8. 8. 8. Railway Workers Agitate (1899)

The Tocsin  14 Sep 1899  p. 5.
Early Victorian Railways Eight Hour Day Gathering
8. 8. 8.

There was a good rally of railway men at the Gaiety Theatre, Bourke street, on Sunday at the meeting convened by the Victorian Railways Daily Paid Employes' Union to discuss the sweating conditions of labour on the lines. President M'Cance was in the chair, and opened the ball by explaining the position of his union with regard to ihe proposed Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants.

He wanted to see such a society fully representative and affiliated with the Trades Hall. But it seems that railway workers are threatened with the sack if they become associated with so dreadful an institution as the Trades Hall Council, so that the V.R.P.E.U., which is not troubled by such trumpery threats, has to battle along pretty well "on its own." M'Cance finished by stating that the general notion that the eight hours working day was the rule throughout the Railway Department was erroneous, as there were plenty of employes who had to graft for 9, 10, 11, and 12 hours a day.

F. Williams then came along with the first resolution in favour of eight hours for all railway workers and the legalisation of the system. In fine vigorous style he justified agitation : contended that if they worked more than eight hours they should be paid for overtime : and denounced the miserable departmental dodge of cutting down the wages of veteran workers of nearly 30 years' service because their sight and hearing have become dulled by the strain of duty. He warned them that if they did not move in the matter of their hours of labour they might soon, see a nine hours day made the rule throughout the department.

B. Holmes seconded. Stephen Barker supported in an effective speech. He endorsed the chairman's remarks on affiliation, and made a telling defence of the Trades Hall Council on the citadel of the rights of the workers. Gray, M.P., also spoke. F. H.. Bromley, M.P., spoke forcefully to the effect that the running of the railways on commercial lines, meant sweating the daily paid and greasing the big salaried.

He was followed by W. T. Smith with another motion that overtime and Sunday work be paid extra instead of being recognised as the present "time-off" system. He said they should make the department clearly understand that they did not wish to work more than eight hours at all, but if that could not be avoided, they claimed to be paid time and a quarter for work after eight hours.

Secretary Nelson seconded, and G. Sangster, M.P., supported. He held that pay for Sunday work should be double, as in the past. There was something like a demon- stration when the Chairman reminded the meeting of Mathieson's threat that before he had finished there would not be a union in the service.

Owen said they should first become amalgamated, I and if their union was 5000 strong, it would then soon be seen whether Mathieson or anybody else could prevent them being affiliated with the Trades Hall if the majority wanted it. J. B. Tucker spoke in support, and after a further motion, supported by Maloney, M.P., had been carried to the effect that the Premier should have his attention drawn to "the cruel and unjust treatment imposed upon casual employes in the railway service, owing to their not receiving an annual holiday, or any of the other rights and privileges which permanent men enjoy," a very successful meeting came to a full stop.

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