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that the encouragement given to women's organizations by making it cheap and easy for any little group of workers to register as a in on, might have most valuable results. Experience shews that efficiency in the administration of the Factory Act regulations approaches perfection most nearly where the workers are best organized, and themselves take an intelligent interest in the measures enacted for their good. Women have hitherto proved apathetic and weak-kneed as trade unionists, but they are improving year by year. It is noticeable that a commission appointed in Victoria to enquire into the working of the various labor laws of the Australasian colonies strongly commended the New Zealand regulations. It reported as follows:• The New Zealand Conciliation and Arbitration Acts remain to-day the fairest, most complete, and most useful labor law on the statute books of the Australian States ... protecting on the one hand the fair-minded employer from the dishonest competition of the sweater, who keeps down cost of production by paying miserably low wages, and on the other, the toiling thousands to whom a rise in wages of a few shillings a week when an industry can fairly bear it, often means the difference between griping poverty and comparative comfort. Its main provisions have stood the test of time ; and while employers and workers alike keenly criticize each other's actions in connection with its operations in certain industrial centres, in no part of the colony which we visited did we hear any general desire expressed for its repeal."
Special consideration would also have to be given to those industries which are decaying handicrafts rather than auxiliaries to the factory. These, as already said, are relatively inconsiderable in England, but nevertheless occupy quite a large proportion of the population in certain districts. In some Highland villages the poor people have two or three sheep of their own, shear the wool, spin it into yarn, and knit it into stockings, for which they receive about is. a pair from the dealer. No wage regulation could touch this form of sweating, and it is likely enough that in the chain-making, the specially sweated industry at Cradley, the employers would soon be sharp enough to arrange to sell the iron and buy the chain, instead of paying wages, so that they would avoid the minimum wage altogether. In cases like these it would be desirable for the Government to take measures to instruct the people as to co-operative association for buying their own material, and to organize them for self-help and mutual protection, by lending capital, and so forth. Measures of this kind have been adopted in Austria for the assistance of the ancient crafts and rural industries, with very good effect. It would of course be better still to take over the whole industry and carry it on in Government shops with fair wages and good conditions.
IV.-DIRECT EMPI.OYMENT. To those who follow the argument here supported,* that sweating, though apparently an inexpensive method of production, is ruinous
* It is developed with much more fulness in Industrial Democracy, by S. and B. Webb (Longmans, 1902, 125.).
to the community through the physical and moral deterioration induced in the sweated and their workers, it will be at once evident that the abolition of sweating is an important incidental advantage of direct public employment. The establishment of the Army Clothing Factory has saved thousands of workers from sweating dens without any increase in the cost of production. The enlargement of that factory so as to produce in it not only some but all the clothing required for the army, militia and volunteers, would rescue thousands more from their present fate. The workshops at Woolwich could be expanded so as to render unnecessary that contracting for saddlery work, chains and hardware, which now promotes sweating. A navy clothing factory might supersede all sweating of the garments of sailors, coastguards, and marines. The Government factories should produce also all the uniforms of the customs, police, prisons, post office, and other official staffs, as well as all the boots, shoes, saddlery, and accoutrements required.
And if local authorities followed suit-if the London County Council were given power to set up its own clothing factory, and to supply other local governing bodies-if it became the practice to manufacture all asylum, hospital, police, and fire brigade uniforms required by any Town or County Council or other public body, either in its own factory or in that of some other public body-if a similar course were pursued with regard to boots and shoes, saddlery, and general leather work, chains, furniture, and other commonly sweated wares, part, at least, of the evil would disappear. For it would be easy to ensure that the factories of the Government or the Town Council would be well-built, well-ventilated and well-equipped ; that the hours of work would be regular and short ; that the employment would be steady, and the wages at any rate as high as those paid in the best shops elsewhere.
V.-ANTI-SWEATING CLAUSES IN ALL PUBLIC CONTRACTS.
But however rapidly we press on the establishment of public factories for the supply of public wants, many public bodies will, for a long time to come, have to buy goods which are at present usually the product of sweating. The Government contracts all contain some clause which is intended to secure a fair wage for the workers, and to restrain the practice of sub-contracting. For instance, the form of tender for clothing to be delivered by the contractor to the War Office includes among the required conditions that no portion of the contract be transferred without the written permission of the Secretary of State; that all garments shall be cut out and made up in the contractor's own factory, and no work shall be done in the
* Even if there were some increase in cost of production, it would still be good policy for the country to pay a living wage. The private sweater can send his wornout workers to the work house when he has done with them : the country has to maintain its bye-products of pauperism. (See Common Sense of Municipal Trading, by Bernard Shaw. Constable, 1904, 25. 60.) It is a fact less well-known than it should be, that municipal contractors have been found giving out work house clothing to be made up by women who were compelled to ask for out-relief from their own union to supplement their wretched earnings. One way or another-lhe country pays.
homes of the workpeple ; that the wages paid shall be those current in each trade for competent workmen in the district in which the work is carried out, and that the wages shall be paid to the workers direct, and not through any foreman or intermediary. So far back as 1891 the House of Commons passed a resolution that the Government's duty was to make every effort to secure the payment of fair or current wages for work done by workmen under Government contracts. But these provisions where out-workers are concerned are at present often neglected.
Though sub-letting and home work are expressly prohibited, there are hundreds of home-workers openly employed in Government work, and except in work where the workers are organized in trade unions there is no provision for ensuring a standard of wages. In 1906, the Minister for War, Mr. Haldane, had his attention drawn to the matter by some representatives of the Women's Industrial Council, and assured them that he would introduce some system of effective inspection. He also kindly assisted the committee of the Sweated Home Industries Exhibition by lending materials on which to employ the Government workers, who shewed the low prices at which they had to work for Government contractors. Municipal and other public authorities have the same difficulty, and probably will continue to have it if they employ middlemen. A case has been discovered where a contractor gave a worker a job to do for a municipal contract, and paid her the fair price insisted on by the municipality, but on condition that she should do other work for him at a rate lower than usual, so that her average wage is not protected by the fair wage clause. “The only satisfactory solution to prevent such evasions is the extension of direct employment without the medium of a private contractor by the Government and other public authorities."* The extension of employment under fair conditions will benefit the sweated workers not only directly, in so far as they themselves obtain employment under those conditions, but indirectly, as the payment of fair wages to the men employed would lessen the competition for work by married women. Nothing comes home more forcibly to the investigator of home work than this fact, that many of the women would not take work out at all if their husbands could obtain a decent remuneration. A great deal of sweated work by women is simply an indirect result of the under-payment or irregular employment of men.t
Conclusion. There are those who will say that the measures of reform here sketched out will have the effect of throwing out of work those poor people who are not worth employing at the wages and under the
*Interim Report on Home Work, by Mrs. J. R. MacDonald; Women's Industrial Council, 1906; p. 35.
† An ex-out-worker told the present writer she had given up taking work-her “old man said it wasn't worth it.” Many “old men " would say the same if they could earn their own wages. See on this point Cadbury's Women's Work and Wages, which shews that men's wages for the less skilled kinds of work in Birmingham are often not more than 178. or 18s.
conditions that would be required under an amended Factory Act, with a minimum wage and strictly sanitary conditions required for out-workers as well as indoor hands. M. Aftalion, in a recent interesting study,* declares that to regulate home work is to destroy it, and cites the example of Victoria, where the establishment of a minimum wage has driven almost all the work into factories. We believe, judging from the analagous case of factory regulation, that the unemployment which would result from a well thought out scheme of home work regulation would be much less than these critics expect. Some workers would go to the factory; some, as already pointed out, would no longer need to take work out, if the head of the family were assured a living wage. Some workers, now underpaid, underfed, underwarmed, and badly clothed, would quickly respond to improved conditions and pay, and would in a short time become really more efficient. Moreover, we must remember that the payment of larger wages to a class of workers previously underpaid would in itself be a beneficial stimulus to trade, and lead to an increased demand for employment in the production of the food and clothing required. But let us admit that most probably there would be some workers unable to earn the minimum wage, and consequently thrown out of employment. These, we must remember, would be the workers either so unhealthy, so old, or so exhausted with a life of underpaid toil, that they would not be worth employing under the changed con. ditions and improved standard set. Here, surely, if ever, is the case for liberal poor relief. It would be far cheaper to the community in the end to pension off these victims of unsegulated competition than to allow them to compete in the labor market, lower the rate of wages, and through their cheapness thrust the more capable out of work. For it must be remembered we are not here discussing those who are "unemployable" because of drink, extravagance or excess. The pathetic part of the sweated industries is that it is often the very virtues of these people that are their ruin. Miss Clementina Black, in her introduction to the cases investigated and tabulated by the Wo. men's Industrial Council,t says “many of them are of the highest respectability and maintain a standard of conduct and cleanliness quite heroic. ... The majority of these 44 women are industrious, even painfully industrious; most are thoroughly respectable ; scarcely one is paid a living wage." They will sit up all night, and work for what is given them, and submit. Theirs is indeed “cheap and docile labor.” They represent an out-of-date tradition and a superseded method, and only the wise and careful intervention of the State can save them and their children from a slow process of deterioration through want. “There is no person in this kingdom-or in any of the states that are called civilized-who does not partake of the proceeds of underpaid labor ; and the conditions of such labor are not growing better ; they are, if anything, growing worse, and under. payment is rather spreading than decreasing." I * Le Développement de la Fabrique, et le Travail à Domicile. Paris : Larose; 1906. “+Interim Report on Home Industries of Women, p. 44.
I lbid, p. 45.
NOTE.—A few sentences of Fabian Tract No. 50 are incorporated above, by permission.
PostSCRIPT.—The Wages Board Bill (see p. 13) was re-introduced by Mr. Henderson, and read a second time in the House of Commons, February 21st, 1908.
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