The Larne Strike I
Forward, 14 June, 1913.
From the collection: Ireland Upon the Dissecting Table, Cork Workers’ Club 1975.
Transcription & HTML Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
At Larne, in the County Antrim, a place noted for its irreproachable loyalty, there has been a slight break in the monotony of the relations between the slaves and the slave-drivers. The principal industry in the district is the manufacture of aluminium, the name of the company being the British Aluminium Company. The men in the service of this company in the production of the commodity in question have been compelled to work, as their normal routine, a weekly total of 84 hours labour, or 12 hours per day, 7 days per week.
After an uninterrupted run of 17 years there has at last come a strike for a reduction in the hours of labour. The strike took place with dramatic suddenness, following a refusal of the management to consent to an interview with officials of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, under whose banner the men in question have recently organised themselves.
The day shift decided half-an-hour before commencing work to strike to compel the management to consent to an interview and in another half-an-hour they were joined by the full force of the day shift. The strike had lasted ten days, when the first distribution of Strike Pay took place on the 14th inst. and the men were as determined as ever. But as they were only three weeks in the Union when the strike took place, their Committee had decided to issue an appeal for funds to enable them to supplement the sums granted out of the Union exchequer.
Any reader of Forward who can afford any help to assist in this uprising against such intolerable conditions as I have mentioned – a normal working week of 84 hours – should send along their mite to the Secretary, 122, Corporation Street, Belfast. The Belfast press when chronicling the strike stated that the management felt aggrieved at the precipitate action of the men, as it “had always been ready to listen to and remedy the grievances of the employees”.
For cool, unblushing effrontery that statement would need some beating. Always ready to remedy grievances and yet compelling its poor unfortunate slaves of employees to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, and, to make matters worse, no regular meal hours, but the worker compelled to snatch his meals as best he could, whilst keeping up his labour under the most wretched conditions of physical toil.
I am informed that this company has another branch in Scotland, at Kinlochleven. If this is true, can some reader inform me what are the conditions of labour, and will some industrial rebel in that vicinity agitate among the Aluminium slaves there to make a move for greater freedom now.
Talking about the Belfast press moves me to mention that that arch exponent of the vilest Ulster Toryism, the Belfast Evening Telegraph, publishes every Saturday, a so-called Labour column, supposedly devoted to chronicling of happenings in the world of Labour.
Anything more utterly reactionary or opposite to everything the Labour Movement stands for than the writings in this Labour column would be hard to find, even in the organs of the Shipping Federation, or of the Liberty and Property Defence League. The writer positively gloats in every opportunity to pour cold water upon every forward move. In no single case that I can recall has he ever approved of any strike. No matter how horrible may have been the conditions, how revolting the slavery, how atrociously small the wage, the strike has always been unjustifiable, deplorable, and a menace to the prosperity of the nation. No Labour candidature is ever anything but anathema, and the whole industrial world is treated as one would expect it to be treated by a slave currying favour with a slaveowner.
When I am inclined to be angry in my estimate of Belfast human nature, I am often brought back to sweet toleration by remembering that a people who have been brought up on such mental pablum as to fit them to believe that such writings represent the Labour Movement, cannot be expected to believe as a progressive people would.
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Last updated on 13.8.2003