinese slavery showed that there was a good deal of truth in the view. Flogging would, no doubt, be very largely indulged in by the owners amongst the Chinese, as there was nothing in the ordinance to prevent it.
The resolution was passed.
Click here to launch page 16 the 1904 Annual Report (PDF)
On Sunday Labour
Henry Rochford (Hairdressers’ Union), moved: That this Congress condemns the system of Sunday Labour in the Hairdressing Trade, and calls upon the working classes, who are its chief patrons, to assist in its abolition; and this Congress further urges on the Government to especially consider this question in any shop hours legislation they may introduce into Parliament.”
He said the masters at one time took it into their heads to close, but some of them broke away from it. They did not open in Belfast at all and in Dublin, the capital of Ireland, they had nearly the whole of them open, and the assistants did not receive their wages until 12.30 on Sunday morning. The Congress should do all they could to urge on the passing of Sir Charles Dilke’s Bill.
Mr O’Lehane (Drapers Assistants) in seconding, said it was a very curious thing that they should have to appeal to the workers in this matter. He hoped delegates would bring it before their Trades Councils.
Click here to launch page 49 the 1904 Annual Report (PDF)
On the importation of prayer books etc
Mr A Moore (Bookbinders), moved: That this Congress protests against the continued importation of all kinds of Prayer Books, Religious Works, and Account Books into this country by Publishers, Booksellers and Manufacturers and we enter our emphatic protest against the practice as unwarrantable and unpatriotic in view of the growing National desire to resuscitate and develop our fast decaying industries; and we desire to direct the attention of clergymen, authors, authoresses, public bodies, shopkeepers and others, who have the interest of Ireland at heart, to use their powerful influence to stay the flood of importation so disastrous to the National and industrial life of the country.
Furthermore, this Congress considers the amendment of the Merchandise Marks Act vitally essential to prevent matter bound in foreign countries being foisted upon the consumer as home manufacture, to the detriment both of employers and employed in the bookbinding trade. And that we call upon all public bodies, heads of religious houses, schools, colleges, manufacturers and booksellers in Ireland, to insist that all bookbinding supplied to them is executed under Fair Labour conditions.
He said the resolution was a hardy annual. He referred to prayer books used by the ordinary person. They were produced in foreign countries, while it would appear as if they had been got out in this country.
Mr Coates (Cork Trades Council) in seconding urged the encouragement of Irish manufactures and appealed to the delegates to be practical in the matter. He wanted the workingmen of Dublin, Belfast, Kilkenny and elsewhere to do this.
Mr Mitchell (Belfast Trades Council), moved an amendment that the first part of the resolution down to the word “furthermore” be deleted. He said the latter part covered what they wanted. It was an absurd resolution so bring before an Irish Trades Congress. If it was brought forward at a British Trades Congress to protest against the importation of goods from Ireland what would be said. He did not think that Irish trade unionists should be asked not to support work produced under fair conditions in England or Scotland, and they expected that the right hand of fellowship would be held out to them by their fellow trades unionists of other countries.
Mr Whitla (Belfast) seconded the amendment.
Mr Collins (Dublin) supported the amendment. He did not see how they could object to work done in England or Scotland by houses paying fair wages under fair conditions.
Mr Darcus (Belfast) asked Mr Moore did he mean to include in his resolution prayer books made in England or Scotland under fair conditions?
Mr Moore said he objected to, and he was instructed to object to, books produced in England or Scotland.
Mr Darcus said under these circumstances he should support Mr Mitchell’s amendment. It was absurd for Irish trades unionists to object to books produced in England and Scotland under fair conditions and produced largely by Irishmen.
Mr Keogh (Dublin) supported the resolution.
Mr Simmons (Dublin) appealed to Mr Moore not to divide the house upon the question, but to accept the amendment. They could not object to work made in England under fair conditions of labour.
Mr Egan (Cork) maintained that anything imported into the country did away with the work of Irishmen. He appealed to the mover of the amendment to withdraw it.
Mr Murphy (Belfast) spoke in favour of the amendment, and said it would strike at the root of trades unionism if they objected to goods manufactured in England or Scotland under fair conditions. The best way to meet the difficulty was to improve the methods of producing goods in Ireland. If they produced goods at the same rate and under the same conditions in this country as in England they had nothing to fear. Let Irish manufacturers lead the way by producing superior articles at the same price and the same rate of wages as obtained in England.
Mr O’Connor (Limerick) saw nothing in the resolution about England or Scotland.
Mr Stewart (Dublin) asked would they not like to have the work in their own locality.
Mr Duignan (Dublin) also supported the resolution. If they accepted the amendment they would stultify themselves, because to every resolution moved that day about saddles, brushes, &c, made in England, there could be the same amendments. Irish workmen wanted to live in their own country, and did not want to go to England. In his own trade there would be plenty of work for 700 men if all the brass work were obtained in Dublin. As it was there were only 130.
Councillor Mclnnes (Belfast) said if they were to adopt the principle of the resolution in regard to many of their big industries they might shut up. Let them not say they were a little parish assembly going to bind books and make boots for themselves (laughter).
Mr Taylor (Belfast) also supported the amendment.
Mr Geo Leahy (Dublin) supported the resolution. They had to complain as much of work done in England as in any other country.
Mr Moore, in reply, said what he wanted was goods made in Ireland, he did not care under what conditions—fair or unfair (oh, oh).
The amendment was defeated by 31 to 20 votes, and the resolution.
NOTE: An almost identical resolution was passed protesting at the importation of harnesses and was also passed by 31 to 20 votes following a similar debate to that on religious books
Click here to launch page 49 the 1904 Annual Report (PDF)