BRISBANE, JULY 6, 1895.
Boot Trade Dispute.
Several of the men now out on strike, employe's of Neddy Neighbour (who is a trustee for the property of some near relatives) have had the bailiffs put in. Rumours that evictions were coming off had been floating round for some time. Still it was an unpleasant surprise to find the bailiffs in on Tuesday. The tenants for the past two years have paid more than the usual rent to live in the houses from which they have been evicted because they believed it insured a man more constant work, so they submitted to a high rent. Not having money, on account of the strike, to pay the rent Landlordism steps in to force the payment or to sell up the homes and turn into the streets women and children. Fortunately this was prevented, as some friends came to the rescue, paid the amount due, and helped the men to remove. The bailiffs were shown by the professed radical what houses were to be taken possession of. The professor seemed rather pleased at being able to assist at such a dirty job.
If public sympathy could win a strike the bootmakers would be assured of victory. The men have the sympathy of all classes, who admire their determined stand and believe in the justice of their cause. The employers cannot be complimented for prolonging the struggle, and it's about time compulsory arbitration became law. The employers actually admit defeat, but are hanging on in the belief that the men must eventually give in. We would again urge upon the manufacturers the necessity of meeting the men in conference and settle the dispute in a rational manner. The union has all along been willing, and, although smarting under the discourteous treatment it has received, it is still prepared to arrange a satisfactory settlement.
It may be a surprise to most people how the bootmakers manage to hold out so well. It was not till after the public meeting that the help of the public was solicited, and the appeal for help has been generously responded to, enabling the executive of the union to meet all the cases of distress that come under their notice. No strike pay is given. An order on the grocer, butcher, and baker enables the men to take tucker home to the wife and little ones, so starvation has been averted, and the “pinching of bellies” which was going to make the men submit has not taken place. The Dunedin bootmakers cabled £30 to assist their mates in Brisbane. Adelaide came to the rescue with a second donation this week, and kindred societies in Brisbane, despite hard times, have given freely.
The concert and dance in aid of the strike fund again attracted hundreds to the Centennial Hall on Monday night. The negro entertainment by the St. Crispin Minstrals went off very well, and altogether a very enjoyable evening was provided. It is anticipated that between £40 and £50 will result. The troupe are considering whether a tour of the provinces would not prove profitable. An original joke was got off by one of the corner men: “Why are the Brisbane bootmakers like porous plasters?” “Because when they get heated they are regular stickers.” The joker is still alive.
The Barrabool arrived on Thursday from Sydney with one solitary scab on board. It was long after midnight when the boat arrived. Seven of the employers and six policemen were down on the
wharf, so the reception committee to meet one scab was pretty strong. The scab was driven away in an employer's buggy, amid the derisive laughter of the union men, who always turn up to meet the boats from the South.
A Brisbane baker has offered to supply to the men on strike 100 loaves of bread daily for one month, and the union has accepted the offer with thanks.
The men out on strike roll up to the daily general meeting in the Trades hall every morning. It would do the employers good to attend and listen to the intelligent discussions. They would be convinced of the solidarity of the men. If nothing else results from the strike, one thing is certain, the boot trade will start in business, and a co-operative factory will boom very shortly. A committee has been appointed to make all arrangements. Co-operation is being taken up very earnestly, and the following resolution was passed at a full meeting of the men on Monday morning: “That believing the present system (wagedom) to be detrimental to the best interests of humanity, and that under the inexorable laws of individualism the workers as a class are little better than slaves; that the only solution is State and Municipal Socialism, where the workers, through the State and the municipalities become joint holders of the means of production and exchange; and to relieve our present helplessness, we, the members of the Boot Trade Union determine to start as soon as possible a Co-operative Factory.” There is no reason why the bootmakers should not be as successful in running a business as some of the employers they are now fighting against. They will be sure of the support of the workers, and the bushmen will hail with delight the chance to purchase boots made under a system of co-operation. As the thing grows it will wipe out of existence some of the present factories which started with next to nothing but have managed to thrive and are prepared to grow still richer at the expense of their unfortunate employe's.
Charles Adams, one of the Brisbane bootmakers on strike, was locked up by an over-officious policeman on a trumped-up charge of disorderly conduct. Adams was accused of trying to induce customers to abstain from dealing with J. Hunter and Co. After hearing the evidence for the prosecution, the police magistrate stated he was willing to impose a small fine or discharge the defendant. The latter's counsel would not agree to accept any conviction unless evidence for the defence was heard, stating that he would fight the case on the grounds that strikes being lawful it was lawful for strikes to solicit sympathy for their cause by distributing handbills, or by any other legitimate means. When evidence for the defence was heard the magistrate dismissed the case.
The circular issued by the boot manufacturers, appealing to customers for indulgence until the strike is over, is signed by
Alcock, Bell and Co. E. T. Neighbour
Christensen and Fennell Palmers and Harris
T. C. Dixon G. H. Rose
H. T. Field and Co. L. F. Scboeaheimer
Union men in the country towns should make inquiries from whence the storekeepers obtain their boots. The WORKER hopes to be able to announce shortly that a co-operative boot factory has been started for the purpose of supplying clients in the country.