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case of illuess or accident I agree to support myself; to be in the stable at four o'clock every morning in order to get my horses ready for work by six o'clock; to rack up my horses every night at eight o'clock; to find my own whip, masters to keep it in repair ; to get up in the morning when called by the carter; to be in every pight by nine o'clock, except when required to be later by my masters; to clean boots and shoes on Sunday mornings.' WHAT HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE TOWARDS GETTING
AN EIGHT HOURS Day. Some shortening of the working day has already taken place. In some cases the employers have voluntarily conceded more leisure to their workers. In some industries Trade Union action has reduced the hours. Many thousands of workers now enjoy leisure secured to them by the Factory Acts for which their fathers fought. Let us see how much has yet been won by each of these methods.
(a) Voluntary Action by Employers. Little has been gained in the past, and little can be hoped for in the future, from the voluntary action of individual employers. Many capitalists declare that they desire, in the abstract, a shorter working day; but few have had the courage to start it in their own works. Nor is this to be wondered at. Every employer is afraid of his rival's competition. No mill-owner dare run his mill only eight hours whilst other mills are running ten. No shopkeeper dare close his shop whilst his competitors remain open.
(6) Public Opinion. Nor does public opinion suffice to bring about voluntary agreement to shorten the hours of labor. Agreements among shopkeepers. to close early, even on one night a week only, are continually breaking down. Those who most relied on public opinion to bring about a shorter working day are now the most emphatic in their demand for more effective methods. The (London) Early Closing Association, once resolute in its faith in moral suasion, now heartily supports legislation. The Melbourne Early Closing Association has had à similar experience. The Secretary of this latter Association, who appeared to give evidence before the Royal Commission on the Hours of Labor in Victoria, "expressed himself as opposed to any innovation upon the tactics hitherto pursued, and more especially to legislative interference with what he termed the liberty of the subject.' Subsequently a poll of the members of the Association was taken as to the advisability or otherwise of regulating the hours of labor in shops by Act of Parliament, and resulted in 279 members. voting for an Act of Parliament and only 48 against."
Thus, even in Australia, public opinion has been found inadequate to secure a shorter day for the weaker workers. In Victoria so complete had been the failure of over thirty years of voluntary agitation that the Royal Commissioners unanimously reported that. they were “convinced of the absolute necessity for legislative action.
· In proposing any remedy for the relief of employés in shops, your Commissioners rely on the results of practical experience rather than on the theories of those political economists who hold that legislative interference is in violation of the law regulating supply
and demand. Several witnesses consider that the pressure of educated public opinion will in time achieve all that is necessary; while others maintain that nothing more can be effected by moral suasion. Your Commissioners believe that moral force is devoid of the necessary potentiality to bring about the reform desired, and that an Act of Parliament alone can impart solidity and permanence to the Eight Hours Movement in connection with shops and similar establishments.
If this is true in Victoria, how much more is it the case in England !
(c) Trade Union Action. But we are often told that the English artisans have won Nine Hours Day, and the Australians an Eight Hours Day, by trade union action. Why cannot all workers go and do likewise, and not "go whining to the State ” ?
It is true that a series of successful strikes has brought about & nominal nine hours day in most English skilled crafts. But the gain has often been little more than nominal. Habitual overtime in many industries makes the day as long as before.
But only one out of nine of the English wage earners is organised into a trade union at all, and still fewer are members of a union strong enough to enforce any reduction of hours. What responsible person would venture to advise the tramway men, or the laundry women to strike for shorter hours, although they are members of well-organised trade unions?
The trade unions themselves are rapidly coming to the opinion that only by legislation can a real and a general shortening of hours be secured. The Liverpool Trade Union Congress voted for an Eight Hours Bill. The Trades Councils of London, Liverpool, Glasgow, Birmingham, and Hull support the same aemand. Both unions of railway workers are now in its favor. The coal miners everywhere outside of Northumberland and Durham are almost unanimous op the subject. Democratic legislation is everywhere preferred to trade anion warfare.
But even if Trade Unions were powerful enough to secure 8 serious and effective reduction in the hours of labor, it may still be doubted whether it is to the interest of the community as a whole that the work of obtaining an Eight Hours Day should be left to them. The methods of Trade Unions are essentially the methods of war.
A strike, with all the misery entailed, is the only effective instrument which Trade Unions possess for enforcing their will.
Few people realise how much misery a strike of necessity entails. The long, anxious waiting, the insufficiency of food, the cessation of every luxury, and the spectacle daily growing sadder of the home bit by bit bereft of all its little ornaments and comforts, while its inmates, like its owner, are visibly suffering from downright starvation: these are the trials imposed upon the workman and upon his family when a Trade Union asserts its independence by striking. Nor are the workmen actually engaged in a strike the only members
Employees in Shops Commission : Second Progress Report, p. 5.- Victorian Parliamentary Papers, 1883.
of the community who suffer thereby. To many a little tradesman who has just with difficulty been able to keep his head above water, a strike in his neighborhood will mean inevitable bankruptcy.
Moreover, a well-supported, widespread strike in some industries could not be tolerated by any Government. If all the railways running into London were really paralysed for a fortnight, with sympathetic strikes among the seamen and carmen, it
may safely be predicted that Government intervention would be necessary to prevent food going to famine prices and serious tumult ensuing. Similar reasoning applies to the gas-workers, by whose labor London is lighted; the men in the service of the waterworks, by means of which it lives; or even those servants of the community who bury its dead. In all these cases, and in many others, the proposal that the workers should gain their ends by a strike can be made only because it is assumed that they must fail.
(d) Legislative Action. The more ignorant writers in the daily press, and some of the parliamentary representatives of non-manufacturing constituencies, still persist in declaring that there is no precedent in the history of English legislation for interference on the part of the State with the hours of adult male labor. But those who remember the long fight over the Factory Acts know better than this. When the Ten Hours Bill was being discussed in 1844, Sir C. Wood, in opposing it, said : “ The object of the Bill before them was the limitation of the hours of labor, not of young persons and women only, but of all factory labor. To the credit of the delegates from the manufacturing districts they had fairly and openly acknowledged that such was the object. It would therefore be waste of time to discuss it on any other footing than on that of a Bill for limiting all labor in factories to ten hours a day.”
Sir George Grey, in supporting the Bill, was equally frank. He said: “I do not wish to argue the question or to support the Bill on false pretences. I admit that it is a fair argument against the Bill that, looking to the number of young children and adult and females in factories, the restriction of the hours of labor for them to ten or eleven hours a day will practically restrict the working of male adults to the same period. I am not in the least disposed to deny the fact."
In the debates on the 1874 Bill, all the old arguments were brought up by Professor Fawcett, who once more pointed out to the House of Commons that the measure would apply to the hours of
“Although,” said he, “the Bill nominally applied to women only, its real effect would be to place a Parliamentary limit on the length of the day's work, and its general application would be precisely the same in a great majority of cases as if in every
clause after the word 'woman' they had inserted the word 'man.' Notwithstanding this explicit statement, Parliament reduced the hours of labor in textile factories from 60 to 56.3 hours per week. Four years later the whole body of factory legislation was codified in the Factory and Workshop Act of 1878. This Act confirmed the statutory week of 561 hours in textile factories, and of 60 hours in non
textile factories, with a certain margin of overtime for the latter only. Workshops--i.e., places where no steam or other power is employed—are on much the same footing as non-textile factories, but the provisions of the law are slightly less stringent. In each case the limitation of hours nominally applies only to women and children: practically, wherever men are engaged in work requiring the assistance of women or of children, their hours of labor are also limited. That this result was foreseen at the time the original Acts were passed has been amply proved by the above quotations.
It was with all this in his mind that Mr. Gladstone, speaking, October 1890, said: “I make another admission, which is this, that our legislation with regard to Factories has been legislation which has embraced the case of men, and, therefore, I hold that this business of the Eight Hours Bill for miners is a matter perfectly open for free and unprejudiced consideration."
Finally, in the colony of Victoria, the favorite instance of those who rely upon the unaided efficiency of public opinion of Trade Unionism, it has been found necessary to fix by law the hours of labor of miners underground; of engineers in charge of mining machinery; of tramway workers; of men employed by the contractors on various public works; of the servants of public bodies. And attempts at similar legislation in other colonies are constantly being made, but have, as yet, been defeated by the capitalistic second chambers. Switzerland, moreover, has a universal Eleven Hours Law, applying to men as well as to women, in all industries what
Austria and France also expressly limit men's labor.
THE ECONOMIC EFFECTS OF AN EIGHT HOURS DAY. Many persons oppose an Eight Hours law but profess themselves in favor of an Eight Hours Day, provided that it is secured by Trade Union action, and in the same breath declare that any compulsory diminution of working time would ruin the nation's trade. This confusion finds no support in Political Economy. Whatever may be the economic effect of a shortening of hours, it will be the same whether this shortening is enforced by Trade Union rule or by Act of Parliament.
WILL SHORTER HOURS LOWER WAGES ? No previous Factory Act has had this effect. The gas stokers know that their wages went up when they obtained the eight hours day. Wage-earners have been told often enough that when wages fall it is because two men are running after one master. When two masters are running after one man, wages rise. And in many
industries it would happen that a reduction in the hours of labor would bring into regular work men who are now either unemployed or half employed. In the United States those trades which have, in many cities, secured an Eight Hours Day, invariably gained this without any fall in wages, even for a time. In Victoria the reduction in 1856 of the hours of labor of the skilled artisans to eight per day was not accompanied by any fall in wages. The continued prosperity of the capitalist interest in this wealthy colony indicates that the Eight Hours Day has not spelt ruin.
A difficulty is sometimes felt in connection with the apparently obvious results of “piece-work.” Where workers are paid by the hour or by the piece, a diminution of hours must, it seems at first sight, diminish their earnings. But wages by the hour or by the piece really follow the same course as wages by the day. The daily earnings of an average piece-worker tend to be identical with those of an equivalent worker for day wages, in accordance with which they are in reality arranged. What a workman considers is not the rate per piece, but the total that he earns in a week. Whether wages are depressed down to the very level of subsistence, or maintained above that rate by any “ standard of comfort” to which the workers cling, it is the weekly total of the average worker which is really first determined, and the piece-work rates do but fit this sum. This, indeed, is the actual process which is followed when a new job is introduced. The foreman puts a quick worker upon it at time wages, and sees how much is done in a week. The rate per piece is then fixed so as to fit the normal weekly wage. But whereas in the case of time wages the onus of any reduction would be on the employer, in the case of piecework
wages it would be for the wage-earner to obtain an increase in the rates adequate to compensate for any falling-off in the product which the reduction of hours might cause.
There is accordingly some risk of a temporary reduction of the earnings of piece-workers if their productivity falls off. This is what happened to the Preston cotton operatives when the Ten Hours Bill became law, and to the cigar-makers in New York. But in both these cases the play of economic forces soon caused a rise in the piece-work rates.
An instructive example of the operation of this principle is the case of Brunner, Mond & Co., Limited, the large chemical manufacturers at Winnington, Cheshire,, and elsewhere. In 1890 the shifts were, at the men's request, reduced from twelve to eight hours each, and the piecework rates were increased.
The increase, however, was not sufficient to maintain the weekly wage at the former level. But within a few months an additional ten per cent. increase in wages took place, which enabled the men to earn as mucb in eight hours as they had previously done in twelve.
WILL SHORTER HOURS RUIN OUR COMMERCE ?
The capitalists and their newspapers say so; but they ignore, de they have always ignored, the industrial advantages of the improved health and increased intelligence which follow upon the enjoyment of adequate daily leisure. Seventy-five years ago our cotton mills commonly worked ninety and one hundred hours per week. By subcessive stages these hours have been brought down to fifty-six and a half. At every stage it has been conclusively “proved” by the manufacturers that the proposed new restriction of hours would deprive them of all margin of profit, would raise the price of the commodity, lower the wages of the workers, and destroy the export trade. Yet the result has over and over again shown that manufacturers and theorists alike were wrong; the hours of work have been successively reduced, without diminution of production, fall of wages, rise of prices, or slackening of trade.