Crisis at the Hermand Oil Works,1902

type: Workforce - stoppages

West Lothian Courier
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Crisis at the Hermand Oil Works,

The stoppage of Linlithgow Oil Company and the low prices being realised for crude oil has produced a crisis at the New Hermand Works at West Calder. Linlithgow Oil Company took one-half of the total output of crude oil from the New Hermand Oil Company and the stoppage of their works has compelled the latter company to reduce their output by stopping No. 4 pit. The pit was closed on Friday, and a bench of retorts has also been stopped. The night shift on the works will also be discontinued.

A mass meeting of the men was held on Friday, and was addressed by the directors of the company. Mr Chalmers , chairman of the company, pointed out the serious position of affairs. The proposal the directors had to make was that the inferior shale at the bottom of the seam being worked must be left in during the period of depression, and only the four feet of richer shale extracted. The tonnage rate would be also reduced from 2s 3d per ton to 2s per ton. At present the company's miners were making an average of 8s 1d per day, and he thought the men, even under the new conditions, would be quite able to make a good average wage.

There was to be no lockout or strike this time. It was simply a case of closing the works if the men did not agree to these conditions so as to help them to get over their difficulties. The directors would be sorry to close the works but they could not go on losing money, and it was for the men to say if they were willing to submit to this reduction, and so keep their employment and keep the works going. The directors would give them to Tuesday to consider the matter, and if their decision was unfavourable to the proposal made, the works would be immediately closed. He hoped they would look at the matter in a favourable way for the sake of both parties.

Mr John Wilson, miners' agent, replied, and said if the officials could prove to them that a reduction was essential to keeping the works going, they would consider the question of conceding something, but they could not agree to such a reduction as was asked. Mr Chalmers offered to allow the company's cost sheets to be examined by a neutral party.

It was agreed to meet on Tuesday to finally decide the matter. Mr Wilson and the miners met and considered the company's proposal, and agreed to suggest a reduction of 2d per ton if the inferior shale was allowed to be worked as before. The offer was submitted by Mr Wilson and his Committee to a meeting of the directors on Wednesday. The directors, however, stated that they were unable to consider any proposition unless it contained their proposal that only the better quality of shale be worked.

The meeting was adjourned to Thursday, to enable Mr Wilson and the deputation to consult the miners.

West Lothian Courier, 14th February 1902