by A. J. FRAIN,
THE fact that the National Union of Miners is asking for a joint inquiry with the National Coal Board into the working of nationalisation is an indication that the majority of miners are not finding Govern 'Bent ownership of the pits art unmixed blessing. No doubt many of them built such high hopes on nationalisation that they were bound to he disappointed. Nevertheless N.C.B. working of the pits seems to have several clear faults from the miners' own point of view that could be remedied.
One is the multiplication of bosses. The average miner is surprised to see every colliery manager with any length of service promoted to a job that takes him away from the pit and the pit village. Yet, despite the huge staffs at the numerous Castle headquarters that are dotted all over the North-East, there are more officials than ever at every colliery.
Under private ownership an overman usually had charge of a shift of men underground. Nowadays there seems to be an undermanager for every shift will) two or three overman to assist him.
The ordinary miner sees no need for all these bosses, Indeed, he regards their presence at every turn as a reflection on himself and his willingness to do an honest day's work. He is also annoyed at the high wages they receive. Most of, them got a rise of £2 a week when datal hands got 10s. But the overmen's rise was back-dated some months more than the datal man's.
Class Distinctions Continue
The continuance of such class
distinctions at the pit irks the majority. At most collieries the liouse-coal provided for the officials is of much better quality than that supplied to the rank and fileand the man who " leads" it shovels it into their coalhouses for them. 'I he miner had hoped that nationalisation would see the establishment of true democracy at the pits, and that nobody would gel any more money or privileges than the man who did a hard day's graft at the coal face. Up to now he has been sadly disappointed.
An increase of paper work is perhaps an inevitable result of the Government running the mines. To give but one fatuous example of it
recently a notice was posted at the pit-heads informing all workers who
occupied free colliery houses that they must obtain a certificate
entitling them to do so from the N.C.B. Seeming inanities of this kind are causing men to say that the chief function of all the bosses is to think out new ways of " making bits of kids " of the workers.
Most miners believed that under nationalisation the rank-and-file would, have more say in the running of their pit. Such is far from being the case, however. Drastic changes are made at collieries nowadays without even the manager knowing the reason for them. This remote control is particularly annoying to the miner, who likes to he treated as it human being and an adult.
Loss of Personal Contact
Formerly workers with a grievance
could often obtain redress by going
to see the colliery manager. Not so to-day. Every complaint seems to be passed on until it makes long and
laborious ascent to the " highest
levels." Here is the cause of most
unofficial sttikes. Workers become convinced that no notice will ever be taken of representations made through the proper channels. They take drastic action, not out of hotheadedness, but simply because it is
the only way to get anyone to take notice of their complaint.
Even when they " stop the pit," however, there is not certainty that they will obtain satisfaction. It is now over a year since windingenginemen in the North-East went on strike to draw attention to their claim for better pay. The claim is still under consideration.
Many miners are irritated by the N.C.B.'s continuance of the coalowners' practice of refusing to negotiate with strikers unless they
return to work. It was widely expected that this relic of the " era of slavery " would disappear with the advent of public ownership. The recent revival of the old capitalist stunt of claiming absurdly high damages against strikers has also set men's backs up against the Coal Board. The miner's insistence on his right to strike may proase a serious setback to nationalisation schemes.
Many miners believed that nationalisation would lead to a revolution in coal-getting methods that would change their job almost out of recognition. There are few signs of this. however. The N.C.B. is making a poor show in the matter of increasing production by the greater use of machinery.
Its reliance on the old-fashioned
expedient of overtime working is also causing unrest. Although the majority of miners recently voted in favour of the continuance of the Saturday shift or the extra half-hOur a day for another year, opposition to them is growing apace. Already some collieries have ceased overtime working. There may easily be a general abrogation of the agreement this summer.
The miner is not greatly perturbed at the rise in the price of coal. He believes that coal has been far too cheap for too long. He is rather concerned. however. at the fact that the pits seem to be less efficiently run at much greater cost than formerly. Unless there is a big improvement in N.C.B. administration he may soon, be saying that he was better off under the coalowners.