Extracts from Report of the Royal Commission on Alien Immigration 1903
Thursday, 5th March 1903.
The Right Hon. Lord James of Hereford (Chairman).
The Right Hon. Lord Rothschild.
Major W. E. Evans Gordon, M.P.
The Hon. Alfred Lyttelton, K.C, M.P. Henry Norman, Esq., M.P.
Sir Kenelm E. Digby, KCB.
William Vallance, Esq.
Mr. Robert Lumsden, called; and Examined.
14472. (Mr. Norman.) You are the check weighman at the Doctors Colliery of the Wishaw Coal Company, Motherwell? — That is so.
14473. To begin with, can you give us any particulars of the numbers of aliens employed in the mines in your district?—I could not give you the exact number of aliens employed in the district, but I believe there are between 500 and 600 aliens.
14474. Have your numbers increased to your knowledge in recent years? —Yes, they are increasing every week, not only in the mines, but they are going into the steel works too. In the Lanarkshire Steel Works there are a great number of Poles employed.
14475. How long ago is it since there were no aliens employed? Is that within your memory? I mean practically no aliens? —There have been Poles there, I am certain, this last five or six years, to my memory.
14476. How long have you yourself been employed in this district in the mines?—I have been about nine years altogether. That takes me to 11 years ago, when I went to that district, but I was shifted, and I was two years out of it.
14477. My point is this, that the aliens are of comparatively recent growth or development in your district? —I would say since the 1894 strike of the miners in Scotland, but they have grown since that.
14478. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) 1893, was it not?—No, 1894.
14479. (Mr. Norman.) The mines regulations are printed in the English language?—That is so.
14480. (Chairman.) What percentage of the aliens would there be of the miners employed? —
14481. (Mr. Norman.) How many miners are there in the district, about? —I could not say.
14482. You could not say what proportion 500 or 600 men would be? —No, I could not say.
14483. (Mr. Lyttelton.) Take your own mine, how many men are there there?—There are seven aliens.
14484. The total number of men employed in the mine is what? —Do you mean below or above ground?
14485. Only below? —I should consider about 430.
14486. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) Are the aliens employed only below ground?—Seven.
14487. All below ground? —Seven out of that 430.
14488. (Mr. Lyttelton.) The men above ground are chiefly engineers and men employed with the machinery? — Labourers, engine men, engineers, and blacksmiths.
14489. How many of them are there above the ground? —I could not say exactly.
14490. About? —There would be between 40 and 50.
14491. How many mines are there in your district, about?
(Sir Kenelm Digby.) I think I can give you this information at a later stage.
14492. (Mr. Norman.) Besides, we can get the exact number of miners from official returns. There are between 500 and 600 aliens in the district, you know, and you say practically the appearance of those aliens is a recent matter?—Yes.
14493. Now, I was asking you whether the mines regulations are printed in English?—Yes.
14494. Can these aliens read English?—Not to my knowledge.
14495. Have you any knowledge that they cannot?— Yes, all of them in my district, with very few exceptions, can read the English language, and as far as I can learn they have only learnt the English language since they learnt it in that district. They are chiefly Poles.
14496. Would you say they are informed of the usages and rules in connection with mines, or are they ignorant of them? —It is a hard thing to say whether they are ignorant or understand it; but if you speak to them, if there is anything that they do not want to know they say " Me no know."
14497. That is the kind of English they talk!—Yes, "Me no know." So you are left the way you started. You cannot understand whether they want to know what you mean or whether they do not; but that is the answer they give you when you speak to them on any subject.
14498. Do you consider they are in any way a source of danger to their fellow workmen? —They are.
14499. In what respects? — In every respect. They are a source of danger down the mines below ground. However, some of them that have been a long time in the mines certainly understand to a certain extent the dangers that are prevalent about the place that they are working on, but the influx as they come in certainly are a danger, because they do not know anything, and they are extremely ignorant of all the dangers prevailing round about them. A mine is not like a factory or anything else. Every man must stand for himself, and be responsible for himself.
14500. Do they work for the same wages as British workmen?— Where the union is strong then of course they have the same wages as the union members, but where it is weak and disorganised then they are all different wages.
14501. (Mr. Lyttelton.) There are over-men in the mines who are responsible, I suppose, for the safety of the men under them?— Under managers.
14502. Do you mean that these men either do not, or cannot, explain to the aliens what their duties are? — No, they cannot.
14503. Has any representation ever been made officially about that?— Not to my knowledge.
14504. (Mr. Norman.) I understand you to say where the union is not strong the aliens take less wages? — Yes.
14505. Where the union is less strong of course everybody gets less wages? —That is so. Everybody gets less wages.
14506. We are not concerned in discussing the effect of the union. We want to know comparatively what are the wages the alien gets as compared with the British workman. Are those wages less? —I am only confining myself to the wages where I am working. They get the same wages as other men do. That is on account of the union being strong where I am employed. They get the same wages there. However, where there is no union certainly it is the case with everybody, but there is less chance of them kicking against being underpaid than what you will find in the British workmen. That is my opinion.
14507. Is it your experience that the alien is able to live for less than the British workman?—Yes. It was one of the aliens who gave me that information. The alien can live a great deal cheaper than the British workman. That information has been given me by an alien himself.
14508. Do you think there is any probability of these foreigners eventually ousting the British workman in any numbers?—They are doing so as it is. You will see in part of my statement that I refer to that.
14509. Yes, I am coming to that Are there at present large numbers of British miners out of work? —It was in the month of June that that statement was given.
14510. Are there now? —There are not so many now.
14511. Last June, when there were large numbers of British miners out of work, were there any foreigners out of work?— Not to my knowledge.
14512. Can you tell us anything about the introduction of boys into mines by these foreigners?— Yes. One of the aliens told me that they had clubs, and that they paid so much per week, and each and all of them run the chance of getting a turn, and seemingly they put that to the use of sending to their country to bring a youth across, and that youth lives with them, and they earn practically nearly another man's wage for him in the mine.
14513. They go down into the mine?—Yes. They keep that boy and give him his food and his clothing until he begins to learn what the other aliens are able to earn, and then of course he begins to look for better conditions.
14514. Who pays the lad? —The miner.
14515. (Chairman.) Is he paid by piece work?—Yes. You understand in the mines that probably two men will work together, and only the one name is entered in the office.
14516. The miner being paid by piece work, the mine owner does not care who gets it? —No.
14517. (Mr. Norman.) Is it the case that some of these young men do not serve the two years specified by the Mines Act before they are allowed to act for themselves?—As the Mines Regulation Act now stands, young men—both aliens and of any other country— can come under this heading, not serving the two years specified by the Mines Act. There are no credentials or anything used to state whether a man has served two years, one year, or a month. Say, for instance, I was looking for employment from an overman, and was a complete stranger to that overman, and I went and asked him if he had any work to give me, probably he might ask me if I had been in mines, and probably he might not; but in the event of my saying I had served two years under a skilled workman, according to the Mines Act, that is all he would require.
14518. You mean the law is constantly evaded by everybody?—Constantly evaded.
14519. By everybody? —By everybody.
14520. (Chairman.) Alien and native alike?—Yes.
14521. (Mr. Norman.) Does this system of a workman getting a boy in to work for him and paying him what he likes, fairly or unfairly, prevail at all amongst the British workers?—It prevails among the British workers, you understand what I mean. These aliens keep their boys the same as they do their own sons, and they give them their clothing and food.
14522. What does the British workmen do? —He pays the boy so much per day, but he does not keep the boy.
14523. The boy does not necessarily live with him? —No.
14524. (Chairman.) The boy keeps himself in food?— Yes.
14525. (Mr. Norman.) In fact, it is a sort of evasion of the Truck Act—the foreigner keeping the boy and paying him simply with food and clothing?—It is really a sweating business.
14526. That is what you would call a kind of sweating in the mines?—Yes.
14527. Can you tell us anything about the feeling of the British workmen in your district on this alien question? —There is a very strong feeling. And, when there were so many British workmen about out of work, while the foreigners were all working, certainly there was a very strong feeling amongst them that something should be done to stop the competition; because the large influx that is coming into the mines is simply going to oust our men. They will soon be all Pole miners, instead of British miners. In a colliery that I worked in that did take place. If there was a British miner and a Pole miner wanting employment the manager at that time always gave employment to the Pole miner before the British miner.
14528. (Chairman.) Why was that?—I expect he would be thinking that it would reduce the strength of the Union men to a certain extent, so that he could do what he liked.
14529. (Mr. Norman.) Then, as a general thing, it is within your knowledge that foreigners have been engaged, in your belief, with a view to lessening the strength of the Union in particular mines? —That is all that I can see.
14530. That is your belief? —Yes. At the time when that did occur the men at the colliery held a meeting, and they said that it was to be stopped or else they were going to stop. They had eleven aliens at that time, and they said that they had enough of that kind of labour amongst them, and that if it was going to continue they were going to stop and let them get all aliens if they cared to. They were the weak instead of the strong; but that was the position they took up, and the manager at that time stopped employing aliens, and it has never been the case since. I believe that the manager we have now does not believe in employing aliens if he can get British.
14531. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) Are you speaking now of your colliery in the Motherwell district? —Yes
14532. (Mr. Norman.) Has there ever been any breach of the peace between alien miners and British miners?—Not to my knowledge.
14533. Can you tell me anything about the sanitary conditions under which these aliens live?— I was in one house, and I did not care about staying very long in it, there was such a strong smell, what it was I could not tell, but anything that was there was anything but clean.
14534. And you believe that experience to be true of the conditions of life of the aliens generally in your district?—Yes; and their appearance looks like it. I was only in that one house; and that is what I said when my statement was given, but it is rather differently set out in my statement.
14535. You said that these people are arriving every week; can you give us any figures of the number arriving?—No, I have not the figures.
14536. Have you noticed that there has been an increase in these arrivals quite recently? —Yes, I can see them passing up the street with a piece of paper in their hands with an address on, and they go along asking this man and that man, anybody in the street, if they can direct them where to go to. They cannot speak a word of English, but they shove a piece of paper into your hand, and, of course, you understand they want to know where a certain place is.
14537. How have they got that paper?—I could not say.
14538. It looks rather like some kind of organised immigration, does it not? —Yes, it looks like that. That is the feeling all over the district where I come from.
14539. That it is being organised by somebody? —Yes.
14540. Somebody must have provided them with this address and made arrangements for them?—Yes.
14541. (Major Evans-Gordon.) We find from the paper that Sir Kenelm Digby produced from the Home Office that there was an organisation. With regard to the certificate, you say that a man presenting himself for work at a mine has to have a certificate of efficiency that he has worked two years below ground, and that he ought to be asked for that? —Certainly.
14542. And that, if that regulation was enforced, it would keep these people out because they have not been working below ground, and they would have to serve two years' apprenticeship?—Yes.
14543. Therefore you would say it would be a good thing to enforce that? —Yes.
14544. That would protect the English labour market so far? —I quite believe that, so long as the Mines Regulation Act remains as it is, the clause relating to a man serving two years under a practical miner is of no use.
14545. It is evaded now, you say?—Yes.
14546. What is the amendment you would like to see?—I would like to see a credential or some Form from the employer stating that the man has served two years, as specified by the Mines Regulation Act.
14547. According to the law he should have had that experience of two years?—Yes.
14548. But you say that that is systematically evaded and there are no means of proving whether a man has had experience or not? —Yes.
14549. (Mr. Norman.) Your amendment would be that no man's mere statement should be accepted without proof?—Yes.
14550. He should be required to furnish proof of it? —Yes, he should have a credential.
14551. (Mr. Vallance.) You say that the employment of aliens in the mines is a source of danger?—Yes.
14552. You also say that there is without these aliens a sufficient amount of native labour?—That is so; that is my belief.
14553. And that consequently the incursion of these aliens into the district is productive of harm rather than good? — Yes.
14554. Are these aliens, Poles? —Mostly Poles.
14555. Are they Jewish Poles, or Roman Catholic Poles?—I think they are Roman Catholic Poles.
14553. You can only assign as a reason for their being engaged in preference to natives the desire on the part of the management to weaken the trades union; is that so?—That is so; that is my belief.
14557. Has it ever been suggested that there is another reason, that these men are more reliable in their work?—No, I never heard of that.
14558. And that they work harder?—No, I never heard of anything like that, and I am certainly sure that they cannot take the place of the British miner; there is no reason to think that that will ever be attained, because I can honestly vouch they will never take the place of the British miner.
14559. And you say that the employment of these aliens is not necessary by reason of any want of labour here?—No, it is not necessary as far as I can see.
14550. (Lord Rothschild.) Are these alien miners able bodied and strong, or are they weak?—That is a question that I could not exactly answer. All I can say is, they look quite able men; but as far as being strong I could not answer that. Some of them, of course, are good-looking, the same as our British miners; some of them are small, and weak-looking; also, sometimes they cheat their appearance; some of them are robust and strong-looking.
14561. Have you noticed that they suffer from any particular disease or complaint?—No.
14562. Were they liable to smallpox when there was an outbreak? —No, not to my knowledge.
14563. (Mr. Lyttelton.) As far as you can judge, a provision which would prohibit the entrance of men physically sick or suffering from some contagious disease or anything of that kind would not keep them out?—No.
14564. They are men who not merely appear able to do hard work, but do do hard work below ground?— Yes.
14565. Would you say that their capacity for hard work is not equal to the Scotchman, but it is a considerable capacity? — I do not follow you.
14566. I understand you to say, in answer to Mr. Vallance, that you did not think they could cut out the British miner? — Yes.
14567. Is it your view that they are inferior to the British miner in strength?—Not in strength, but in practical mining I believe they are inferior. It is like this: The longer they are in the mine the more skill they will get, and the skill of the miner helps him on a great deal.
14568. For a remedy against their entrance into your district you would have to prohibit every alien from coming, would you not, as a remedy ; could you suggest anything short of that; no regulation would do, would it? —I do not know of any regulation.
14569. What you want is the alien kept out of your employment altogether?—Yes, that is so.
14570. And nothing short of that would answer your purpose?—That is so.
14571. One question about the danger. Has the danger that you have spoken to in the employment of these men ever been realised ; that is to say, have accidents occurred in your experience owing to their want of skill or ignorance? —Not exactly ; but on 22nd August last year there were three Poles together in one place, and an explosion of gas took place there; the three Poles ran straight home; they never reported it to anyone, and the first report that was got of that explosion happening was the doctor the next morning telling the manager. These Poles did not even want to send for the doctor until an Irishman who lived next door to them said that he would go for the doctor, because the men were severely burnt.
14572. Were they all three badly hurt? —Two of them were not so bad, but the other one was so badly burnt that he was off work 18 weeks.
14573. They made no report to the overman? —No, they never reported anything, so it is quite possible there might have been something smouldering there, or something on fire, thus placing the rest of the men in imminent danger.
14574. The miners' is a highly organised branch of labour, is it not?—Yes. in some districts.
14575. It is highly organised with you? —Yes ; but in the district where the majority of the Poles are working it is not organised there.
14576. There is a certain part of your district which you have been speaking of which is weak?—Yes.
14577. And into that part of the district the Poles have obtained an entrance?—Yes.
14578. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) Your district is Lanarkshire? —Yes.
14579. First of all, with regard to the number you say there are in your mine; there were about 430 working below ground, of whom seven were aliens? — Yes.
14580. Altogether, the numbers given in 1901 were 948 in the whole district?—In Lanarkshire do you mean?
14581. Yes?—This is the Motherwell district.
14582. I am referring to a report by Mr. Ronaldson, the Mines Inspector for that district? —It was his district then, but it is changed now.
14583. It refers to Lanarkshire as it is now divided: according to his report, there were 948; that would be, I suppose, about the figure? —I could not say for 1901: it is very hard to get at it, because they nearly all assume Scotch names, Smith, Wilson, Thompson, and names like those.
14584. There are other ways of judging, besides the names. Would that be about right?—I could not say for certain about the number ; that is one thing I could not say. Had I had more intimation of coming here as a witness I could have got the numbers, but I have ha-l very short notice.
14585. They are chiefly Poles, are they?—Yes.
14586. Now, to follow up the question Mr. Lyttelton asked you with regard to the point of safety, that question is one with regard to which it is very often alleged that these people are prejudicial to safety; but, with the exception of that one case that you gave just now, can you mention any case in which any accident is traceable to any ignorance or breach of rules on the part of the Poles or on the part of the aliens?—Yes; there was a case at Glen Clelland Colliery, where a Pole got his head cut off.
14587. When was that?—Roughly speaking, about two years ago.
14688. What were the circumstances?—He was descending the shaft the first morning, and he had his head out of the cage, and his head was cut off between the cage and the shaft; he was a Pole.
14589. It was his own carelessness in having his head over the side? —I expect it would be through ignorance.
14590. Can you mention any case in which the safety of the other workers has been actually prejudiced by ignorance or carelessness on the part of these Poles? I have no doubt there are cases, but I want to know from you what they are?—Take the case circumstantially. If a man is ignorant of the danger to both himself and others, that must be prejudicial.
14591. That is argument I want to know the facts. We have always been anxious at the Home Office to get what these facts are?—As far as I am concerned, I could not trace any other case than the two I have mentioned and one that happened recently in the Lanarkshire Steel Works, where the man ran in front of an engine.
14592. These shaft accidents are very common, are they not?—Yes.
14593. (Chairman.) Natives suffer from them equally? —That is so.
14594. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) You are in agreement that a great many aliens can now speak the English language, and therefore there is not so much difficulty in that respect? —No, there is not the same danger as there was before. There is this further danger, the expulsion of the British workman; and then, what are they to do? They will require to go to Poland, I expect.
14595. (Chairman.) And not know the Polish language?—No ; they will go in ignorance to Poland.
14596. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) In some mines the Regulation Act and the Rules are translated, are they not? —Not to my knowledge.
14597. You do not know of any case?—No.
14598. How do you say the character of the alien compares with that of the Britisher for sobriety? —I do not know any of the aliens who are very sober. Speaking generally, they are given to very drunken habits.
14599. The aliens are? —Yes; in fact, you will see them doing what the Britisher will not do; you will see them carrying beer from the beershop in pails into their houses, and as far as I know, there is a great deal of that
14600. At all events, you do not give them a good character for sobriety? —No, I do not, and I could not conscientiously.
14601. How about their being amenable to discipline and attentive to rules? —They are very attentive to rules. Of course, that is where I work, because they are in a very big minority there; I do not know how that would be if they were in a majority.
14602. You do not speak so much of other plates, but you are speaking of what you yourself have seen? —Yes.
14603. From your own experience, what do you say about their attending to orders?—They are very obedient where I am; there are only seven of them.
14604. What do you say about the seven; do they obey the rules or not? —Yes, they are very obedient
14605. I should like to know, so that I can make inquiry about it, what you say about these boys in mines. In the first place, whit ages are these boys? —They are all ages; they are introduced at all ages; not only the boys, but the men are introduced in the same fashion as the boys.
14606. They come in as young men, and stay there? —Yes.
14607. Your complaint is that they are employed in the mines without having gone through proper experience? —That is so, at, first, but it is quite possible that they can do it now. For instance, if a Pole takes a young man into the mines (we have Poles who have been a number of years in the mines) and keeps him, working with him for two years, he is obeying the Mines Regulation Act, but they have come into the mines through some process or other without serving the tune
14608. As to the competition in wages, we know the wages are paid by weight? —Yes.
14609. Can you give me any case in which you have known aliens take a less rate per ton than British workmen? —It was reported in the last Eddlewood dispute that they were employing these foreigners to work while the British workmen were on strike.
14610. That was in the 1894 strike? —No, that was last year; it was reported that they were getting Poles, to fill the place of British workmen there.
14611. What information was that report based upon?—There was some dispute in connection with these miners; they wanted something more per ton, or they were being reduced—I could not just exactly tell you which way it was. These Poles were put into the British miners' place, but I think the dispute came all right, and they were taken back out of the sections and put into their own sections, and the British workmen got the conditions they wanted.
14612. What I want to know is whether you can tell me any instance or any number of instances in which you have known, as a matter of fact, that when British workman was receiving so much a ton, an alien was receiving so much less per ton? —No, that I cannot say.
14613. (Mr. Norman.) Another question about this change of name. I understand you to say that very many aliens take an English or a Scotch name? —Yes, that is so.
14614. That would, of course, render the figures of the ordinary Census quite unreliable, would it not?— Yes.
14615. A man calling himself Wilson would be put down as a Britisher, probably? —Yes, certainly. Of course, in the Registration Courts it would be equally the same.
14616. In reply to Mr. Lyttelton, you made an answer, which I am not quite sure you understood. You said that nothing short of total exclusion would satisfy you and your Union; of course, you did not mean to say that a measure of restriction would not also be acceptable to you? —As far as I can see, the two years is the only thing that can keep them from competing with the British workman.
14617. But we are discussing the possibility of some law being passed which would keep out these people. You said, in answer to Mr. Lyttelton, that nothing short of keeping them all out would satisfy you; but some measure which would restrict their entry would also be welcomed by you? —Oh, yes; I should not like to be extreme on any point
(Mr. Lyttelton.) He said the health restriction would not be sufficient.
14618. (Mr. Norman.) Then, afterwards, you said nothing short of total exclusion would satisfy you, but you did not mean to rule out some measure of restriction? —No.
14619. (Chairman.) What sort of restriction would you accept?—I have not got my mind made up as to that.
14620. You have not made up your mind? —No.
14621. (Mr. Norman.) Would you leave that to the Commissioners?—I expect that is part of their duty, and not mine.
14622. (Chairman.) Where did you get your figure of 500 or 600 aliens in your district from?—I am only suggesting that
14623. You know your own figure is seven. Have you any figures at all on which you base your 500 or 600? — No; I am only suggesting that, or thinking of that. I have told you before that I had not got the numbers that were in my district because I had not got sufficient time.
14624. It may be you have got them accurately, but is that a mere guess? —It is just a guess.
14625. Have you no ingredient on which you found your guess?—No; it is just a guess, according to the numbers that you see on a Saturday night floating about the streets.
14626. By seeing them walking about tie streets, you guess the number in the whole district as being 500 or 600?—Yes
14627. Do you know the number of miners in the Motherwell district of all classes? —I could not give you that.
14628. Could you get those?—Yes.
14629. The seven to the 450 is carried out of your 600 by the indefinite number we have not got who are in the Motherwell district?—Yes.
(Sir Kenelm Digby.) The inspector reports that a year ago—he is writing in May of last year—the whole number in that part of the country was 948.
(Major Evans-Gordon.) How does that compare with the witness's district of Motherwell; is that about the same area?
(Sir Kenelm Digby.) Yes, it is; but do not think it is definite enough to go upon.
14630. (Major Evans-Gordon.) They have not decreased since then? —No.
14631. (Chairman.) Is that 948 the whole of the miners in the Motherwell district?
(Sir Kenelm Digby.) No; they are aliens?—That is Lanarkshire.
(Sir Kenelm Digby.) It is the mining district.
14632. (Chairman.) You spoke of the Motherwell district as containing 500 to 600? —Yes; I think that now.
14633. What proportion does the Motherwell district bear to the whole of Lanarkshire? —I do not know that I can answer that.
14634. When these miners come in—I am not speaking of the boys who are brought over, but the adults—have they, as far as you can judge, had any knowledge of mining before; have they been working as miners abroad? —No, I do not think so.
14635. Are they what we call greeners, or unskilled persons? —So far as I can learn, they are agricultural labourers before coming to Scotland or England.
14636. And are totally ignorant of mining? —And are totally ignorant of mining.
14637. Does not a miner require some skill to be able to work in a mine?—Yes.
14638. How do these men pass muster?—I could not say how they have been produced. Any that I have come across have been a certain time in the country before they came to the district where I am. I never heard how they were introduced into the mines and got skilful.
14639. But as you see them working in a mine for the first time, are they perfectly ignorant of the mining work, or have they knowledge of it?—Any that I have seen have a knowledge of it, coming from another district.
14640. You have not seen them working in the other district, and you do not know? —No.
14641. Supposing a perfectly ignorant person, an agricultural labourer, were brought down a mine to work, you men would know at once he was an unskilled and unfit person to work, would you not? —Yes, quite so.
14642. I suppose, if I may use the term, you would have him out pretty soon, in some way or other?— That depends on the state of organisation and the state of trade.
Adjourned for a short time.
Thursday, 7th May, 1903
Sir Kenelm E. Digby, K.C.B. (in the Chair).
The Right Hon. Lord Rothschild.
William Vallance, Esq.
Major W. E. Evans Gordon, M.P.
(Sir Kenelm Digby.) I have received a communication from Lord James stating that he is indisposed and unable to attend to-day.
Mr. Robert Baird called ; and Examined.
21111. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) Will you explain to the Commission what is your position? —I am the Secretary of the Lanarkshire Coal Masters' Association, and also General Manager and Secretary of the Mutual Insurance Association of the Scotch coalowners. I wish to give evidence on behalf of the coal and iron masters of the West of Scotland regarding the employment of Poles in mines, and iron works on several points which it is considered come within the scope of this inquiry. I understand you had a witness from Scotland who gave evidence from the miners' point of view, and the coalowners thought that it was desirable that you should have some evidence from their point of view in connection with the employment of Poles.
21112. Is yours a general society of associated mineowners? —In Lanarkshire.
21113. The question only arises in Lanarkshire practically? —Chiefly in the west of Scotland.
21114. There is very little employment of Poles in the east of Scotland, if I am right? —There are very few there.
21115. In the west it is considerable? —Very considerable.
21116. Have you got the numbers?—I have no figures but it is said they number several thousands now.
21117. We shall get that probably more accurately. We have had the figures of two years ago, but what increase there may have been in the last two years I do not know?—The Inspector of Mines will probably be able to give you that information. The coalowners are of opinion that no restriction should be placed upon the employment of Polish workmen. They strongly object to any limitation being put on the number of workers unless it is clearly shown to be necessary in the interests of the general community. They do not suggest that it is in the interests of the general community that people decrepit, diseased, useless, or mischievous should be encouraged or permitted to immigrate into this country, but their view is that it is in the interests of the community that those who are strong and healthy, and well conducted, and possessing all the qualifications of good workmen should, if they not encouraged to come, at any rate, have no restriction put upon their bringing their labour to this country. With reference to their physical; capacity, I am not aware that even those who object to their employment allege that they are unfit for heavy manual labour. The experience of the managers of the mines is that they are just as capable as any other workmen employed side by side with them. Their conduct on, the whole, is very good. They are amenable to all instructions necessary for the maintenance of the discipline of the mine. I have already spoken about the numbers. I cannot give the numbers exactly. I may say that we think the first employment of Poles was at the iron and steel works about twenty years ago for labour on the surface on account of the scarcity of that class of labour, and they gradually drifted into the mines. Then the objection that is made that they are unable to read the special rules, has been met in some cases in Scotland by having the rules printed in their own language, but that is not universal.
21118. How many mines is that done in? —Messrs. William Baird and Company have perhaps four or five mines where they have them printed. I am not aware whether the others who employ the Poles have done the same, but Messrs. Baird were at the expense of translating the rules into the Polish language. Then as to the rate of wages paid, the Poles are paid at the same rate as the British workmen. It is usually a tonnage rate that is paid to miners, and the Poles receive the same rate of wages as the British workmen.
21119. Do you say anything about their output? —No, their output would be pretty much the same as that of the British workmen, therefore the total sum they receive would be about the same. Some of the Poles are engaged in the getting of the coal, and others in drawing coals underground, and also in surface labour. Those engaged in getting coals are under the same regulations as the British workmen, and, among other things, they must have had experience of two years at the face of the coal in the terms of General Rule 39 of the Act of 1887. The rule is that an experienced Pole takes with him an inexperienced Pole and teaches him the duties of hewing and general underground work. Then the opinion of the coalowners is that even where there is no reprint of the special rule, the Poles do not work under the disadvantage of the point of safety fixed, and that is, I think, proved by actual results. The accidents to these Polish workmen are not greater than the accidents to British workmen. I may say that in June, 1900, we wrote to the then Home Secretary with regard to this point. I have a copy of the letter giving some figures with reference to accidents to British workmen, and accidents to Poles. That was written to Sir Matthew White Ridley, who was Home -Secretary at that time. The figures then brought out were that the accidents to workmen per hundred were 3.85 per cent, of the total number employed, and the accidents to foreigners were 3.97.
21120. That is non-fatal accidents? —Altogether.
21121. Both fatal and non-fatal? —Yes. This morning I received from Scotland a list of the accidents in the same collieries in 1902. From these figures, it will be seen there were four fatal accidents to British workmen, and none to foreigners.
21122. (Mr. Vallance.) What are the proportions -employed? —In these collieries there were 1,794 British workmen and 450 foreign workmen.
21123. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) About one quarter? —Yes, there were 105 non-fatal accidents to British workmen and 31 to foreigners. The percentage works out at 6.08 per 100 to the British workmen, and 6.88 to the foreign workmen; overhead, 6.24 per 100.
21124. (Major Evans Gordon.) Is that in proportion to the numbers employed? —The numbers employed. There were 1,794 British workmen and 450 Poles in these collieries the figures were taken out from.
21125. What year was that? —1902. It is about one fifth, or 20 per cent.
21126. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) The inference you draw from that is that there is practically no difference as regards safety? — No difference both with regard to accidents to themselves and accidents to their fellow workmen.
21127. (Major Evans Gordon.) What mines are those figures taken from? —The Bothwell mines in the Bothwell District, near Glasgow.
21128. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) Is that one of the mines where the rules are translated? —Yes. I wish to state there is no arrangement on the part of the coalowners for bringing these foreigners to this country.
21129. Where do they come from generally? —Central Russia.
21130. But where do they land at the English ports? —Leith, I think.
21131. Do you know if there is any large importation of foreigners at Leith? —No, I cannot speak about that. Those who have come here and settled down write to their friends and bring them over.
21132. Do you know of any arrangement at all for importing these people? —No arrangement whatever on the part of the coalowners. The people who are here write to their friends and bring them over.
21133. Do those who come, come, do you think, for the purpose of working in the mines—do they come direct to the mines and ask for employment? —Yes, a large number of them; they would come to their friends.
21134. What happens when they first come? They would not be employed underground at once, would they? —They must be under the charge of an experienced workman, and usually if they are working along with their own countrymen they are taken under the charge of an experienced Pole, one who has been here a number of years, because he is not permitted to work by himself.
21135. What sort of work would he be employed in? —Chiefly drawing and pushing coal.
21136. He would not be hewing for a considerable time? —No ; not until he has had considerable experience.
21137. You say he is employed in drawing to begin with? —Yes.
21138. How long is it before he becomes sufficiently skilled to take part in the work on the working face? —Two years under the Mines Act.
21139. Before he can work at the working face?— By himself.
21140. Do these people live together much and keep to themselves in living? —They live in the houses provided by the employers ; naturally, they gather together.
21141. They live under control? —Yes, undoubtedly.
21142. As to overcrowding, that would be subject to the regulations of the employers? —Undoubtedly. I had a letter this morning from the general manager of Messrs. Baird and Co. to say that they are very amenable to all discipline ; in connection with sanitary arrangements they are not quite clean at the beginning, but they very soon get into cleanly habits, and from my own observation they are very respectably dressed.
21143. Do they take pains to understand the rules, because the rules are a little complicated? Do they get to know what regulations they have to work under? — Yes, after a time.
21144. Are they amenable to discipline? —Much more so than some of the British workmen. Especially I am told that if they get an order they faithfully carry it out, and you may depend upon their doing it.
21145. As to their sobriety, what do you say? —As far as we see, they are as sober as the usual miner. I do not know that you can say that they are guilty of excessive drinking or drunkenness, and I think they behave themselves very well indeed.
21146. Do they belong to the union? —Yes, I understand they do, and they are very loyal to it, although the union officials do not care for this foreign labour. They naturally object to foreign labour being brought into their district.
21147. We have heard a good deal of it at different times? —Yes.
21148. (Mr. Vallance.) May we take it that 20 or 30 years ago there was no alien labour in the mines in Lanarkshire? —I think so; I do not think there was any before that date.
21149. Has the introduction of this labour been gradual? —It has been gradual.
21150. Has it during that period displaced any large amount of English labour? —I do not think so.
21151. May we take it from you that they have merely supplied a want in connection with the mining work? — That is so, and especially in connection with work about ironworks and steel works.
21152. At the present moment is there any considerable amount of English labour available while you have these aliens employed? —No; I think the employment is very good. Of course, there has been since this year started a little dulness in the coal trade, but I cannot say that the British workman has been displaced on account of these Poles.
21153. Then there is a certain amount of displacement? —I can scarcely say that there is.
21154. If you have two men before you, the foreigner is likely to be taken on at times in preference to the native worker for the reason that he is regarded as a better workman? —I should scarcely say so; but our experience is that the foreign workman will work in a place that a British workman would not be willing to work in —that is to say, a place that is, perhaps, unusually wet, or perhaps hard to get; but they persist in working, and make very good wages, and will work there when, perhaps, the other workmen might not care about doing so.
21155. What would be your position as coalowners if these foreigners had not come into the district for work. Would you have been able to cope with your work? — I think so. I can scarcely say that we would have suffered very much if the foreign labour had not come ; but we find them to be very useful indeed in many respects.
21156. But have the English workers reason to complain of alien labour where they already were able to supply sufficient labour themselves? —I do not think so.
21157. (Major Evans Gordon.) Continuing that question, you say that the native workers have not any reason to complain of the introduction of a considerable quantity of foreign labour? —I do not think so.
21158. One-quarter or one-fifth in one lot of mines?— Yes; this is the particular district in the West of Scotland.
21159. But in that particular district in the West of Scotland, though the men have no reason, as you say, to complain, do they complain? —The union officials complain about the employment of the foreign labour; I do not know why, but they object to foreign labour, and they would like to see the foreign workman put out of the mines.
21160. But, as you say these people are gradually coming in, how was the work conducted before these people arrived. How old is the mining industry in this part of Scotland? —Fifty or sixty years.
21161. It went on then for 30 years or so without this labour? —Yes.
2116-2. What is the necessity for this labour now—the population has increased? —We do not say that there is any special necessity for the labour ; but they have been found very useful in many respects.
21163. In fact, they suit the coalowners? —Yes, they suit them.
21164. They are more amenable, and give less trouble than the Englishmen? —That is so.
21165. Did not this influx of foreign labour into the mines come about after or at the time of the strike there? —I do not think so.
21166. We have had evidence to say that it did, and that it was at that time that a certain gentleman in Glasgow began getting these people over, and since then it has spread. There is ill feeling, you say?—I do not know that there is ill feeling. There is a feeling. The miners' officials would like to see this foreign labour put out of the mines for reasons of their own, I daresay.
21167. Do you say the feeling is good or the feeling is bad? —I do not know that it is very accentuated or very strong.
21168. Has your attention been called to this statement which appeared in the "Labour Leader " on the 2nd of this month : "The question of the employment of Polish workmen in West of Scotland mines is now beginning to assume a very serious aspect. At Tannochside Colliery a large number of them are being employed in one of the seams at 5d. per ton, or about 1s. a day less than the rate paid to British miners. The Scottish Miners' Federation have now definitely resolved to intervene, and the British Federation will be asked to assist in bringing all the collieries belonging to Mr. Archibald Russell to a standstill if the management continues to employ foreigners at lower rates. The workmen employed in these collieries number 4,000, so that the struggle, if entered upon, will be a serious one." It appears from that that the feeling is becoming stronger on this point of the employment of foreign labour? —This is a question of rates, chiefly.
21169. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) Are those Scotch collieries? —The Tannochside side, it is in the Uddingston district.
21170. Is that in Lanarkshire? —Yes.
21171. (Major Evans Gordon.) What I want to get from you is this: is there or is there not a scarcity of native labour in the mines in Scotland? —Not at the present moment.
21172. With regard to the language question, these people arrive from Poland direct, not knowing a word of English? —A good many of them.
21173. All of them who arrive direct? —I presume so.
21174. How are they dealt with then. How are the regulations and so on communicated to them? —They are put under the charge of an experienced miner.
21175. Who can speak a little English? —Yes.
21176. You are dependent on the communication of the mines' regulations through a third party? —Yes.
21177. Through an interpreter? —Yes, who is working along with them.
21178. Is there not a regulation which provides that the man presenting himself at work at a mine has to have a certificate of efficiency that he has worked two years below ground? —That is where he has to work by himself for hewing at the working face.
21179. But if he is not working by himself he goes below ground? —Yes.
21180. Without a certificate? —Yes.
21181. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) You said these men were employed at drawing coal, at first? —Yes.
21182. (Major Evans Gordon.) Have there been strikes in that neighbourhood lately? —Not lately.
21183. When was the last strike? —The last strike of any importance was, I think, in 1894.
21184. Were there foreigners employed then? —Yes, there were some.
21185. Nine years ago? —Yes.
21186. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) With regard to the scarcity of labour, I suppose that is really a question as to the state of trade, is it not? When trade is brisk there is no such thing as an over-abundance of labour? —No. Of course, we have had some brisk years lately, and there has been employment for all.
21187. (Mr. Vallance.) May I put my question in another form. If there are 450 aliens employed, are there at the present moment 450 native workers unemployed and waiting to be taken on? —No.
21188. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) How many days are you working now in a week? — In Lanarkshire five.
21189. That is good, I suppose? —Yes ; of course, that is by arrangement with the miners. They will not work six.
21190. They never do work six? —Not just now, and have not done for some years.
21191. Five days a week is pretty full work, is it not? —Yes; in Fifeshire and Ayrshire they will work eleven and twelve days a fortnight.
21192. (Lord Rothschild.) Do you know the nationality of all these aliens? —They are Russians and Poles, I think.
21193. Are there many of them Jews, or are there very few of them? —I do not know that they are Jews. I could scarcely say they are Jews.
21194. (Major Evans Gordon.) They are mostly Catholic Poles, are they not? —Yes, I think so.
Thursday, 14th May, 1903
The Right Hon. Lord James of Hereford (Chairman).
The Right Hon. Lord Rothschild.
Henry Norman. Esq., M. P.
Sir Kenelm E. Digby, K.C.B.
William Vallance, Esq.
Major W. E. Evans Gordon, M.P.
Mr. J. M. Ronaldson, called; and Examined.
22035. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) Are you His Majesty's Inspector of Mines for the Western District of Scotland? —I am.
22036. That comprises Lanarkshire?—That applies to a part of Lanarkshire only; the greater part of it now.
22037. We have had some evidence before the Commission about the employment of foreign workmen in these mines, especially Poles and Russians?—Yes.
22038. Could you tell us how that stands? Are they employed at particular mines or all over the country? — Some mines have a good many of these foreign workmen, and others just one or two. They are not confined to any particular part of Lanarkshire.
22039. Could you at all give their numbers?—The mine owners gave me returns in May, 1901, of the number of those Poles or foreign workmen employed by them, and according to the returns given at that time in my part of Lanarkshire, there were 853.
22040. At that time the other part of Lanarkshire and the rest of Scotland were under Mr. Atkinson, a mines inspector, was it not? —I rather think that these figures applied to the district before it was altered. You have all the figures, because Mr. Atkinson and I have sent up a return to you. I fancy altogether there would be about some 1,023 persons employed.
22041. At all events, something over 1,000?—Yes, in Lanarkshire.
22042. That is in 1901?—Yes.
22043. Have they increased since? —I cannot say. I have no statistics since.
22044. From your own observation, do you say they have increased or not? —From what I hear it is probable they have increased. I may say that these men are only migratory, and birds of passage here. They come over to this country, they start in the mines, and after they have made enough money for their purpose they either go away home or go on to America. They do not come permanently to reside with us.
22045. How about their qualities for working? What sort of work do they do? Do they do the hewing?— They do the hewing, and they also do the drawing or putting; that is, they push the tubs of coal out from the working face, and they are also employed in some collieries on the surface to some considerable extent.
22046. So far as skill is required, would you call them skilled miners?-—They eventually become pretty skilled workmen. I understand they are principally farm labourers when they come to this country. They know nothing of mining. Some of them have, I believe, some mining experience, but taking them as a rule, they are ignorant altogether of mining, and it takes some little time for them to get accustomed to the work.
22047. What do you say generally as to their capabilities as workmen?—As to their capabilities as workmen, I think from what I learn, that we may call them good average workmen.
22048. (Chairman.) When they first come?—Not when they first come.
22049. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) How long does it take them to become good average workmen? —That depends on each man's capabilities. Perhaps in a year or so they can do pretty fair work as miners.
22050. Are you aware of any evil consequences as regards safety from the employment of these men? —None whatever. I have paid most particular attention to this point since some years ago the representatives of the miners made allegations that these men were a constant source of danger to the other workmen, and that a number of accidents had been caused, because of their ignorance of the language and their ignorance of mining. I have not hitherto come across a single instance of an accident reported to me whereby one of these foreigners was the cause of an accident to another person, though, several accidents to themselves have been caused by their own neglect, but so far as I know there is not a single case where the life of another man has been endangered by them.
22051. Are they amenable to orders, and do they submit to discipline? —That is a marked feature of their character. I find on all hands, wherever I make inquiries, that this is a distinctive feature of the Pole, he is most amenable to orders and obeys instructions, and that is all the more marked, I think, because of the fact that it is in striking contrast to the conduct of our own miners, a great many of whom, I am sorry to say, are not amenable to discipline.
22052. With regard to the rules that are put up in the mines, and so on, can they understand and appreciate the rules?—That is rather a difficult point. In fact, I may say I do not think I should be wrong in saying that more than 50 per cent, of our own miners never read the rules themselves. They only come to know them by their attention being called to them when they break the rules. That seems to be a feature in this matter. But these rules were translated into their own language, or rather it was Russian, I think, they were translated into, or a sort of Yiddish—I am not sure which—some time ago, but it was found that a great many of these people could not read.
22053. Cannot read at all?—No, and they get to know them through their companions.
22054. Do they get to know the substance of the rules, in fact? —I think they know them in fact pretty well, because when they are once told they are inclined to obey them.
22055. You say they are temporarily resident here. Do they remain for a considerable time—most of them? —They remain four, six, or eight years perhaps. I understand they have no intention of permanently residing in the country.
22056. Have they had any effect on wages as far as you know? —I do not think they have had any effect on wages—in fact, at the present moment I am informed by the owners who employ more of these foreign workmen than any other coal owners, they can take at their collieries 100 men, if they can get them, and they cannot get them.
22057. Do they keep any other people out of work?— No, I do not think so, so far as my information goes. I may say that in Lanarkshire the number of persons employed has been increasing year by year. Last year there were between 400 and 500 more men employed below ground than the previous year.
22058. Can you give us the number of persons employed in order that we may compare the figure of something over 1,000 that you say is the probable number of foreigners? —In my part of Lanarkshire the total number of persons employed below ground in 1901, was 24,493.
22059. All those Poles would not be employed below ground? —These Poles that I refer to are all employed below ground practically.
22060. That is a figure of comparison—something over 1,000 as compared with 24,000?—Yes.
22061. Can you give me anything like the proportion? —I cannot tell that. This return was simply given of foreigners. I believe they are mostly Russian farm labourers.
22062. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) Are these Jews or Christians?—The greater part of them are Roman Catholic Poles.
22063. (Lord Rothschild.) They are Lithuanian Poles, are they not?
(Major Evans-Gordon.) I fancy so.
22064. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) With regard to their habits, what have you to say? —I have here the report made by a police constable employed by Messrs. Baird and Co., Limited, who knows them all intimately. It is a very interesting report, and tells you all about their habits.
22065. (Chairman.) Perhaps you might summarise it if you can? —He says in Craighead Rows there are 25 dwelling houses occupied by Poles, and in Bothwell Park there are 30 dwelling houses occupied by Poles; that is to say, there are 55 houses occupied by Poles that he looks after. In Craighead Rows there were three which he reported as being in a dirty state in his annual Report of Houses, and those three are now clean. Then he says: "In general when Poles arrive in this country they are very poor, degraded-looking people. They are generally assisted from Russia by a connection in this country, who is working in the collieries, and who sends money to pay their passage. When this connection receives them he starts them to work, pays them low wages until they get acquainted with the work of the colliery, and refund the cost of coming to this country. The Pole, then, when acquainted with the getting of coal and the working of it, puts his own name into the colliery office, and receives full pay for his work. He then saves up money till he gets the length of £5, the price of his passage back to Russia. He puts this money into the Post Office Savings Bank. Married men come to this country without their wives. After seeing how their married connection gets settled down to work, he sends money to his wife in Poland to come away to this country. Then, again, the Pole has to save as much as £10 to make sure that they have as much money as will take them home. Every Pole has a Post Office Savings Bank book. Poles, as a rule, are inclined to be dirty, have a tendency to overcrowd their houses, and to keep too many lodgers. But when strictly looked after, and told how many lodgers to keep, and it has been explained to them how to keep their houses clean, they try their very best to please you; if anything they try to be better than their neighbours. When a Polish man or woman is told to do anything by me it is done, but if they are not looked after they go back to their dirty habits. Glebe Street, Bellshill, where the Poles are not looked after, is an example of their natural habits. Poles are very steady workmen, and never like to be out of work. They will not rest till they get a place in which to work; they are more anxious to work than our British workmen. There are a number of days on which they do not work. Being Roman Catholics they have many saint days. Then he refers to their marriage customs.
22066. I do not think we need go into that? —Then he refers to their habits at such times as christening, and at these times they drink a little, and sometimes get into trouble, but that is not an unusual thing with other People.
22067. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) What was the occasion of that report being made? —I asked Mr. Forgie, one of the Partners of William Baird and Co., who was to have given evidence here last week, to get me some information, and I have a son who is employed at one or the jailieries where a great many of these Poles are, and he told me about this policeman, and I got this report from him, as he knew their habits.
22068. Do you generally agree with that from your experience? —So far as I know there is nothing inconsistent with my knowledge there.
22069. Is there anything else you wish to add. You say something in your statement about the condition of their houses, but I think the report you have read deals with that?—I find that they are easily influenced by others They will follow either good habits or bad habits. They are very easily led, and they are accused of taking to drink, but I am afraid they are imitating our own miners in that respect.
22070. (Major Evans-Gordon.) You say that they are keen to move on, and that they go back to their homes. How do you know that fact? —-Simply from information. My evidence here is principally from what I can gather. I do not know these men intimately in their habits myself, and my official duty does not bring me in contact with them in that respect.
22071. But it is supposed they go back? —Yes. I am informed on very good authority that they either go back or go on to America.
22072. (Chairman.) About how long do they stop here?—They want to stay here until they have got as much money as will serve their purpose.
22073. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) They do not intend to stay permanently?—So far as I can trace they do not intend to stay permanently. They are all young men; there is not an old man amongst them.
22074. (Major Evans-Gordon.) But their numbers are increasing? —I am not certain. I rather think they are from what I hear, but I have no actual facts.
22075. Since these figures were taken. But whether they go back or not their places are taken, and more than taken, by others who come?—Apparently.
22076. You say they are birds of passage, but they stay long enough here to become skilled? —They do as a rule.
22077. Are these aliens imported, or do they wander to the mines? —I think principally their friends bring them over.
22078. Since when did these foreigners begin to appear in the mines?—I have no exact date regarding that. It is a good many years now since they first began to come.
22079. Was there not a strike in 1894?—I fancy there was a big strike about that time.
22080. Is it not subsequent to that that these people have been coming more and more?—It is very probable. There has been a gradual steady increase in their number.
22081. Do you say the work in the mines would be diminished, or would not be carried on without these foreigners? —Oh, no, I do not say that; but unless we had men of our own to take their place at present, there would be a distinct loss.
22082. Do you mean that if these people were not here there would be no English people to undertake their work? —They are all Scotch and Irish.
22083. Scotch and Irish? —-I fancy that would depend upon the state of trade. When trade is brisk the mine owner as a rule cannot get enough men. On the other hand, if trade is backward then the men are idle, and there is no work for them.
22084. But broadly speaking, would not the wages obtained in this employment be sufficient to attract a sufficiency of Scotch and Irish labour?—I am not sure about that. If wages go down, as a rule the men vacate the pits. A number of men do, and go back to their own occupations. They have been attracted by the higher wages in brisk times to the mines, and when the wages go down they go out of the mines again, and return to their employments.
22085. They do not go underground at once, I understand? —Yes, I think they do.
22086. Underground at once? —Yes, in a great many cases. Of course, they are always under the supervision of a skilled man.
22087. And you say a perfectly ignorant man, ignorant of the language and ignorant of the customs of the mines, is no source of danger? —That is my own belief, and my reason for it is this: our skilled men think they know too much, and they risk too much, and they bring upon themselves many accidents on that account. A man freshly going into the mines, by reason of his ignorance is all the more careful, and does not run risks that a skilled man would do.
22088. Is there not some certificate supposed to be necessary for men going underground? —There is no certificate necessary. It is a thing they ought to have, but there is nothing binding in that way.
22089. Why do you say they ought to have? —Because one of the general rules of the Coal Mines Regulation Act prescribes that no man shall work alone at the coal mines unless he has been working two years.
22090. But that is a thing that is a dead letter?— Oh, no; I do not think so. Managers try to find it out, but if a man tells a lie it is very difficult to prove it. There is no statutory obligation to present a certificate of that nature.
22091. How long does it take him to become what you call skilled?—That a good deal depends on the skill of the man himself. Some of those seams a navvy can work—any man who can handle a shovel, because the coal is so easy to get. If the coal is more difficult to work, it takes a man a longer time to do a good day's work.
22092. Do the mine-owners encourage the aliens coming?—I do not think they object to them; so far as I can understand, they take no means themselves to bring them over.
22093. Have you ever known an alien to be out of work when natives are out of work? —That is a question I cannot answer.
22094. You do not know about that? —I do not know about that.
22095. Why are these men employed in some mines more than others; is there any explanation of that? — I find some managers do not like them, and other managers do like them. Some managers will not have them. Others find, owing to their being amenable and easy to get on with, and steady workmen, and giving very little trouble, it is an advantage.
22096. They prefer them to native workers?—I think they like a mixture.
22097. What about the feeling among the native workers, Scotch and Irish, with regard to the employment of these people? —In many places their neighbours in the mines get on quite harmoniously with them.
22098. Do you say there is no discontent among the Scotch workmen with regard to the employment of foreigners in the mines? —Judging from newspaper reports, the miners of the unions are dead against them.
22099. (Chairman.) But the individual men?—The workmen, as a body, are against the Poles.
22100. (Major Evans-Gordon.) If there is no displacement of native labour, how do you account for the present action of the Scotch Miners' Federation? —I suppose they want Scotland for the Scotch, or something like that. I cannot tell what their real reason is.
22101. But it would point to there being discontent at these foreigners being employed? —I think it is undoubted that they are discontented at the foreigners being employed, but whether it is the body of the workmen or the union I am not in a position to say.
22102. I have here an extract from a paper called the "Labour Leader," of May 2nd, 1903, in which it is stated: "The question of the employment of Polish workmen in West of Scotland mines is now beginning to assume a very serious aspect. At Tannochside Colliery a large number of them are being employed in one of the seams at 5d. per ton, or about 1s. a day less than the rate paid to British miners. The Scottish Miners' Federation have now definitely resolved to intervene, and the British Federation will be asked to assist in bringing all the collieries belonging to Mr. Archibald Russell to a standstill if the management continues to employ foreigners at lower rates. The workmen employed in these collieries number 4,000, so that the struggle, if entered upon, will be a serious one." Are you aware of that movement?—I am sorry to say that the " Labour Leader " does not seem to take particular care in getting up the facts. I have found that before, and I fancy they have not taken care to get the facts up sufficiently here. I may say I saw the evidence given last week on this point, and before coming up here I went and saw the agent of this colliery.
22103. This very Tannochside Colliery? —Yes. The agent explains it in this way: The part where the dispute took place is a new seam being opened up. It is being worked by what is termed the "longwall system "; that is, you remove the whole coal at once. At first, when they start there the coal is more difficult to get than it is afterwards; the removing of the coal brings on a weight and makes the working of the coal much easier. That stage had been reached when the superincumbent pressure made the working of the coal more easy. Naturally, each man under those conditions could put out much more coal than he could formerly. But they are paid by weight, and therefore, naturally, the manager wanted to reduce the tonnage rate. The agent informed me that the average wage being paid was 6s. 8d. in that seam, while the standard wage was really 5s. 9d., and he wanted to bring it down to something like the standard wage.
22104. (Chairman.) Is that 6s. 8d. per day?—They were making 6s. 8d. per day on an average ; that was the average wage. Then the miners objected to submit to any reduction whatever, because, naturally, they wanted to keep their wages up; but the manager induced four Poles (there are only some 15 Poles altogether employed below ground in this colliery) to start at the reduction. These four Poles started one morning, and worked for two or three hours, and put out nearly three tons of coal apiece, but the other men rose up in rebellion, and would not have it, and they had to stop, and that was the beginning of this dispute, according to the agent. I am now giving his story. To blame these Poles for this thing is altogether unfair, because whenever a seam is being opened up, there is always a dispute as to what should be the price for the coal.
22105. (Major Evans-Gordon.) Anyhow, in this instance the foreign labourers were willing to work for less wages than the union demanded?
(Chairman.) Four-fifteenths of it.
—Yes; but the whole thing falls to the ground if this statement of the agent is correct, that the men were making more wages than they were entitled to. There is always a break in the tonnage rate under those circumstances.
22106. (Major Evans-Gordon.) But the point I want to get at is that these four Poles were, as a matter of fact, willing to work for less than the .Scotchmen were receiving for this particular work?—Yes; at this particular place, that is quite true.
22107. And that has been the cause of this trouble?— That has been the cause of the trouble. The miners wanted to keep up the price.
22108. (Mr. Vallance.) By whom are these aliens engaged in the first instance—by the mine-owners?— They must all come through the officials of the colliery. They must apply to the overman of the mine, and he agrees to take them on or no.
22109. They are not taken on as apprentices by certain workers? —They are, in fact; but it must all be done through the officials of the colliery. No man goes down a mine without it being understood he is going to start.
22110. His engagement is recognised by the coalowner?—Yes; if one man takes a new man down the mine with him, his name will not appear in the books at all. The two work together, and the amount of coal put out by the two goes under the one man's name.
22111. Then is the coal-owner not responsible for the wages of these men when they first come? —No. Every miner is a contractor in a sense, and one man may employ one, two, three, or four men under him, and he draws all the money and pays all the men their wages.
22112. (Chairman.) They call them gangs, do they not?—Gangs or squads.
22113. (Mr. Vallance.) Is this form of engagement equally applicable to the native worker as to the alien worker? —Yes.
22114. One witness has said that the employment of these aliens is not necessary by reason of any want of labour at the mines. Do you agree or disagree with that?—That may occur sometimes. It depends upon the state of trade. At the present moment, at one large colliery they could take 100 more men if they could get them.
22115. May we take it that generally, in your judgment, these aliens provide an industrial want?—I think so.
22116. (Major Evans-Gordon.) But at slack time? when there is a surplus of labour, these foreigners would actually be occupying places which would otherwise employ British workmen — Naturally, that would result.
22117. (chairman.) As a rule, do they obtain the same amount of wages as the native workmen? —Yes I think so. They are very steady —more steady, in fact, at their work than our other miners.
22118. Do they obtain the same rate always? —Yes, the same rate of wages.
22119. (Sir Kenelm Digby) The amount depends on the quantity they put out? — Yes, but they are paid the same tonnage rate.
22120. With regard to these gangs, do you often have mixed gangs of natives and foreigners? —No, I believe that is most unusual. They generally put the Poles in one part of the pit where they are all together. I have known cases where they have worked with our native workmen, but that is most unusual.
Monday, 18th May, 1903
The Right Hon. Lord James of Hereford (Chairman).
Hon. Alfred Lyttelton, KC., MP.
Sir Kenelm E. Digby, K.C.B.
William Vallance, Esq.
Major W. E. Evans Gordon, M.P.
Mr. Robert Smillie, called; and Examined.
22913. (Mr. Lyttelton.) You are President of the Scottish Miners' Federation? —Yes.
22914. What is the ambit of power of your Federation —is it all over Scotland, or only in certain parts?— About 85 to 90 per cent, of the whole of the Scottish miners belong to my Federation.
22915. As President of the Federation you therefore are familiar practically with the condition of the mining industry in Scotland? —Yes, my whole time is devoted to the work of the Association.
22516. Do you know approximately the number of aliens employed in Scottish mines?—The aliens are employed in the West of Scotland, and chiefly in the county in which I am personally engaged, Lanarkshire, the great central county of Scotland. We had some returns made up early last year in consequence of the returns made to the Home Office by the Mines Inspector, which we doubted. We had some returns made by our own secretaries at each of the collieries. Those returns are not by any means complete, but they show that early last year 1,320 aliens were employed underground in the mines in Lanarkshire in the portion for which we had the returns.
22917. Do you know what proportion that 1,320 bore to all the miners employed? —There are, roughly, 31,000 employed underground. These returns are not complete. Many of the collieries did not make returns, but the returns which we have show that at that period there were 1,320 aliens employed, and they have largely increased since that time.
22918. You say they have largely increased. Have you had further returns about that? —We have not had the returns, but we see them every week.
22919. Coming in? —Yes.
22920. Do you know in what way your secretaries have obtained this information?—Yes.
22921. What has been their method, because it is in conflict with the evidence which has been given by the mine owners here?— Yes, I fully understood it was. I have the names here of 114 branches of our association in the county of Lanark. At almost every one of those collieries there are men called check weighers employed by the workmen to check the weight of the material coming up. Those men are in touch, as much as men possibly can be, with all the workmen employed underground, and in order to have the figures as accurate as possible I requested those men to make up the returns, and those are the returns with which I have been supplied.
22922. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) What date is that?—It is early last year—about March, 1902.
22923. (Mr. Lyttelton.) These check weighers are brought in constant contact with the men, and do they judge from conversation with the men, or from their names, or by talking with them, or how? —They judge from conversations with them; not from their names, because they could not judge from their names.
(Sir Kenelm Digby.) In May, 1901, the inspector's report was 1,130.
22924. (Mr. Lyttelton.) It has increased to 1,320 in March, 1902?—His figures given here are utterly incorrect.
(Mr. Lyttelton.) There would not be very much disparity.
22925. (Chairman.) The check weighers only go by the language?—Yes.
22926. Supposing a Scottish check weigher finds a man who has come from London, what nationality would he regard him to be?—He would regard him as a Britisher. A mistake has crept in here. My returns are not full. They only show 1,320, but the returns made by Mr. Ronaldson he says are full.
22927. (Mr. Lyttelton.) If he says there were 1,130 in 1901, you say there are 1,320 in an incomplete return in 1902? —And we may add to that several hundreds with regard to whom we have not returns.
22928. Do you say that the foreigners work at the face without supervision?—The foreigners who work at the face are absolutely unskilled, and in many cases are not under the supervision of a skilled workman.
22929. (Chairman.) Whose fault is that? —The management of the collieries.
(Mr. Lyttelton.) There is a remedy, I suppose, under the special rules, is there not?
22930. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) Rule 39 of the Act of 1887 is the rule that bears upon that. "No person not now employed as a coal or ironstone getter shall be allowed to work alone as a coal or ironstone getter in the face of the workings until he has had two years' experience of such work under the supervision of skilled workmen, or unless lie shall have been previously employed for two years in or about the face of the workings of a mine."
22931. (Mr. Lyttelton.) You complain of the breach of that rule?—Yes.
22932. Have you taken any steps to remedy your grievance under the law?—I think it is well known to the Inspector of Mines.
22933. That is not quite the point. Have you taken any steps to remedy that grievance under the law? Those special rules are punishable by summary conviction? —The statute says, that an unskilled person shall not work alone, but the statute does not say that three unskilled persons or two unskilled persons shall not work together.
22934. Have you raised that point?—We have.
22935. It has not gone further? —No, we put that matter before the Home Secretary. The finding of the English Court on the question is that the Act does not say that two unskilled persons may not work together, and consequently in some cases two and three and four unskilled persons are working together to our knowledge. The intention of the Legislature was that unskilled persons should not work together without supervision, but the Act was badly drafted.
22936. From your point of view, the peril that might arise from the employment of unskilled persons might be increased by more than two, because more people would be exposed to danger?—Undoubtedly.
22937. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) How long ago, do you say this complaint was made to the Home Secretary?— We have approached the successive Home Secretaries this last four years on the question of the employment of foreign workmen underground. We approached Sir Matthew White Ridley, we approached Mr. Ritchie, and we have approached Mr. Akers Douglas since that. That reply is made every time we have approached them on this question.
22338. I have this reference to it in 1900: "It is represented to the Secretary of State by the Miners' Federation that General Rule 39 of the Act of 1887 can be construed as allowing two unskilled workmen to work together alone at the face of the workings while prohibiting one so working. He wishes to be informed whether any attempts to evade the rule in this manner have come to the notice of the inspectors." Then, "The inspectors reported that for some years no complaints had been made in their respective districts as to any breach of Section 49, General Rule 39, Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1887."
22939. (Chairman.) What was your complaint to the Home Secretary? —We had complained to the Home Secretary on three occasions as to the employment of unskilled foreign workmen, who did not understand the language, on the ground of that danger, and I have pointed out to the Home Secretary that the rule is being evaded.
22940. They may have evaded the spirit of the rule, but the letter of the rule is followed according to your account. There is no breach of the rule as existing? —As it has been interpreted.
22941. (Mr. Lyttelton.) Your complaint first was a general complaint about foreigners not being acquainted with the language, and incidentally as part of that general complaint you made this special one of the evasion of the rule?—Yes, we wanted an amendment of this rule to carry out what we believed the law was intended to be.
22942. Have you received anything from the Home Office in the way of a pledge or promise?—We have at the present time a Mines Act in which we endeavour to put that clause right.
22943. (Chairman.) Is it a Government Bill?—The Government is not doing it, but we promoted a Bill privately, in which that clause is dealt with.
22944. I understand Mr. Gilmour is going to be called to give evidence on certain of these points. Have you anything else you wish to say? —I am particularly anxious to say that the foreign workmen have been mentioned here as Poles. They are not Poles. Ninety percent of them are Lithuanians, and belong to a distinct nationality altogether from the Poles. The language is Lithuanese. It has been pointed out to the Commission that the rules of the collieries in Lanarkshire were printed by some of the employers in the Russian-Jewish language. That has been done in the case of one colliery by one owner. They have been kept in the office, and they are not posted in the mines. Miners work under 150 special rules for their safety. The rules have been printed in the Russian language or Russian-Jewish language, but they are kept in the office, and they are not posted at any places at the pit bank. Those foreign workmen are engaged in the most dangerous part of our mines, what is known as the Fiery District. There have been two very, very serious explosions there, in which hundreds of men have lost their lives. Almost every one of those 1,320 men are employed in the Fiery District. They use safety lights. They may at any time meet a large body of explosive gas. Ninety percent of them do not understand a single word of the English language. They have never seen a mine before they came here, and there is no mine in the country from which they come. They go down the mine; they are not in a position to take instructions from an English-speaking deputy or fireman, and they are a serious danger indeed to themselves and our own people. It is said that the accidents to them are not out of proportion to the great number of men employed. That is chiefly because they do not keep their own names, but adopt the name of John Smith, or William Jones, or some other name, and it is impossible for those who have made a return to this Commission to give accurate returns. Many men are injured, and their names go into the newspapers, but it is John Smith or William Jones, or some other name, and any figures which have been put in here to say that the rate of accidents to them is not so high, or very little higher, than it is to British workmen, are misleading.
22945. (Mr. Lyttelton.) Is that necessarily so? I suppose if a man, from ignorance of the rules, commits some indiscretion, the disaster is just as likely to fall upon his neighbour as upon himself in the case of explosion at any rate? —Yes.
22946. I suppose in the case of falls the accident generally happens to the man who has been unskilled? —To himself or to the people immediately with him.
22947. (Chairman.) Has any explosion been traced to these foreigners?—No.
22948. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) Or has any single accident to a British workman been traced to these foreigners?—We have not at the present time had any single accident caused to a British workman by a foreigner, but we are extremely anxious to prevent an accident which may sweep away two or three hundred of our own people. In the mines at the present time, when a man goes down to work in the morning he is told by the fireman who has examined the mine that morning that his place is clear or dangerous. He is told some place is boarded up, and he is not to go in there. A vast majority of the men of whom we speak now do not understand a single word that is said to them.
(Sir Kenelm Digby.) But we have had evidence that though they may not understand English, they have the rules explained to them, and they obey them. We have had very strong evidence as to that.
22949. (Major Evans-Gordon.) Those things that you refer to are things that occur from day to day, and are not susceptible of a general printed rule, but these instructions are given respecting the conditions of the mine as on a special day, and you say they cannot understand even those instructions? —Although they willingly submit to rules, they do not understand the instructions.
22950. (Chairman.) Is there no interpreter there?— No, there is no interpreter.
22951. Not one man who understands English and this Lithuanese language? —Yes, there may be one out of 10 or 15 who understands a little English.
22952. Cannot he be called in to interpret? —The only place that any interpretation can take place in is the Court.
22953. But I mean at the mine?—That has not been so up to the present time.
22954. (Mr. Lyttelton.) You referred to certain Germans who are in the mine? —The total number we have up to the present time is about 40, but they are skilled miners before they leave Germany, and very careful workmen. We have not complained about them. Our complaint is chiefly on the ground of the danger to our men, but during the past six months we have had to change, to some extent, our ground on that, because a large number of our workmen are going about idle, and cannot find employment, and the aliens are all employed.
22955. (Chairman.) What do you mean by changing your ground? —We have had to add to our grounds.
22956. (Mr. Lyttelton.) Preference is being shown, you say, to the foreigners by the employers? —Yes, they are preferred.
22957. On what ground? —Chiefly on the ground that the foreigner is docile, and does not stick out to want higher wages or good prices, and he does pretty much as he is wanted.
22958. You do not say you do not want him to work in the mine at all? —No, we say he shall only work in the mine under similar conditions to the British workman. We do not object to him as a foreigner at all. We say, in the first place, his want of knowledge of our language and the fact that he has no previous experience are dangers, and we object to him on that ground.
22959. We understand that, but we do not understand this added point? —This added point is that he is now being used during the dull period to bring down the wages of the native workmen.
22960. Have you made any comparison as between the British worker and the Lithuanian as regards the wages they are content to receive? —Oh, yes, we have cases pointed out to us repeatedly, and those workmen being brought over and started with one of their own countrymen, and their wages paid by him may be 2s. or 2s. 6d. a day.
22961. (Chairman.) Unskilled men?—Yes.
22962. But take him after he has become a skilled man and a good miner; are you complaining of him? —-Yes, we are complaining of him.
22963. Why?—Because he works under circumstances as to price, and he is ready to work under circumstances as to price that our own people will not accept.
22964. A lower wage? —Yes, they can live a great deal cheaper than our own people.
22965. Can you verify that?—Yes.
22966. Have you any instances?—We have a very good instance of that. We had to threaten to stop 4,000 miners a few weeks ago, because of the fact that foreign workmen had 3d. a ton hewing rate under our own people.
32967. Was that at Tannochside? —Yes.
22968. You are not objecting to a man being an alien because he is an alien, but whatever nationality he is, you object to him because he is working under the price that our workmen work for?—Yes, whether he is a British workman, he may be skilled or may not be, he is a source of danger to his fellow workmen, and should not work at a lower price.
22969. (Mr. Vallance.) But, as a fact, is not the skilled Lithuanian receiving the same wage as the native worker?— So long as we are able to find out what he is receiving. Our association frequently force owners to pay higher rates to foreign workmen, but we have a difficulty very often in finding out whether they are receiving the same price or not.
22970. (Chairman.) Have you any case of a British workman behaving in the same way as the Lithuanians, and taking less?—Yes, we have.
22971. You have to deal with him in the same way?— Yes, but they are able to tell us. We sometimes cannot find out from the foreign workman what he is being paid.
22972. You have no preference for one person or another, but you say all persons ought to work at the standard wage)—Yes.
22973. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) The Tannochside case was a case of a very thin seam, was it not? —No, it was an ordinary seam. It was a good enough seam as far as height was concerned. It was 3ft. 5in., which was a very ordinary seam, but the manager at Tannochside threatened some time ago that unless our men worked for lower rates he would bring in Polish labour, as he called it, to take the place of our men.
22974. (Major Evans-Gordon.) Putting the standard wages out of the question, and the wages they worked for out of the question, do you say that, supposing they worked for the same rate and so forth, you would welcome any amount of foreign labour to compete with the local British labour on the spot?—We do not welcome it at all.
22975. Would you object to it?—We would object to foreign labour coming in at all, providing we ourselves could provide sufficient labour for the labour market.
22976. Provided you get enough for your men, then you do not mind the others coming in? —No.
22977. Supposing your men were out of employment, would you welcome it? —No, we would object to it.
22978. Apart from the question of wages altogether? —Yes.
22979. Is that competition going on? —Yes.
22980. You say in your statement you have got 500 men, or nearly 1,000 men, idle? —Yes, at the present time.
22981. And 1,320 men at least working underground are foreigners?—That is so.
22982. Do you object to 1,320 places being occupied when there are 1,000 Englishmen out of work?—It is a most unfortunate thing that our own people should go about idle, and be going to America and Canada, while foreigners are being brought in to take their places.
22983. You object to it on that ground as well as on the ground of wages?—Yes.
22984. (Mr. Lyttelton.) You do partly object to their docility? They are not as good fighting material at Scotchmen or Englishmen? —When it comes to a fight they are better fighting material than we are, because they can live on a great deal less.
22985. In that sense; but I mean when you get in dispute with the employer the foreigner is more docile and less good in that fight than the British? —That has not been our experience. When it comes to fighting they fight side by side with us, and they can live well on the amount we pay them, but it is when they are not fighting that their docility ruins us.
22986. (Chairman.) In answer to Major Evans-Gordon you said you objected to foreigners coming in here while our men are remaining idle. Have you any idea how many British workmen are working in foreign lands now, and do you know whether there are foreign workmen there idle or not? Would you like to see the British workman turned out of foreign lands? —I would not.
22987. You would have to consider that if we turn foreign workmen out here. Do not you think we shall get our British workpeople sent back? —I object very strongly to our British workmen getting preferential treatment in France, and French workmen going about idle.
22988. Your point is not so much with regard to preferential treatment, but that foreigners are employed while British workmen are not working? — But the foreign workmen do get preferential treatment.
22989. But you would object even if they did not get preference. The principle is that there should be preference of employment given to the British workmen over the foreign?—I object to them being fully employed while our men are going about idle.
22990. That is not a question of preference. It is a question as to whether they should not be employed while British workmen are unemployed. Supposing the rule is applied by a foreign nation, and we get our workmen sent back, because if you go about abroad you cannot shut your eyes to the fact that a good many British workmen are employed abroad? - In new countries.
22991. No, in old countries too?—Then it is because the British people are the only people who can do the work satisfactorily.
22992. But the foreign workmen will not think so. You do not want to see the British workmen sent back to this country, do you?—Under certain conditions I think I should.
22993. What are they?—If they get preferential treatment.
22994. It is not the point of preferential treatment, but whether they are being employed simply because they are doing the work better? —-Under those conditions I should not like to see them sent back.
22995. Do you not see that we must be very careful how we treat foreign workmen here? —We have treated them remarkably well.
22996. But if you say, "You shall not work because a British workman is out of employment," they will not think you are treating them well? —We will not say so.
22997. But you have said so to-day. You have said that you object to the foreigners being employed so long as the British workman is out of employment? —I say we have reason to complain that 1,320 foreigners are working underground and our own people are going about idle. We have reason to complain that our people should go about idle while these foreigners are working underground.
22998. Your point is that you would not allow these foreigners to be employed so long as our 1,320 are unemployed?—I would not say that, but when a person representing the owners comes here and says they have not displaced labour, I come here and say they have.
22999. I do understand you to say that you would not have allowed the foreigners to be employed so long as 1,320 British workmen are unemployed?—I would not say that.
23000. Then I misunderstood you. What do you say? —What I say is that evidence has been brought before the Commission pointing out that no native labour has been displaced. I say that for years our only complaint against the foreigner was that he was a source of danger through want of knowledge of the language and want of skill, but that now we have fair reason to complain, because, as a matter of fact, they are coming in, and our own people are walking about idle. I think it is unnecessary that foreign labour should be brought in here, because it is unnecessary labour if our people are going about idle.
23001. Take the present condition of things. I understand you to say that you want 1,300 British workmen taken on to be employed and so exclude 1,300 foreigners, and let those foreigners take care of themselves until the British worker is fully satisfied? —No, I would like them all to be treated on equal terms.
23002. Is there room for them? —Not at the present time. They should have the same opportunities and conditions as our own people.
23003. Then you are mixing up the question of preference that I thought we had got rid of. You are not complaining now of the question of preference, but the non-employment of English workers? —Yes.
23004. You naturally want to see them taken on? — Yes, we like to see them fully employed.
23005. What is to become of the foreigners? —The foreigner who is already here would require to take his chance.
23006. His chance would be slight, but now we come to the chance of the British workman being treated in the same way abroad, and he would be told to take his chance. I wish you would think these things out in a broad manner. We have broad considerations to think of, and not only particular interests? —The chief complaint against me, my Lord, is that I take too broad views of this matter.
23007. (Major Evans Gordon.) Do the men you represent share your views with regard to the employment of foreign labour?—The feeling amongst our men is growing from day to day against the employment of foreign labour as foreign labour.
23008. Naturally they object to seeing themselves deprived of work when foreigners are being employed\/ — Yes.
23009. They take a less moderate view of the position than you would? —Yes.
23010. Then with regard to Lord James's question about Englishmen employed abroad, is there any place that you are aware of abroad where Englishmen are employed in gangs in this way, in one locality? —There is no place that I know of.
23011. Certainly not in Lithuania?— No, there is no employment of that kind that would suit an Englishman, as far as I know.
23012. Your view is, I understand, that the English workman employed abroad is employed for some specific purpose for which there is not a local man suitable?—I take it that the Englishman who is employed abroad is employed there because he is skilled in some certain thing.
23013. (Chairman.) The cotton factories in Russia, for instance—skilled persons go from here to work there? —Yes.
23014. (Major Evans Gordon.) You say in your statement, "Such greeners are sweated." Can you tell us what you mean by sweated? It has been much discussed before as to what sweating is. What do you call sweating? — What I call sweating is that a foreign workman who may have been one, two, or three years in the Scottish mines, will send over to some other persons in Lithuania and will bring one or two of these workmen here. They have never earned high wages at home, any more than 12s. or 13s. a week. They are engaged by this man, who receives on their behalf 4s. or 5s. a day for each of these workmen. He pays them 2s. 6d. or 2s. a day at the end of the week, and collars the balance. They cannot complain to us. He makes them members of our Union in order to get the protection of the Union, but they cannot complain to us for want of knowledge of our language. In two or three months they complain when they get to know a few words of English, and they show the money which they have got for this week's work to the check weigher. Then he says: "You are not getting half enough or a third as much as the sweater is getting from us."
23015. (Chairman.) That is your application of the word "sweating," and your definition of it. It is really the defrauding of the workman by the middleman? —Yes.
23016. (Chairman.) That is scarcely a definition of sweating.
(Adjourned for a short time.)
Mr. David Gilmour, called in; and examined.
23017. (Major Evans Gordon.) I understand you are General Secretary of the Lanarkshire Miners' Association? —That is so
23018. How many men do you represent? —About 30,000
23019. You say with regard to the figures given by Mr. Lumsden that Mr. Lumsden was not authorised to speak for the Union? —No.
23020. And the figures he gave do not represent all the aliens working in the district, in Lanarkshire?— By no means.
23021. They only represent those working in cue district of that centre? —Just so.
23022. Can you add to the figures we have already got? —I have tabulated the figures that Mr. Smillie has already gone over, and I find the aliens are employed in practically eight places in the county.
23023. Eight districts representing how many mines? —Eight districts representing probably about fifty mines within that county.
23024. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) Are they employed in fifty mines? —No; I should say there are altogether about 200 mines in Lanarkshire, and in about twenty of these mines only are foreigners employed.
23025. (Major Evans Gordon.) What is the reason of their being employed in one mine and not in another? — I have tried to find out what the causes were, but it is very difficult. The reason in my judgment is that they are willing to work hard coal without getting paid correspondingly high rates. Our own countrymen, when a seam of coal goes into what we call a hard benn, claim higher rates to work that, so as to be able to earn the same wages. My experience is that the foreigners work this hard coal at a reduction in the working rate and do not press the owners so much to pay higher rates.
23026. We have heard about the Polish notices and so forth being put up, and you say these people are peaceable, but quarrel amongst themselves? —Polish notices are not put up at all, not in my experience. There is not a single colliery in which notices are written or posted up in any foreign language.
23027. With regard to the language question, you confirm, generally speaking, what Mr. Smillie has said? — I do.
23028. Then with regard to their over-crowding, and so on; do you know anything about that? —At the present moment there are three whole collieries and a half of a fourth colliery, all of which are shut down evidently for want of trade. Through that we have at least 500 miners who have been driven directly idle, in addition to which we compute that there are almost as many men seeking employment from time to time in various collieries in the county.
23029. They join the Unions, but your contention is they accept a lower wage than the Union wage? —They accept the Union wage in my opinion simply because the Union is so strong, and at the majority of collieries our men would refuse to work along with them unless they were members.
23030. They join Unions, but they do not comply with the Unions' rules with regard to rates of wages? — They do not press for fair payment.
23031. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) You have not said they do not comply with the Union rules, but they do not press for higher rates under special circumstances? — They do not press for higher rates, in order to make the same wage.
23032. (Major Evans Gordon.) The statement in your evidence is, "They join the Union, but, in defiance of its rules, they accept lower wages"? —The wages rules are unwritten rules as far as we are concerned. We have a conciliation board in Scotland, and they fix from tune to time the general rate of wages, but we find that the general rate of wages as fixed causes unlimited difficulty in getting the standard in the collieries up to that point. Within three years, in our Association it has cost us £30,000 in keeping owners who wanted to employ at lower rates than the standard up to the standard, and in fighting strike it has cost our Association £30,000 in keeping rates up to the standard.
23033. What was the cause of the Glennyloag strike?— The Glennyloag mines are engaged in fire-clay mining, and while the boom in trade was on the fire-clay miners did not obtain any advance in wages. They joined our Association, and after being a year connected with as we pressed the owners to try and get some increase of wages in a corresponding way that had been given to the other miners in the country. The rate of w ages as standing at that time in the fire-clay mines was roughly about 4s.6d. whereas in the coal mines it was 8s. That was the nominal standard wage. The owners refused to make any concessions, and ultimately we allowed the men to stop work. Their places were filled with Poles.
23034. In these Glennyloag fireclay mines.—Yes.
23035. Are they there now? —Yes.
23030. Are there English and foreigners in that mine now?—The majority of the men, I should say, to the best of my information, working the fireclay now are foreigners.
23037. Aliens you say are also employed in the Ayrshire mines, and the Mid-East Lothian Mines?—They are not so numerous there as they are in Lanarkshire.
23038. Have they recently spread to those districts?— Yes, and the statement I made as to the foreigners generally being congregated in certain parts applies also in these other districts. There are foreigners in large numbers, not spread over the collieries in a proportion, but generally congregated together in one place.
23039. You want to question Mr. Baird's statement that foreigners will work where an Englishman will not? —Yes, That is exactly bearing out what I have now told you. Supposing one of our members has come into the hard Benn, and while it was in its ordinary working: state he got 2s. a ton for working that coal, and was producing three tons per day, earning a wage of 6s. Through the hardness of the coal he might only be able to produce two tons, and therefore if he did not get an advance in his rates he would be only earning 4s. a day. Our men refused to work under those conditions, and we naturally supported them to try to get their rates advanced to a point that the men might be able to earn the same wages. Foreigners are brought into these places in my experience and are only paid the common tonnage rate. They are quite willing to work away and earn 4s. a day as against the 6s. required by our own countrymen.
23040. Though the coal is harder to get they work at the same rate as if it was easy to get? —As a rule.
23041. Have you any other point you wish to bring out?—I should like to refer to the evidence given by Mr. Baird, in which he says that the Poles were first introduced on account of the scarcity of that class of labour. Now, I think it is right that I should correct that statement. The Poles were introduced by a large firm in Lanarkshire, called Murray and Cunningham. They were introduced in the first place into furnaces in which there was a strike going on. The men struck work for an advance in wages, they wanted 18s. a week. Poles were brought across at that time and employed at 12s. a week to do the surface labour at the furnaces, and gradually from that those Poles, after settling down, sent for some of their friends and they have since that time drifted into the coal mines.
23042. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) What year was that?—I should think it would be about 15 years ago. In all my experience in Lanarkshire, and I have been there 15 years working at all occupations underground, and as check weighman and miner's agent, I do not remember any occasion in which there was any scarcity of native labour.
23043. (Major Evans Gordon). Would you say that the number of foreigners whatever they are, who are employed 1,300 or 1,400, are displacing an equal number of Scottish working men?—It is so. In our comity the working arrangement has been one of five days per week. One of the reasons for adopting that working arrangement was the fact that the men were not getting anything like steady employment. They would probably be going to the pit six days a week and only getting three days work, with the result that to spread the trade uniformly over the whole of the collieries the men adopted the observance of a weekly idle day. When trade improved and while the boom was on, our men agreed, because of the demand for coal, to work an extra day per fortnight making 11 days per fortnight. That continued while the necessity existed, but when trade began to go back they found that employment was getting irregular and they again reverted to the five days' policy, so that they are able at the present moment to produce a great deal more coal than the market can take away.
23044. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) You do not mean to say that the practice of colliers working only five days a week is due to the aliens?—No, I said it was in order to spread the labour over all the collieries.
23045. But I want the connection. It is the practice in Scotland, and as far as I know elsewhere in England, for colliers to work not more than five days a week, except in times of great pressure?—In very few places in England is there any recognised five days' working a week.
23046. (Chairman.) But the practice is they do not get beyond five days a week in some places?—Sometimes it is very-much less.
23047. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) Five days a week is very good employment?—Yes.
23048. In Scotland, you say, when the boom was on they sometimes worked six days?—They did in the county I represent.
23049. That is not common, is it? It is only on exceptional occasions they do that?—Lanarkshire is the only county in Scotland where a five day week is observed. In the other districts they work 11 days a fortnight or they go to the pit 11 days a fortnight. They do not recognise any fixed holiday.
23050. I do not see what the connection of that is with the question of the introduction of aliens. Do you mean to say if the aliens were not there they would work universally six days a week?—They certainly would consider that.
23051. Would they work six days a week if the aliens were not there?—The very fact that they did when trade was brisk seems to show that.
23052. You are an experienced man. Would you tell me they would work six days a week if the aliens were not there?—I would very frankly say the feeling of the miners is very strong on having a weekly holiday.
23053. (Chairman.) Especially if there is a good football club there?— In some districts their holidays are in the middle of the week.
23054. But very often the holiday is on Saturday?— Saturday is almost the universal rule.
23055. (Sir Kenelm Digby.) What do you say about pressing for higher rates? Does that apply to the Tannochside dispute?—Not in that case. I have referred to cases wherein the same coal, through certain working conditions, it became very hard to get. Our own countrymen then claim a higher tonnage rate in order to earn the same wage, but the foreigner as a rule, our experience is, is prepared to work under almost any conditions for lower wages.
23056. You have put it only under these conditions, but would you say generally that he is prepared to work for lower wage"?—In circumstances of that kind I believe he is.
23057. In how many cases have you known of similar disputes arising to that which arose at Tannochside?—I refer to one, a , firm that has been mentioned here by Mr. Baird—William Baird and Company, a very large firm. One of the managers there, at Craighead Colliery, himself told me personally that his reason for employing so many Poles was the fact that our own men gave him too much trouble regarding rates.
23058. That question of getting coal under difficulties is not an uncommon source of dispute?—Not uncommon. Then there is one remark that I would like to make oh a subject Mr. Smillie mentioned, but did not clear up exactly. It refers to the dispute at Tannoch Side Colliery. As reported here it is said that the matter was brought before the Miners' Federation of Great Britain to sanction a stoppage of the collieries owned by that firm. I might say, it was only: after we had practically decided to stop those collieries that that reduction of rates was withdrawn.
23059. (Major Evans Gordon.) You gained your point there by threatening to come out?—Yes. Then there is another thing I should like to mention on the point of the foreigner being quite as capable of looking after himself as the native worker. Several cases in my experience have arisen in which the foreigners have been put out of the collieries by the colliery companies themselves, on the score of danger, and not being able to look after themselves. I can give you one case in point, it can be proved—Cadzow Colliery, the managing director of which is the treasurer of the Scottish Mine-owners' Defence Association. I live within 200 or 300 yards of that colliery, and what I am saying is absolutely correct. When in one case an accident took place to two or three Polish miners, instructions were issued that no foreigners were to be further employed in that colliery. There had been repeated cases of that kind, and I may say, after the dispute about rates at the Tannoch Side Colliery, Mr. Russell's firm have taken up a similar position. Within the last 10 days there was a very serious accident prevented almost miraculously. They discovered that one of the foreign workers in going on the cage to be taken down, not having been in a mine before, had caught hold of the fixed slide in the shaft down which the cage winds. He was holding on to that very rigidly, when the word had been given to lower the cage, and the owner noticed it at the last moment. Supposing he had held on, the probability is that he would have lost his hold and been killed, and it would have resulted in some of the other men who were on the cage being killed also.
23060. Now they have taken the step of excluding foreigners altogether in that mine?—My information is that at that colliery foreigners have been entirely withdrawn.
23061. That is Tannoch Side?—Yes.
[Report of the Royal Commission on Alien Immigration; with Minutes of Evidence, and Appendix 1903]