["The Koombana Firemen", The West Australian, Saturday 25 November 1911, page 11]

THE KOOMBANA FIREMEN.

A DEFINITE UNDERSTANDING.

As a result of further negotiations yesterday between the Adelaide Steamship Company and the representatives of the Firemen and Seamen's Union, a definite understanding has been arrived at regarding the manning of the Nor'-West steamer Koombana with a crew of firemen. Yesterday morning, Mr. W. E. Moxon, the general manager of the Adelaide Company in this State, interviewed a number of the recalcitrant firemen and urged them to take a more reasonable view of their position. He pointed out that his company could under no circumstances lend itself to an act of injustice to one of its employees, and that it would amount to an act of persecution to dismiss the chief steward of the Koombana without an inquiry being held into the complaints made against him. The fact that the men were flouting the instructions of the executive officers of their own union was also impressed upon them, and they were further asked to consider the harm they were inflicting on the residents of the Nor'-West. The men, however, refused to sign on, and the five or six firemen who earlier in the week announced their willingness to proceed in the vessel, also withdrew their pledge. At the request of Senator Guthrie, the general secretary of the Firemen and Seamen's Union in Melbourne, Mr. Moxon decided to make no further overtures to the men. Senator Guthrie wired to Mr. Moxon that a fresh crew of 16 men, accompanied by two executive officers, were leaving Melbourne that afternoon by express train to catch the Riverina at Adelaide. The new crew are coming over at the expense of the union, and should reach Fremantle on Wednesday evening next.

A regrettable incident occurred yesterday, when Mr. Johnson, the chief steward of the Koombana, as a result no doubt of the worry and strain of the past week or two, collapsed in the Adelaide Steamship Company's office, and had to be removed to a private hospital. On inquiry, last night Mr. Johnson was reported to be progressing fairly well, but it may be some days before he will be able to resume duty.

PROPOSED FEDERAL AWARD.

COMMENT BY MR. JUSTICE HIGGINS.

COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT BROKEN.

Melbourne, Nov. 24. After delivering his proposed award in the claim brought by the Federated Seamen's Union against The Commonwealth Steamship Owners' Association, the President of the Federal Arbtlration Court (Mr. Justice Higgins) referred to the position of affairs which has arisen in connection with the steamer Koombana. His Honour said:--I have indicated the kind of award which I propose to make, but I have not made it yet. There has come to my knowledge officially a curious position in connection with some members of this union in Fremantle. I understand that, in spite of the warnings and remonstrances of the executive of the union, the steamer Koombana has practically been boycotted by the firemen at Fremantle because of some objection which the men have to the chief steward. The owners are willing to inquire into the matter if the men will only go on working. The detention of the ship is serious, especially as the owners are under contract to carry mails. It cannot be said that the men have struck. Those who left the ship did so after due notice and those who were brought down to fill their places have not, I understand, signed the articles. But there is an agreement in existence. It is not made under the auspices of the Court, and its faulty framework may be the cause of some misapprehension. It is pleasing to find that there has been no case yet of any breach of an award of this Court, but surely it is not for the public interest that I should make an award in favour of a union which, by its disobedient members, is breaking a collective agreement. I am at present inclined to think that, even after an award has been made, the Court has power to vary an award by striking out in whole or part, the relief already to a union if it appears that members of the union, although taking the benefit of the award, are not prepared to take up the burden also. I shall have this case put down for Thursday, but if the trouble be not over by that time I must consider what I should do. I had hoped to make the in creased wages apply to December work, but I shall certainly not do so in the present position of the Koombana.