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can be more or less effectively checked. Where unionism is either absent or weak the way of the transgressing contractor is easy. Moreover, the number of persons employed directly or indirectly upon municipal or State work under regulated conditions, while increasing, is at present comparatively small, and although the number of contractors who carry out such work is large the regu. lated conditions do not apply to all their employees but only to those engaged in executing the public contracts. Hence we find that the tailoring contractor to the London County Council will pay the minimum rate for the Council work ; but it is understood that the worker who is given a park-keeper's suit to make up is compelled to balance the advantage in wages accruing therefrom by taking a certain quantity of other work for her employer's private customers at a far lower rate of pay than the County Council's minimum. To parody the showman's classic phrase, what she gains on the regulated municipal uniform she loses on the unregulated private overcoat.
Therefore, although the introduction of wage clauses and the fixing of minimum rates in connection with public work are extremely desirable and useful they do not promise to be either efficient or speedy as a means of improving the lot of those for whom an immediate rise in income is the only salvation. They are mentioned here simply as illustrations of the fact often overlooked, that the State, in spite of the serious warnings of economists, has begun, if only in a very tentative way, to take an intelligent interest in the terms of the cash nexus between employer and employed.
Obsolete and Modern Economic Theory. “All generous minds," says the most genial of American essayists, “have a horror of what are commonly called facts." One need not possess a very generous mind to have a horror of what used to be called political economy. It is now happily banished to Saturn; but it must not be supposed that genuine economic science has been banished with it. The Saturnian economy was the economy or middle class professional life, in which every man is his own employer and capitalist, absurdly applied to modern industrial civilization by college professors. It misled the nation on every practical issue; and it would, if it could, prevent the enactment of a minimum wage law by giving yet another mistaken verdict against it. Those who are desirous of learning in detail the arguments in support of such a verdict, and also how they may be effectively demolished, are referred to Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb's Industrial Democracy. But the professors still protest. They were against the Factory Acts; against the prevention of capitalist exploitation of children of tender years ; against the fencing of dangerous machinery; against trade combinations of the working people ; in a word against the whole trend of modern industrial and social legislation. Against the enact. ment of a minimum wage law they reason as they taught the indi. vidualistic opponents of the Ten Hours' Bill to reason sixty years ago. They urge that the cost of production would be increased in
the industries where the minimum wage was enforced, and that therefore they would inevitably shrink or collapse owing to the falling off in the demand for their products which would result from the rise in price caused by the increased cost of production. This would tend to swell the ranks of the unemployed, and the last stage of the sweated worker would be worse than the first. This argument is based upon the assumption that the industries referred to can only exist by the employment of sweated labor. The practical opposition to the abolition by legislation of insanitary, unsafe, and unhealthy factories ard workshops, and to the State prevention of excessive overworking of women and children was based upon similar assumptions. “The cotton industry will be ruined," said the Lancashire millowner in effect, backed up by the economic professors, “if it is compelled to bear the expense of making decent the places in which the manufacture is carried on." Speaking in the House of Commons in 1855 against a Bill for the compulsory fencing of machinery, John Bright said that if the Bill passed he would advise his partners to shut up their mills because the legislature would not allow them to employ their hands at a profit.* Needless to say there was still a handsome dividend to be drawn from the cotton industry after the cost of fencing machinery had been met ; and the Lancashire mills are still open, thereby shewing scant respect for college-made economics. We know now that the effect of stopping competition in wages at the expense of the vitality of the workers is, to quote from Industrial Democracy, to concentrate it upon efficiency. A minimum wage would continue and intensify that salutary concentration. Doubtless a number of the weakest and least efficient workers would then be excluded from employment where formerly they had been able to keep themselves partially alive by their sweated and inefficient labor, inefficient because underpaid. This result instead of being deplored should be welcomed. It would draw attention to the urgent need for the State to take in hand the problem of the unemployable-a problem which arises mainly through the absence of a national minimum wage. Even if some occupations were unable to bear the cost of a minimum wage it would obviously be a national benefit for them to disappear rather than to continue by living upon the life capital of the nation.
Wages Law in New Zealand. Before going further into detail with regard to the proposed law it will be well at this stage to consider an important practical objection, namely, that although it might be possible to draft on paper a satisfactory Minimum Wage Bill, and even get it passed, the Act would break down in practice owing to the immense difficulties which would arise in its administration. It is urged that the work of calculating and fixing the minimum wage rate and of inspection for the prevention of evasion would be so vast and minute that the wit of man could not devise machinery capable of coping with it.
* Simpson, Many Memories of Many People, pp. 263-264 ; quoted by Prof. Dicey in Law and Opinion in England.
When, however, we turn to Australasia, we find laws in operation there demanding a system of administrative organization more complex than would be required in connection with a minimum wage law founded on the cost of living. The New Zealand Arbitration Acts, the effect of which has been the institution of legal minimum rates of wages on the basis of what each trade arbitrated upon will bear, entails upon the members and officials of the Conciliation Boards and the Court of Arbitration a vast amount of labor in settling multitudinous points of great difficulty which would not arise here under a minimum wage law. Some idea of what those labors have been may be formed from the following quotation from State Experiments in Australia and New Zealand, by the Hon. William Pember Reeves :
“ The trades that have come under the awards of the tribunals have been those of the bootmakers, seamen, goldminers, coalminers, printers, tailors, millers, carpenters, plumbers, painters, moulders, drivers, saddlers, tailoresses, dressmakers, sawmillers, engineers, ironworkers, furniture-makers, bakers, confectioners, butchers, grocers' assistants, and others of less importance. The questions arbitrated upon have already included most of the hard nuts which students of labor conflicts know so well. Among them are hours of labor, holidays, the amount of day wages, the price to be paid for piecework, the proportion of apprentices, the facilities to be allowed to trade union officials for interviews with their men, the right of employers to engage non-unionists, or to discharge or refuse to engage unionists, the conduct of unionists in refusing to work side by side with free laborers,' and pressure exerted by employers to induce them to join a private benefit society."
Yet, in spite of the hardness of the nuts mentioned by Mr. Reeves, they have been successfully cracked without any serious strain upon the machinery provided for the purpose, or any strong or widelyspread dissatisfaction arising with the methods adopted.
State Action in Victoria. Again, the Shops and Factories Act of the State of Victoria, Australia, which so far is the boldest experiment entered upon for the stamping out of sweating and industrial parasitism, necessitates an elaborate system of enquiry and inspection in each trade brought under the Act. The measure, besides being one for the regulation of factories and shops on the ordinary lines, also contains clauses which make it an actual minimum wage law, and accordingly deserves special attention.
The Act as passed in 1896 provided for the appointment of special boards to fix wages and piecework rates for persons employed either inside or outside factories in making clothing or wearing apparel or furniture, or in breadmaking or baking, or in the business of a butcher or seller of meat. Special boards might be appointed for any process, trade or business usually or frequently carried on in a factory or workroom, provided a rezolution had been passed by either House of Parliament declaring it to be expedient to appoint such a board. The special boards were to consist of not less than four or more than ten members and a chairman, and to hold office for two years. Half the members (elected as prescribed) were to be representatives of employers and half of employees. If the employers' or employees' representatives were not elected the Governor in Council was given the power to appoint representatives. He was also empowered to fill all vacancies. The members of a board might elect a chairman (not being one of such members); if they did not elect a chairman the Governor in Council might appoint one. The members of these boards were to be paid ios. per full day, 5s. per half day, the chairman £ 1 per day with travelling allowances. A board might fix either time rates or piecework rates, or both i must also fix the hours for which the rate of wages was determined, and the payment for overtime, and in fixing wages might take into consideration the nature, kind, and class of work, and the mode and manner in which the work was to be done, the age and sex of the workers, and any matter which might be prescribed by regulation. A board could settle the proportion of apprentices or improvers to be employed in any process, trade, or business, and the wage to be paid to them; and in fixing such wage might consider age, sex and experience. The determination of a special board was to apply to every city and town and might be extended by the Governor in Council to any borough or shire or part of a shire. A board could determine that manufacturers might be allowed to fix piecework rates based on the minimum wage. That is to say, the board, after fixing time wages itself, might leave it to employers to pay a fair equivalent to their pieceworkers. The Chief Inspector might, however, challenge any rate so paid, and the employer might have to justify it before the board.
The Success of the Victorian Act. The boards set up for the baking, clothing, bootmaking, shirtmaking, and underclothing trades, in spite of intricate complications, found it possible to arrive at determinations which have given general satisfaction. The furniture trade board had the most onerous task, as certain sections of the trade are in the hands of the Chinese, whose idea of honoring Factory Acts of this kind is to contravene them. Though collusion between Chinese masters and their Chinese workpeople to outwit the inspector in matters of wages and hours was glaringly obvious, the cunning of the yellow man was too often superior to that of the representative of the law when it became a question of securing legal proof that the regulations had been broken. Yet even here sweating has been checked to a very great extent, and the conditions of the trade in 1901 were reported as far superior to those prevailing before the establishment of the wages board.
It is important to note that the alleged tendency of a minimum wage to become the maximum has not shown itself. In May, 1902, the Chief Inspector asserted that whereas in the clothing trade, in 1901, the minimum wage for adult males was 455. per week, the average paid was 535. 6d. For adult females the minimum was 208., the average, 22s. 3d. He instanced similar differences in the boot, furniture, and shirtmaking trades.
Owing to the favorable results of the working of these six boards, twenty-six other trades have been brought under the operation of the Act-amongst others, the aerated water trade, artificial manure making, bedstead making, brassworking, brewing, brickmaking, coopering, dressmaking, jam-making, ironmoulders, pastrycooks, plate-glass making, stonecutting, tinsmithing, woodworking, etc., etc.
By the end of 1904 determinations had been made by the above 32 boards, except in the case of the tinsmiths, where the fixing or piecework rates caused delay. In all cases rises in wages had been made, and in nearly every instance the staff of inspectors reported that the decisions of the boards had been acted upon without any serious friction taking place. In two industries only does it appear that trouble arises. One is the furniture trade, which suffers from the blight of yellow labor. According to the Chief Inspector's report or December, 1904, a case of evasion by a white firm engaged in the furniture trade was discovered, and the employer was compelled to hand over to his underpaid workmen the sum of £40 each. It should be mentioned in passing that a weakness of the Act is that no provision appears to be made for punishing the men as well as the employers in a case of collusion. The other of the two troubled trades is that of dressmaking. Here dissatisfaction has been caused by the low minimum wage fixed by the board, which, following the example of all the other boards, based its award upon the principle of giving what the trade would bear.
In 1903 a court was created in order that appeals against the determinations of the wages boards might be heard. By December, 1904, only one case had come before the court-an appeal by the employers in the artificial manure industry against a decision fixing a minimum wage of 4os. 6d. The employers were successful, the award being reduced to 36s. This dearth of employment for the Appeal Court may fairly be taken as further evidence that the Act is working smoothly.
The Victorian Act, 1896, was intended as an experiment to be tried for three years only. In 1899 it was amended slightly and extended for two years plus a session of parliament. In 1902, when a sudden dissolution of the Victorian parliament endangered it, an Act was got through again extending its life, this time until 1905. The Chief Inspector of Factories, in Dec. 1904, reported strongly in favor of the Act being made a permanent one. Last year (1905) the Act was again renewed.*
It has been urged that the successful working of Australasian laws affecting wages and dealing with complicated and minute details, throws no light upon the question as to whether similar laws would be practicable in England, because the population of Australasia is less than one-tenth that of the United Kingdom. This objection is easily disposed of. Melbourne, Manchester and Birmingham
* For further details of Australasian Labor laws see Fabian Tract No. 83.