DAIRY WORKERS at the ARBITRATION COURT 1909 - Manawatu New Zealand
The following article was taken from PAPERS PAST
- additional explanations in brackets are mine -
DAIRY WORKERS at the ARBITRATION COURT
The Arbitration Court sat in Palmerston (North) yesterday in connection with the Dairy Workers' dispute
Mr Justice Sim presided, with Messrs Brown and McCullough. Mr Pryor acted for the employers and Mr Reardon for the Union
In opening the case for the Union, Mr Reardon dealt with its demands and specially emphasised the demand for preference to unionists
William Dick, first assistant cheese-maker at the Dried Milk Factory, Bunnythorpe, said he had worked at Levin as a butter-maker for £2 10s, accommodation and firing (given fire wood) and 80 hours per week, starting at 4am and working seven days a week. he was not now doing fifty hours a week and the work was as well done. No overtime was given at Levin while at Bunnythorpe he got off at 10am one day weekly with a fortnight off on full pay once a year. That was a general practice. To Mr Pryor: It was 6 years since he worked at Levin. He was quite satified with his present hours but his factory was an exception. It would pay the men if the employers
offered to pay overtime for what they worked over the statutory number of hours in the busy season and have a deduction for hours worked short in the slack season. He had received a letter from his company stating that as the working cost of the factory was too high he was to be dismissed. He supposed that was a reason for his dismisal, but another man was being put on in his place.
William John Neilson, (1835-1909) manager for Nathan & Co at Raumai, was getting £2 7s 6d per week with free house, firewood and milk. Had been three years managing for Nathan & Co at Whakaronga at £2 5s per week, free houe, firewood and milk with 10s a week allowance for carting. He worked for the Dairy Union in Wellington, getting £6 a month to start and rose to £9. He worked from 5am to 4.30pm and sometimes to 9pm. He got 6d an hour overtime. He worked for the Dairy Union at Palmerston North at from £8 to £9 per month. He was on standard wages for nine months but for 3 months was cut down to half pay. For holidays he got a fortnight on full pay or a month on half pay. The creamery manager got preference for the carting contract.
Ralph Thompson, creamery manager NZ Farmers Dairy Union, Otaki, got £10 per month, had worked for Fresh Food & Ice Company at Upper Hutt, Colyton and Tokomaru, wages from £2 2s to £2 5s with whare (house) and 2lb (907 grams) butter, firing and milk when "batching" (wife away) When the factory was closed he got a month on full pay and always a fortnights holiday on full pay. The men got better wages in Otago than in the North Island. To Mr Pryor: he pasteurised cream at Otaki. This was a common practice for creamery managers. To Mr Reardon: That took about an hour a day
Edward Henry Buckley, (1879-1933) creamery manager, NZ Dairy Union, Shannon got £10 per month. Had been 5 years with the Company as general worker at £2 5s per week with usual holiday allowances. To Mr Pryor: Had worked at Linton, £8 per month and usual accommodation allowances
W. Timms, head butter maker at Makino £3 5s per week. Had worked for the Company at various places for 8 or 9 years, wages averaging from 30s to £2 5s for about 12 hours a day. At Makino they worked about 8½ hours
George Maston, creamery manager for Nathan & Co, Fitzherbert East, £9 15s per month for 9 months and £8 15s for 3 months with house, firewood and milk. He also had carting contract for £5 per month but had to find his own horse, cart and harness
Henry Ernest Harvey, (1877-1956) first assistant, NZ Federated Dairy Union. Worked with them for 7 years. Now got £2 15s per week without allowances except a fortnight holiday on full pay. Hours 8½ Summer, 7½ Winter
Michael P Reardon testified that at the conference between employers and employees, he taxed Mr Nathan with threatened dismissal. Mr Nathan denied this, saying that he merely told them "they could choose between the Union and himself but they couldn't serve both". To Mr Pryor: He had no evidence on that point as it would be difficult to get witnesses to give this evidence against their employer. Mr Pryor, commencing his case, pointed out the importance of the case as dealing with one of the largest industries in New Zealand. The hard and fast conditions laid down had proved unsuccessful in Taranaki and Canterbury. It was the farmers who would have to pay increaed working cost. The existence of the industry was at stake as an award might cause the closing down of a large number of factories, thus bringing ruin to the dairy farmers. The conditions might be possible in the larger factories but would not do for the small factories and if the small ones went the large ones must follow.
Mr Pryor likened the present conditions of the dairy industry to that of the flax industry since the award came into force. There were already reductions in the industry and to base an award on present conditions spelt disaster. There had been an increase in the wages earned by dairy factory hands witout an award. He asked that no award be made.
He called: Cyril Robert Beattie,Woodville, (1863-1945) who had been associated with dairy companies since 1895. Local factories would show no profits on the past 3 years, parly due to speculative buying on the part of outide firms, thus giving fictitious values to some factories. The factories who adopted the consignment policy had to pay out on their butter fat at the same basi as those selling to fictitious buyers. Future prospects showed a probable reduction in cheese and certainly in butter, because the experience of speculative firms would not encourage speculation. The failure of large London firms and one large NZ firm would have a serious effect on the industry and prospects for the coming winter were bad as the supply was so abundanct that the local market would be glutted. Up to now his company had always found work and kept their 25 to 30 employees on when the creamery was closed down but they had pointed out that if the award asked for by the Union came into force they would be no
longer able to do that. Any increase in the cost of labour at present would cause directors of small companies to consider closing down, which would be injurious to the industry. His latest advice showed butter at 104s or 10d f.o.b. NZ and it would probably go lower. To Mr Reardon: The price of butter had gone up 100% in the past 13 years and labour had not gone up accordingly
- Cyril married Ethel Bartlett in 1895
- they had Malcolm Barlett Beattie in 1896 & Cyril George Beattie in 1898
Walter Henry Duncan, (1859-1956) manager of the Glen Oroua Dairy Company, corroborated the previou witness. Welington price had dropped a farthing in the last ten days and last night he got information of a further drop form 10d to 9½d. His company considered Siberia a most dangerous competitior. WHen the company first started in 1900 its first year's profit was £12 3s 9d after paying 8d per lb for butter fat. If the wages claimed by the award had been in force the company would have lost £152 or reduce the price of butter fat 1d per lb and would have ceased to exist. In the 4 months of the busy season his company worked 10 hours daily, the second 4 months 7¼ and the last 4 months 5¼ hours. Except in the winter the men worked every Sunday. In the slack time some some factories could only work 16 hour per week. The men got a fortnights holiday on full pay.
- Walter married Maria Neill in 1884
- they had a daughter Gladys
- possibly more
Anthony Edward O'Neale, (1845-1919) a supplier to the Featherston cheese factory said that in 1906-07 his receipts were £1258, including stock in hand at beginning of term, and his outgoings were £1079, including stock in hand, without any drawings by himelf or family. He allowed £177 at cost of living, leaving a margin of £1 7s 1d. In 1907 the revenue was £344 and outgoing £1198, leaving £146 for the maintenance of his family. He had 2 sons, 16 and 13 and 3 daughters partly or wholly employed on the farm.
- his children with wife Louisa were:
1880 - 1960 Ethel
... didn't marry
1881 - 1968 Harold Richard
... married Theresa Ann Hodder in 1915
- she was a sister to Francis John who married Hilda (below)
1882 - 1958 Hilda Frances
... married Francis John Hodder in 1920
- he was a brother to Theresa who married Harold (above)
1884 - ? Ettie
1886 - 1972 Lottie Kathleen
... married Alfred Cyrus Silverwood in 1913
1895 - 1950 Raymond Carrol
... married Dorothy Bona Dyson in 1921
Walter Elliott, Rongokokako, near Eketahuna, submitted balance sheets showing that in 1906-07 his income was £386 and expenditure £186 leaving a gross profit of £200. From this had to be deducted interest on capital, his own wages, loss on stock, etc leaving a loss of £55. In 1907-08 the recipts were £287, expenditure £200, leaving £87 balance. After deducting interest, wages of wife and self, loss of stock, there remained a net loss of £176. If his returns from the factory were reduced owing to increased wages he would have to close down. Two of his nieghbours had already given up dairying for sheep.
To Mr Reardon: He paid £5 15s p.a. for the farm and now valued the farm at £17 10s. He had not put all his time on the farm, having to work outside for parts of years to keep the farm going.
James Elliott, Mauriceville, farmed 129 acres freehold and 30 acres leasehold. In 1908-07 he received £215 and spent £98. When interest at 5%, loss on stock and depreciation were allowed for, the net profit was £31. In 1907-08 the receipts were £191, expenditure, wages, rent etc, £136, leaving a balance of £55. When interest etc was allowed there was a debit of £20
Peter Morensen, a Mauriceville supplier, in 1906-07 had £22 loss. In 1907-08 £97 loss
William Alfred Mason, Nireaha, said that in 1906-07 he had a credit balance of £3 11s ... more at link
.. The employers also objected to the holidays on Christmas Day and Good Friday. Against the long hours of the busy season there were the short hours in the slack season and the 14 days holidays. He claimed that the union was not dissatisfied with the present conditions...
James Branch, (1881-1951) manager of the Mauriceville butter factory said the staff consisted of one assistant and himself. The assistant started at £2 and was now receiving £2 5s. He did not wish to come under an award. That was the general feeling. The hours were 10 a day for 3 months, 8 for 4 months and 6 for 2 months. The temperature affected the time taken to cool the cream and sometimes it was necessary to mark time till the proper temperature was reached. If the wages went up the factory would have to close down. To Mr Reardon: The men's claims would increase the wages bill £1 a week. He did not wish to come under an award. He was receiving quite enough. If directors sacked the assistant and put on a youth the factory could come under the award without increasing the wages bill.
C.H.J. Johnston, secretary and general manager Waverley Dairy Co, gave evidence that the hours at the butter factory varied from 35 per week up to 57 as at present
Arthur Cecil Perry, (1868-1942) director, Rongotea factory said last years output was 185 tons. The staff consisted of a manager, who was also the butter-maker, at £250 a year, first assistant £2 10s, third £2 and casual men at £1 15s.
James Adamson, manager on contract, Featherston cheese factory ... (more at link) as far as he knew there were no members of the union in the Wairarapa
Alexander McKenzie, manager Taratahi Dairy Co, Carterton .. (more at link)
OF INTEREST - 100 hundreds years later
£2 a week in 1909 is the same in 2009 as $298
- for a 50 hour week (as they were doing in the slack times) that would be $5.98 an hour.