Report from Select Committee on Combination Laws 16 June 1825 Appendix, No. 17.
No. 17. THE AYRSHIRE COLLIERS ASSOCIATION. Instituted in 1824.—Kilmarnock: Printed by H. Crawford, bookseller. 1824.
Address to the Colliers of Ayrshire.
BY the exertions of a number of intelligent individuals, and the liberal policy of the present administration with regard to trade, upwards of thirty Acts of Parliament, the remains of Gothic barbarism and feudal tyranny, known by the name of Combination Laws, have been swept from the statute book. These laws, while they did not prevent the masters from regulating the wages of labour, punished with great severity mechanics who were convicted of combining for a rise of wages. Under these circumstances, it is the opinion of a number of intelligent men, masters, as well as others, that this is a proper time to check several abuses which have gradually crept into the trade; and, that a meeting of the operative colliers, held in Kilmarnock, on Monday the 25th October 1824, twenty-seven Works being met, it was their opinion it would be highly expedient to associate for the general good of the trade; and that a committee be appointed to call the attention of all the colliers in Ayrshire, that some new regulations respecting the mode of taking in neutral men into their works be adopted. Were an association formed, and strictly adhered to, a number of abuses that are now in practice would soon be abolished; and it surely will not be considered either unjust or unreasonable to adopt measures in self-defence, when the trade of a collier is considered an useful, and must be allowed a laborious avocation. Upon these grounds, therefore, we mean to make out a few articles for our future guidance; but, we admit, that nothing but the united efforts of the general body, will be sufficient to carry our articles into effect.
Thus far brethren have we done our duty, by endeavouring to call your attention to some of the advantages which may be derived from a consolidated union, conducted upon moderate and rational principles. Should it be your opinion, that it will be conducive to the general interest of the colliers and coal trade, to carry an association into effect in Ayrshire, let every operative take an interest in the proceedings; let your meetings be well attended; appoint men of sound discretion to your committees; and while you guard against every violation of the laws, show by your firmness and public spirit, that nothing shall be wanting which prudence may dictate, to advance the general interest of all.
But should this call be coldly received by the colliers in Ayrshire, and the meetings thinly attended, it is our opinion, that the proceedings instantly terminate; as it would be vain to drag on people in a business of this kind, if it appears they feel no interest in their own advancement.
Art. 1. That it is highly expedient for the colliers in Ayrshire to associate for the general good of the trade.
2. They shall proceed as soon as possible to organize themselves, by meeting and choosing a committee of management, with a preses, treasurer and clerk, who shall take up a list of all those who are willing to become associated members.
3. Every member, upon entering the association, shall pay 2d. in name of entry-money and every operative collier may enter for 2 d. from this date until the 1st of December; after which time, any person that enters must pay 1 s. as entry-money, besides what sum the other members may have paid.
4. That the general committee shall nominate one of their number to be preses, to preside at all meetings. Any proposition brought before them cannot become a law, unless it has the sanction of two-thirds of the delegates present.
5. The committee shall make choice of a person properly qualified to act as secretary, and who will continue in office as long as the members may think it proper; he is to be furnished with a book, wherein he will inscribe all minutes, ordinary and extraordinary. A treasurer shall also be appointed, who shall retain what money may remain after the accounts of the general committee are settled; and have a cash book, to insert the receipts and disbursements thereof. It shall be the duty of the private committee, to receive and communicate from time to time, through the medium of their secretary, every information respecting the different colliers in the county, and how they are coming on.
6. Any operative collier, having a son wishing to go to the trade, at the age of ten years, will be entitled to one-fourth of a man's work; at thirteen years of age, to one half; at fifteen, to three-fourths; and at seventeen, to full work; for the first term he shall pay 1 s.; for the second, 1 s. 6d.; for the third, 2s.; and for the whole, 3s. Any person coming into the trade, who is not a collier's son, must serve a regular term of three years, and pay £5 sterling of entry-money; £1 to be paid each year. The whole of the monies to go into the association, and to find security for the payment to the general committee. He may be entitled to half a man's work at sixteen years of age; and to three quarters at seventeen; and being clear, and all his money paid up, may have full liberty at nineteen years of age. No neutral man above twenty years can engage to be a collier, without paying £7 and serving three years; first year, he may have liberty for 2s. a day.
7. Any of the members of the association leaving the work they may be at, will get from the grand committee a printed ticket, stating whether he is a clear member or not; and if not clear, to pay up his arrears to the said committee. If any one leave his work of his own accord, he will pay on receiving his ticket 2d. to be accounted for at the grand committee meeting. But if any man is put away by his master, in that case he pays nothing for his ticket.
8. Any man, or work, not agreeing, or coming unto a settlement with their masters upon just and reasonable terms, and thrown out of employment; in that case, it will be the duty of the members of the association to provide for such man or men, until he or they fall into work, which is hoped will be as soon as can be obtained; but any man or work, disagreeing with their master, will be allowed from ten to fourteen days to see if their masters and them can come to an agreement, as it is hoped no advantage will be taken by either party; but in case the master or masters still remain obstinate fourteen days, at the end of the first eight days the individuals in question will apply unto the secretary and treasurer, who will be empowered to give them support out of the funds of the association. And the general committee to have power to call upon all the members of the association to contribute towards their support; but, it is hoped, no money will ever be given away except upon just and reasonable terms. The support allowed to men out of work, as herein mentioned, will not exceed 7s. per week, to be paid at the end of the first week.
9. The general interest of this association shall be placed under the superintendence of a general committee. Said committee to be composed of delegates from the different coal works connected, and to meet as often as the circumstances of the case may require. All delegates to be paid by their own works for their trouble and expense; only the preses, treasurer and clerk to be paid off the whole body. The delegates to remain in office six months, but at the end of that time may be re-elected or not.
10. Any master or masters not redressing the grievances of their men, as far as moderation and justice will allow, it is to be understood that the colliers are to make no unreasonable demand upon their masters; and in case the master or masters will not comply on just grounds, the men in such master's employ will be at liberty to leave his work, and look out for themselves; and all the colliers in this association become bound, not to supply this man or men's place, but to do all they can to get employment elsewhere.
11. Is it not evident, that there are masters in the coal trade who are constantly running a race in the reduction of wages, and are never satisfied unless they are paying below their neighbours; and by forcing the measure far above the common standard, to find a sale, and outsell their neighbour colliers ? This is a case that requires immediate attention, and it, becomes the duty of this association to point out such masters; and after being duly warned, if they still continue in such a career, so hurtful to the trade in general, then it will be our duty to try every way that prudence may dictate to put them out of the trade.
12. Any operative collier, leaving one work and going unto another, he will pay, as entry money, 2s.; to be paid at two instalments. The delegate belonging to the work the man or men comes into, will receive the said 2s. for each man coming into the different works; and at the first meeting of delegates he will give such as he or they may have received from time to time into the general committee, and to be placed into their accounts. The one half of all fines to be paid in the same manner, the other half at the disposal of the men belonging to the work where the fines are levied.
13. These articles may be altered or amended at any meeting of delegates; and whatever is sanctioned by two-thirds of the delegates present, will be final. The power of levying money from the members of the association, must be left to the general committee; and when the preses sees need, he can call a meeting of all the delegates, by ordering the clerk to send them notice four days at least, before the appointed time of meeting, except in extraordinary cases. All laws passed at meetings of delegates will be binding upon all whom he or they represent.
14. As colliers are more subject unto misfortunes and accidents than almost any other class in the community: In case an operative collier should lose his life while following his lawful calling, and leave a widow, to whom he was regularly married, she shall be entitled to £1 from the association, provided such person be a clear member. The widow must apply either by letter, or in person, producing a certificate, signed by the master and men of the work wherein such man happens to be.
15. After these articles have got the approval of the delegates, or if not these other ones, then it will be advisable to see whether they may be printed, and every member served with a copy of them for payment or not. Accordingly as the meeting of delegates may decide, articles may be added, or some that are in put out.
16. Any man that has been a collier, leaving the coal pit to follow some other employment, and returns again to the coal work, as a working collier, in hopes to make it better; in this case, if he returns to any work, he pays for the first three months away 5 s.; for six months, 10 s.; and for one year, £1. He pays his entry and other dues besides.
Last week, nearly all the colliers in Ayrshire struck work, for an advance of wages. On Friday se'nnight, there was a large meeting in Templeton wood, near Old Cumnock, which was attended by deputation from all the surrounding collieries; the object of which meeting was to concert measures to induce the masters to raise the price of coal, and give them a rise of wages. New Cumnock produces the best coal in Ayrshire. There are two seams, one twelve, and the other nine feet thick, partly dross, and partly light coal. There are large quantities of it sent to Dumfries, Ayr, Kilmarnock, &c. for the gas works, and the iron foundries. It is sold at the hill at 4s. a ton. The carriage to Ayr and Kilmarnock costs 15s. a ton additional ; to Dumfries the carriage is 27s. 6d. The colliers make from 18s. to 20s. a week. [Caledonian Mercury 6 November 1824]