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4-207 (Raw)

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Connell, 1980
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The Chairman, in opening the meeting, said: - Gentlemen, - You have been invited here this afternoon by the Employers' Union and Steamship Owners' Association to consider the very serious labor difficulties that have occurred, not only in this colony, but all over Australia.
Mr. HENRY HUDSON (President of the New South Wales Employers' Union) was called on to move the first resolution, and was received with loud cheers. He said: - Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, - The resolution I am asked to propose is as follows: - That the time has arrived when it is absolutely necessary for all employers of labour, capitalists, and others directly and indirectly interested, to form themselves into an association for mutual defence and protection.
(Loud cheers.) In moving this resolution I thoroughly endorse everything said by the Chairman in introducing the object of this meeting. [261] I am not one to make rash assertions, or to rush into what may be called a stand-up fight, but I think the time has arrived when it is absolutely necessary for us to do something to define the respective positions of employers and men. (Cheers). I am sure I am justified in saying that as far as the employers are concerned the present trouble is none of their seeking. (Hear, hear.) The present crisis is most unjustifiable, and has been brought about entirely by the action of the labour bodies - there can be no question about that. (Hear, hear.) .. . We should put ourselves in order that we may devise some means of meeting this trouble, and hence I ask you to pass the motion now before the meeting.
Mr. THOMAS BUCKLAND (President of the Bank of New South Wales), who was called upon to second the resolution was greeted with loud cheers. He said: - Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, - I must crave your indulgence, for I am but a poor speaker, but, having been resident in Sydney for close on sixty years, I may be able to give you some good reminiscences of what was the position of employer and labourer half a century ago, and up to within a very few years of the present time, as compared with the existing state of affairs. In days gone by, if a man was conducting a profitable business and went to the capitalist to borrow money, the first thing he did was to display his assets and then describe the nature of his business. The capitalist would say, well, your assets are worth, say, £10,000, but you have a good going business, and we will advance you money to the full extent of your assets, and also something on the prospects of your business. (Cheers.) What is the position now? If a manufacturer has £10,000 worth of solid assets in the shape of land, and, say, £50,000 invested in machinery, and goes to the capitalist to borrow money, what sort of a reception does he get? Why, he finds that he can get an advance to the full value of his land, perhaps, but the capitalist will not give him a shilling on his machinery or trade assets. (Cheers.) The capitalist knows well enough that any day a strike may occur, and render the whole of the manufacturer's property, with the exception of the land, utterly valueless. (Cheers.) .. . I employ a considerable number of people in the country in connection with the growth of stock. I pay rent to the Government for land and assist to grow wool, which I send to Sydney to ship or sell, and I say the Government are bound to see me unharmed. (Loud cheers.)
Mr. JAMES BURNS (Messrs. Burns, Philp & Co.), who was asked to support the resolution, rose amidst cheers and said: - In supporting the resolution, which has been so ably put before you, I must emphatically deny that the Steamship Owners' Association have in any way sought the present trouble. (Cheers.) .. . We hear a great deal about "Capital and Labor", but this does not properly describe the parties who are at present in conflict. (Cheers.) There is as much capital on one side as the other. (Hear, hear.) The present conflict is really one between dictation on the part of the employees and reason on the part of the employers. (Cheers.) We have been dictated to by the labor bodies on every point, until our business has been taken entirely out of our control. (Hear, hear.) In talking about "Capital and Labor" the labor bodies seem to think that they have a great majority on their side, but that is not correct. I have gone into this matter with care, and I find from the returns of the shareholders of the various shipping companies that nine companies out of thirty-four have nearly 4,000 shareholders, the exact figures being 3,759. [262] Now, if the other companies have similar numbers of shareholders, there must be between 10,000 and 12,000 shareholders, with capital invested in shipping and represented in the Steamship Owners' Association. If we take in addition our employees (our clerical staffs) we have fully 12,000 people who are interested with the members of the Steamship Owners' Association. (Cheers.) I need not take up your time by going into further matters of detail, but I simply wished to remove the false impression existing as to the relative positions of so-called "Capital and Labor." There is no such thing as "Capital" in the sense in which the term has been used by the labor leaders. (Cheers.) A large number of the shareholders in the coastal steam shipping companies are working men, settlers, and others, who have invested their money in the shares of the steamship companies. (Cheers.) In the Tasmanian S.N. [Steam Navigation] Company there are not less than 800 shareholders, a large number of these being ladies in Tasmania, who are dependent upon their dividends for their bread. (Hear, hear.) These are the "Capitalists" who are supposed to be crushing out labor at this moment. (Cheers.) ... Unionism in a moderate degree is a good thing, but when it becomes aggressive, I might almost say pestilential, it is the duty of all men, even the workers themselves, to stop it. (Cheers.)
Mr. A.W. MEEKS (Gibbs, Bright & Co.), Vice-President of the New South Wales Employers' Union, was entrusted with the third resolution, and was greeted with loud cheers. He said: - Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen - The resolution I have to submit to you is as follows: - That it is desirable that all employers not members of the Employers'
Union should at once join that Union to ensure united action. This meeting calls on all persons directly and indirectly interested to express their sympathy in a practical manner by recognising that the shipowners and others connected with maritime labour are fighting the battles of the community against aggressive unionism, and agrees to subscribe to a fund to assist them.
Some two years ago a meeting was called in Sydney to inaugurate an Employers' Union. I had the pleasure then, although not long in this Colony, of supporting a resolution recommending that an Employers' Union should be formed in this city. That Employers' Union was formed, and has been in existence since, but, without some crisis such as the present to force them to the front, employers are often inclined to hold back, as they do not see the necessity for action which others who have been in the conflict have had fully brought home to them. Therefore the Employers' Union has not been such a generally recognised institution in this land as it ought to have been. (Cheers.) Nevertheless, it has done an immense amount of good. (Hear, hear.) The Employers' Union was not started as a fighting institution, but a large number of people here saw, as had been previously recognised in Adelaide and Melbourne, the necessity for combination. ... The Employers' Union has been of some assistance in the past, because, whereas in years gone by the Unions would have thrown their rules down and insisted upon the employers adopting them literally, they now come to ask us if we are prepared to adopt them. Conferences have been held which show that the labour organisations recognise the Employers' Union as a certain power, and what we seek now is to make that power something more than it is to-day. (Cheers.) We want every person who is engaged in business, everyone who has a stake in this country, to come forward and join our ranks, and so this resolution affirms that every employer not at present a member of the Employers' Union should join it at once. [263] (Hear, hear.) I am glad to say that during the past few days we have had very valuable accessions to our ranks. Some of the largest houses in the city have joined us and are working heartily with us. (Cheers.) When we have got a flourishing institution round which we can rally, the Trades and Labour Council will find itself confronted by a thousand or more men engaged in business, who are prepared to stand up and protect that which belongs to them. (Cheers.) We have expressed sympathy with those who are engaged as employers in the present conflict, and this sympathy must take the form of something more than a formal resolution. We must have funds to carry on the work. (Cheers.) The action taken by the labour bodies recently has been aggressive in the extreme, because the strike has not been confined to those who have real or supposed grievances, but 'has been extended to those who have no possible grounds for complaint. The wharf labourers, for instance, have decided on a certain course, and have stopped work all round, broken their agreement, and, joining those who have come out on strike, have brought the whole trade of the port to a standstill. Now is the proper time for claiming that freedom of contract to which every man is entitled, but which has been denied us by the labour bodies. (Cheers.)