19["Federal Arbitration Court", The Worker (Brisbane, Qld.), Saturday 02 December 1911, page 14]

Federal Arbitration Court.

Eight Hour Day for Sailors.

In the Federal Arbitration Court in Melbourne last week the President, Mr. Justice Higgins, delivered his reserved decision in the action between the Federated Seamen's Union of Australia and the Steamship Owners' Association. The President said, in part:

"The change asked for relates almost solely to the hours of six or eight deck hands, who keep watches, three or four men at a time, and only to the time that they are at sea. I propose, therefore, to award that hours at sea shall be eight for deck hands who are on watch, as well as for deck hands who are daymen; so that they shall no have worse hours than the stokehold men or than labourers on the Australian coast. But I propose to postpone the operation of this provision till July 1, 1912, as on some ships it may be necessary to put up some further accommodation for some additional men, and a liberal allowance of time ought to be made for making the necessary alterations and incidental arrangements."

After referring to the provisions for holidays and overtime, the President dealt with the claim in respect of wages--substantially a claim for 1 more all round. He said:

"At present, the A.B. receives 7 per month, and his 'keep' on board ship. Taking the keep as in former cases at 10s. per week, or nearly 2 5s. per month, the pay is slightly over 6s. per day. This means the meagre pittance of 3d. per hour for an A.B. if the present average of more than twelve hours per day be maintained whereas dock and ships' labourer are paid under the agreement 1s. 1d. per hour at least, with higher rates for special circumstances and double for holiday.

"I will fix the minimum wage, however, on the assumption that a day of eight hours hours is established by the award. The respondents admit the principles laid down in the harvester case, and admit that the 7s. per day or 42s. per week minimum wage fixed in that case for an adult labourer (unskilled) should be paid to seamen. That minimum wage amounts to 109 4s for 52 weeks, or 105 11s. for 365 days, and was fixed for a man who works only six days per week. The seaman gives 52 days in addition and gets only 110 in all for the year, including keep. In other words, he gets for seven days per week only 9s. per annum more than the unskilled labourer, who works six days per week. He has also to provide his own clothes, bedding, utensils, etc. There is no doubt that in the matter of wages, as well as in other things, the seaman has the fag end of things.

"The A.B.'s wages have not been increased since 1887, although the cost of living has increased considerably since that time. It is my clear duty to prescribe the following minimum rates of pay: Boatswain, 9 per month; A.B. employed as lamp trimmer, 9; A.B., 8; ordinary seaman--if 18 years or over, 6; if under 18, 5; donkeyman, 11; greaser, 10; fireman, 10; trimmer, 7. The act is not an act for profit-sharing, but for securing peace in industries, and the best way of securing peace is to secure to a man, as far as possible, wages and conditions of life on a level with the current standards of the community."