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Private markets exist also at Braintree (Essex), Luton (Beds.), where the charges are excessive, Worksop (Notts.), and other places. Even where the markets are owned by the local authority, they are often regarded as sources of income by which to ease the rates. London suffers from the scandalously inadequate accommodation of the Borough Market, although this belongs to the parish of St. Saviour, and yields a net annual income. The market at St. Alban's (Herts.), is full of abuses. Excessive charges are levied at Huddersfield, Barnsley, and Hull, at Darlington, at Walsall, at Norwich, and, above all, at the Billingsgate Fish Market, in London.
Some enthusiastic Free Traders may think that the existing abuses can be dealt with by simply sweeping away the whole bundle of market rights, and leaving each man to buy and sell as he pleases, where he pleases, without let or hindrance. But it is impossible to maintain this view. Besides market rights, there have to be considered market duties. The owner of a market ought, in fact, to perform important public functions. Accommodation for the assemblage of buyers and sellers has to be provided; adequate water supply, conveniences for weighing, means of lighting and cleansing must necessarily all be matters of collective, not individual provision. The old " Court of Pie Powder" (i.l., " pieds poudrés," wayfarers) of the mediæval fair, finds its modern analogue in the market police. The very existence of a market creates, too, possibilities of profitable local monopolies, which, if not seized for the public, become the prey of the local landlord. Clearly, it is no case for the anarchy of individualism. Accordingly, the Royal Commission on Markets decided unanimously against the abolition of market rights, and they declared, with equal unanimity, that these should always belong to the elected local authority, who should have no power to alienate them, and whose charges and regulations should, for the protection of the public, be subject to revision by the Local Government Board. Private property in markets ought, like private property in mints, courts of justice, post offices, telegraphs, public offices, pocket boroughs, votes, army commissions, and so many other things, finally to cease out of the land.
What London needs is the creation of a central Market Authority, charged with the erection, supervision and control of suitable markets wherever wanted. The County Council appears to be the authority best suited for this work. The sectional jealousies and private interests which hinder the growth of local fish markets, stop the enlargement of the Borough Market, cramp Covent Garden, and obstruct the creation of new East End markets, must be merged in one broad, central control.
No tax on London's food supply should be permitted, market dues should be leviable only by the public market authorities, and be limited strictly to the amount necessary for market expenses. Concentration in wholesale markets needs to be supplemented by local distribution of retail markets. The huge metropolis requires not only good central, but also abundant local, distributing agencies.
Insist that the County Council be made the market authority for the whole metropolis, empowered to take over all existing markets on payment of the bare value of the land and buildings, and authorised to establish new markets wherever needed.
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N Sabour Wolicy for
Working-men are now, through the Town or County Councillors, or Members of Parliament, elected by their votes, the employers of many thousands of their fellow working-men. If the Post Office servants are made to toil at inconvenient hours for low wages, without liberty of combination, this is largely due to the fact that working class electors all over the country do not take the trouble to protest against this scandal. Dishonest employers and “rat” firms still receive many public contracts because working-men are often the worst employers of working-men. But at last it is possible really to make a move for reform in these matters.
The chief points of a good municipal policy on labour questions (in the narrower sense) are given in the following pages. No trade unionist or wage-earning elector should vote for any candidate who is not sound on these points. Every trades council, every trade union executive or branch, would do well to insist on explicit answers on the subject from every candidate.*
Proper Treatment of Labour.
This would give a powerful impetus to the general movement for shorter hours. Town and County Councils must set a good example to other employers. (6.) Payment of not less than trade union wages for each
The servants of the public may often need protection against the public, as in the Post Office.
(d.) One day's rest in seven and sufficient holidays.
The public service must often be kept going on Sundays as well as on week days, but we must teach railway and tramway directors and other employers that this does not necessarily involve a seven days' week.
(e.) Prohibition of overtime except in unexpected emergencies,
Shortening hours is not of much use unless overtime is put down. At present the Post Office, Customs, and Inland Revenue work much overtime.
* Convenient" Questions,” to be put to candidates for Parliament, Town or County Councils, Boards of Guardians, London Vestries, and the London County Council are contained in Fabian Tracts, Nos. 24, 27, 28, 20, 21, and 26.
Contracting and sub-contracting inevitably lead to sweating. To maintain all along the line the rate of the standard wage, we must stop even the slightest breach, and this can only be done by the publicity of direct payment of wages to workmen by the Council itself. Every public body ought to do its own manufacturing as far as possible. One town might even make things for another, so as to ensure economy and regularity of work in the branch that each undertook. The War Office already has its own factory of soldiers' uniforms; the Admiralty its own mills for the sailors' biscuits ; Manchester Town Council its own gas works, Bristol Town Council its own docks, Huddersfield Town Council its own tramways, Nottingham Town Council its own artizans' dwellings. Even the St. Pancras Vestry is laying down its own electric lighting works, Why should not the London County Council set up a factory and make all the police and park-keepers' uniforms, and the other clothing that it purchases ?
Fair Wages Clause in all Contracts that cannot be Avoided.
In 1888 the London Society of Compositors managed to get one of their members elected to the London School Board. With the help of the Socialist members of the Board he secured the adoption of a resolution in accordance with which all firms sending tenders for work are obliged to declare that they, "pay not less than the standard rate of wages in each branch of their trade,” and the following clause is now inserted in every contract for printing, viz. :
• The contractors shall not assign over or underlet this “contract or any portion thereof. If the contractors assign or
underlet, or attempt to assign or underlet any portion of the contract, or if they become bankrupt] the Board shall have power to determine this contract immediately."
The London County Council followed suit, and passed resolutions, which enact that:
Any person or firm tendering for a contract with the Council " shall be required to make a declaration that they pay such rate "of wages and observe such hours of labour as are generally
accepted as fair in their trade; and, in the event of any charges “to the contrary being established against them, their contract s shall not be accepted.” In his tender, the Contractor is bound to insert an undertaking to pay the rates of wages, and to observe the hours of labour above specified; and in building contracts the Contractor is bound under a penalty of £ 500 “ which shall be deemed liquidated or ascertained damages,” “not to assign or make over the contract to any other person nor to underlet it, nor to make a sub-contract with any workman or workmen for the execution of any part of the cast iron, wrought iron, or any other metal work, timber, brick work, concrete, ground work, masonry, or any other work appertaining to this contract, but to employ his own workmen for the labour thereof, who are to be paid by him in wages by the day."
This policy has been found to be of great public advantage, and, on May 27th, 1892, the London County Council passed a more stringent resolution, expressly recognising the Trade Union rate. This resolution was as follows :—“ That all contractors be compelled to sign a declaration that they pay the Trades Union rates of wages and observe the hours of labour and conditions recognised by the Trades Unions in the place or places where the contract is executed, and that the hours and wages be inserted in and form part of the contract by way of schedule, and that penalties be enforced for any breach of agreement." A Special Committee was appointed to report upon the best means of carrying this resolution into effect.
Other public bodies, notably the Town Councils of Birmingham, Bristol, Hull, Manchester, Salford, Nottingham, Leicester and Sheffield have adopted resolutions on the subject. Many of the Metropolitan Vestries and District Boards have accepted the principle, and up and down the country numerous School Boards, Local Boards, Boards of Guardians and other public bodies have done the same thing. Moreover, even the House of Commons has adopted the same policy, and, on the motion of Mr. Sydney Buxton, it passed, on the 13th of February, 1891, the following resolution :-" That, in the opinion of this House, it is the duty of the Government in all Government contracts to make provision against the evils recently disclosed before the Sweating Committee, to insert such conditions as may prevent the abuse arising from sub-letting, and to make every effort to secure the payment of such wages as are generally accepted as current in each trade for competent workmen.'
This has been the greatest blow that has been struck at “unfair” employers that English trade union annals record. But unless working-men see that candidates are thoroughly in earnest in maintaining this result, it will soon all be lost. The resolutions may not be rescinded, but constant vigilance is necessary to prevent them becoming a dead letter.
A Trades Hall. But public bodies might go further to promote the organisation of the workers, and to facilitate the protection afforded by Trade Unions. At present these have no meeting place, no local rallying point, no effective centre of communication. The Paris Municipal Council has built, and now maintains out of public funds, a large labour exchange under a committee of trade unionists. Here Trade Unionists can have accommodation for executive, branch, or general meetings free of expense; here they may maintain their offices and secretaries rent free; here they can establish their own library; here, at last, they are free from the obligation of resorting to the public-house as the only available meeting place.
Melbourne, in Victoria, has also its Trades Hall. Edinburgh may soon have one provided by private generosity. But could there be a better use of public buildings, provided at the cost of the community, than to afford accommodation for such an essentially public institution as the Trades Council ? This has been recognised in Nottingham, where the Mayor grants the