From James Connolly, Socialism and Nationalism (ed. Desmond Ryan), Dublin 1948.
Transcription & HTML Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Proofread by Chris Clayton, August 2007.
The conference with the Dublin Employers’ Executive which had been arranged for through the instrumentality of the Joint Board Delegates acting on the instructions of the National Conference held in London on December 9, reopened in the Shelbourne Hotel on December 18.
Previous to its reopening the delegates of the National Executives, and of the unions affected locally met in conference in the Trades Hall, Capel Street, and after two sittings decided unanimously to present the following as embodying the minimum statement of the position of the workers.
That the Employers of the City and County of Dublin agree to withdraw the circulars, posters and forms of agreement (known as the Employers Agreement) presented to their employees, embodying conditions governing their employment in the several firms as from July 19th, 1913.
That the unions affected agree as a condition of the withdrawal of such conditions and forms of agreement governing employment in the firms affected, to abstain from any form of sympathetic strike pending a Board of wages and conditions of Employment being set up by March 17th, 1914.
And the conference also agrees that in restoring relations no member shall be refused employment on the grounds of his or her association with the dispute, and that no stranger shall be employed until all the workers have been re-engaged.
All cases of old workers not re-employed on February 1st, 1914, shall be considered at a conference to be held not later than February 15th, 1914.
Upon the conference meeting on Thursday morning the workers were informed that the employers considered that the conference was a resumption of the previous one which broke up on Sunday morning December 7, and therefore stipulated that the immediate business in hand was the discussion of the question upon which the previous conference had broken off, viz., the question of reinstatement. The Labour delegates did not entirely agree that this interpretation of the position was the correct one, but rather than peril the negotiations consented to make an effort to proceed upon the lines indicated.
Several efforts were made to obtain from the employers an indication of what they meant by the phrases, “that they will make a bona fide effort to find employment for as many as possible and as soon as they can”, and that “they will take on as many of their former employees as they can make room for”. The Employers’ Committee was asked to state the firms that could not give reinstatement, or the proportion in which reinstatement could be given immediately, but no information could be elicited. Reference was made to the statement of Mr. Murphy in the press that all but five per cent. of the men could go back to work immediately, and the Labour representatives asked was there any indication of the extent to which immediate reinstatement could be made now. The answer returned stated that it was not, and further that Mr. Murphy’s statement only referred to five per cent of the men whose places were not filled up. This meant that Mr. Murphy was determined that even five per cent of the men whose places were not yet filled would be victimised, and is a fair indication of the vindictive spirit of the employers.
Finding it impossible to come to any agreement or to receive any information the Labour representatives resolved to lay the whole matter before the Joint National Conferences. The latter body after fully considering the question in all its bearings resolved finally to instruct the delegation to bring back to the employers for further consideration the document presented on Thursday morning. This was done on Saturday, and the document handed in by Mr. Larkin at the request of the Delegation. Upon it being handed in the Chairman of the Employers asked Mr. Henderson if Mr. Larkin was speaking on behalf of both Labour bodies, and was assured by that gentleman that Mr. Larkin spoke with the full and unanimous endorsement of the whole National Conference and all its constituent parts. Then the Labour representatives withdrew to allow the employers to consider the position. Upon reassembling the following document was presented by the employers, after which negotiations were broken off.
The Committee observe that the proposals put forward through Mr. Larkin this morning are the same as those presented on Thursday morning, and bring us back to the position in which we then stood.
The clauses submitted again to-day by the Representatives of the workers require the full reinstatement by the Employers of all the workers. This would involve the victimisation of many who have been employed since the dispute began. The Employers cannot agree to dismiss men who have proved suitable, but subject to this condition are willing and anxious to re-employ their old hands as far and as soon as possible.
The members of the Committee have laboured to try and effect a settlement so much needed and desired, and regret that their labours in conjunction with those of the Joint Board representatives and the Trades Council Delegates have not succeeded in arriving at an agreement.
On behalf of the representatives of the workers we wish to draw attention to the fact that the employers insisted all through the negotiations that the question of reinstatement should be left absolutely in the hands of the employers, that we should trust entirely to their goodness and generosity. Remember the fact that the employers had locked out their workers, and had brought on this dispute in order to force upon us an agreement now universally repudiated and condemned by all classes from Sir George Askwith’s Court of Inquiry down till to-day, as “contrary to individual liberty and one which no self-respecting workman or body of workmen could possibly accept”. Remember this, and remember also that the workers now out are out because they protested against this insult to their self-respect, and resolved to protect their individual liberty, and consider that we are asked to surrender these men and women to the tender mercies of those who so wantonly made war upon them. In view of this fact and the further fact that our proposals now refused by the employers have been described by such a broad-minded lover of peace as his Grace, Archbishop Walsh as “fair and reasonable – eminently reasonable”, and that these proposals gave the employers every opportunity and sufficient time to adjust their business. What other course was open to us than to respectfully but firmly decline to surrender our brothers. We also wish to draw the attention of the public to the fact that many of the trade unions involved have had for some considerable time past agreements with the employers stipulating for the exclusive employment of trade union labour, and that all such agreements would be completely destroyed by the acceptance of the employers’ proposals. Thus they are now trying to introduce the principle of nonunion labour in places where such labour has not recently existed. In the building trades, for instance, the rules call for three months’ notice before such agreements can be altered, yet the employers are now striving to undermine this trade union position without any notice at all. And these are the men who prate of breaches of agreement!
The workers’ proposals gave the employers full time, and only stipulated that within a certain period another conference should be held to consider the question of the workers still unemployed. No fairer proposal could be given. The employers’ proposal on the other hand demanded that the question of re-employment should be left entirely to the generosity, the ill-will, the forbearance, the malice, the fair-mindedness, the vindictiveness, the passions and the prejudices of the employers who four months ago set out to starve us into submission, and to drive us back to slavery.
Under these circumstances the fight must go on.
Chairman, Workers’ Representation.
Last updated on 19.8.2007