Meeting of the Council
9 Albert Square, 3pm, April 3rd 1900
Present Miss Bulley Chair, Miss Ashton, Miss Higginson, Mrs. Hobhouse, Miss M. Spencer, Miss Faraday, Mr. James Johnston, Mr. Entwistle
Apologies were received from Miss Crompton, Miss Cooke, Rev. C. Peach, Mrs. Sidgwick, Mrs. Roberts.
The minutes of the last meeting were read & passed.
Miss Ashwell reported in reference to the case of the workers employed at Messrs. Bradshaw & Blacklocks. A deputation had waited on the firm on February 1st, & asked that the folders & sewers employed by the firm should receive a standing wage of 12s per week on completion of two years after apprenticeship, which was the standard wags of the district. It was further urged by the deputation that 18 girls were receiving 10s per week after having been in the employ of the firm for varying periods from 2 to 5 years after the completion of their apprenticeship, & that nine girls were receiving 11s a week after having been in the employ of the firm for from 5 to 10 years after completion of apprenticeship. Mr. Bradshaw had promised to have the facts considered, & to send word what the firm were prepared to do in regard to the workers instanced. As no answer had been received at the end of March, Miss Ashwell wrote to Mr. Bradshaw & had received a reply, stating that the firm did not see that they could do anything further in regard to the points raised by the deputation.
This refusal having been received it was felt that it would be necessary to take steps to bring that the matter before the notice of the City Council as a breach of the Fair Contracts clauses. Mr. Brocklehurst had promised to do this in the event of it proving necessary & Mr. James Johnston was asked also to take up the case & promised to do so.
Mrs. Dickenson reported as to the position in reference to the Cigar Makers' Union. The Union refused to recognise machinery & a number of the branch members in Manchester had accepted work at a factory where machines were in use, ( Co-operative) & been accordingly been turned out of the union. A meeting had been held on March 2nd, at which Mr. Cooper General Secretary of the union spoke. He said that the machine was imperfect & could only turn out very inferior cigars. The union would not recognise it. When a machine could turn out perfect cigars the union was prepared to recognise the machine, but until then it must decline to do so. Under these circumstances the girls employed at the Co-operative factory although they were doing handwork must remain outside the union. The machines were worked by young girls who had served no apprenticeship to the trade.
The Council differed from the union and took the view that it was impossible to fight against the introduction of machinery. They further considered that the twenty five members who had been dropped out of the union, ought not to have been so treated. It was felt that it would be necessary to urge the union to reconsider its action, & that in the event of remonstrance having no effect it would be necessary for the Council to withdraw all help in matters of organisation from the Manchester branch of the union.
It was suggested that further information as to the action of the union in London & the falsity or correctness of its attitude should be asked for from Miss Wilson, or Mrs. Sidney Webb. It was further resolved that this decision should stand over until more information had been secured.
Mrs. Dickenson reported that the Federation of Women Workers held its annual meeting on March 20th, at the Rigby Memorial Schools, Navigation Road, Broad Heath. There was a good attendance - Mr. Entwistle, Mr. Preston, Mrs. Dickenson, & Miss Ashwell were the speakers. The Federation voted a grant of £10 towards the funds of the Council. A vote of thanks to the Federation was moved & seconded & carried.
Miss Ashwell then said that the Manchester branch of the National Union of Shop Assistants had asked to be allowed to hire the Council’s office for weekly meetings. The Executive Committee had authorised Miss Ashwell to make the necessary arrangements suggesting £1 per quarter as the charge for the use of the room. The Manchester branch of the Shop Assistants Union had accepted the terms, & desired to thank the Council for allowing them to hire the room at a reasonable rental.
Mrs. Dickenson then said that Mr. Hymie of the Amalgamated Society of Tailors had asked her to keep in the organisation of some tailoresses employed at Bury. She wished to know whether the Council would consider Bury outside their area of work. It was resolved that it lay within the area, & Mrs. Dickenson was authorised to cooperate with Mr. Hymie. She further said that difficulty had been experienced in finding a suitable meeting room for the women members of the Tailors Union in Manchester, that they wished to use the Councils office for which they would pay at the same rate as the Shop Assistants.
Mr. Johnston moved & Miss Ashton seconded that the women members of the Tailors Union in Manchester be allowed to use the Council’s office. Carried.
Miss Bulley stated that the meetings of Council had been specially summoned to consider the Factory & Workshops bill of Sir Matthew White Ridley & Mr. Jesse Collings. The Council had been asked to endorse a memorandum containing objections to the bill which had been issued by the Women’s industrial Council, the Glasgow Council of Women’s Trades, & the Industrial Committee of the National Union of Women Workers.
The memorandum was as follows:-
“The above societies having had under careful consideration the bill to amend the Factory & Workshops Acts brought in by the Home Secretary and having gathered from various parts of the country the opinions of many employers, employees & other persons experienced in Labour matters, desire to call the attention of members of the House of Commons to different ways in which it is felt that the proposed measure would be prejudicial to the interests of the workers in general, & of the women workers in particular.
“The bill contains certain useful amendments of the law & many glaring defects. Apart from questions of detail, the measure is open to the following criticisms.
- It presents an endorsement upon the legislative functions of Parliament by reason of the extensive power of the initiative conferred upon the Home Secretary. The authority given to that Minister under Section 65 of the principal act has been extended to a dangerous degree & is in various important directions, absolutely unfettered.
- By introducing a longer working day a retrograde principle is established running counter to the whole trend of Factory Legislation.
- It adds to the chaos of existing law a further enactment, thus rendering it impossible for anyone but an expert to know what the law really is.
“Attention is specially directed to the following particulars.
“Regulations for Dangerous Trades.
- Sections 1-11. In any dispute or under these clauses there are three parties concerned - the Secretary of State, the employer & the worker. Hitherto two of these parties, the Secretary of State & the employer have each appointed an arbitrator, such arbitrators having power to appoint an umpire. The law was thus always faulty in leaving out one party - the workers: this Bill now proposed to give to the Secretary of State alone power to appoint a referee. It is desirable that the workers as such (& the employers also) should have a voice in the appointment of the referee. The workers should at the very least retain the powers of represensation at present granted to them under Section 12 of the Act of 1895. Under the present Bill (see Schedule Part II) though workers can send in objections (Section 3) there is no provision by which if they approve the Secretary of State’s proposed regulations, they can appear in order to defend them against any objections which may be made by employers & adopted by the referee. We also think it objectionable to place in the hands of one man, the referee the power to impose on objectors an unspecified fine.(Section 52)
“Double Eight Hours’ Shift for Women & Young Persons
Section 17. The advantages which would result from a further general reduction in the hours of labour would not result from restricting that of women & young persons only to two eight hour shifts. The economy to manufacturers of being able to run their machines for a longer stretch would be dearly bought if the workers engaged were to lose in earnings, in comfort, or in personal character. It is desirable in the interests of the whole community that women workers should be able to earn a fair wage, to enjoy good conditions of work & should have opportunities for recreation, education, & family life. Section 17 would militate against these conditions in the following - amongst other - ways.
“Conditions of Work
- Hours. To begin work as early as six o’clock in the morning is not convenient for women in general. The inconvenience to those who have family duties is obvious, and would not be at atoned for by having the afternoon hours free.
The dislocation of family life in general & of meal times in particular in households containing two or three members employed at different hours - and a daughter wanting meals at 5.30 a.m. & 2.30pm., the mother at 1.30 & at 10.30 pm., & the father as at present at 6.30am & 6pm.,-would involve ceaseless discomfort. Practically the family ties would be loosened.
“Again, to leave work as late as 10 o’clock in the evening, while never desirable, is not perhaps absolutely dangerous in large towns, but in the country where unlighted roads are quite solitary after 9pm, it is fraught with great perils. The beneficial tendency for town workers to live outside the towns would be also checked by these early & late hours. The free Saturday afternoon would apparently be lost to half of the workers: while the early rising of the first shift & the late working of the second shift would practically debar women & young persons from attendance at classes & clubs, & from their chief opportunities of social intercourse. Hitherto the women’s legally fixed working day has tended in many trades to become the unit of the man’s working day: but under this section in trades where men are not thoroughly organised for protective purposes, & where their work is interdependent with that of the women, there would be a tendency to make the men’s working day extend from 6am to 10 PM.
- Sanitation. The sufficient airing & ventilation of work places would be rendered difficult. Half an hour’s break is indeed allowed at the fourth & again at the twelth hour, but during the intermediate 8 hours it does not appear that the room will ever be left empty. The lengthened evening hours would involve much more working by artificial light. The existing law - presumably taking into consideration the use of gas and and the vitiation of the air after a day’s work - allows during overtime only a lessened number of workers to a given space. If this very necessary precaution were retained the value of the second shift would be much diminished. Half an hour for the meal is inadequate & would be practically impossible for any worker either to go home or to heat food on the spot. Food must either be bought ready prepared - which is costly, or always eaten cold. It may be remarked In passing that even these half hours are not allowed for in the limits of hours named. To work two shifts of 8 hours with two half hours for meals requires seventeen hours & would bring the day to close at 11 pm instead of 10. To take the half hours out of the 16 hours named would reduce each shift from 8 hours to seven & a half. Where - as in the case in many processes - the work of men & that of women depends each on the other, the non coincidence of meal times is likely to cause serious inconvenience & lost or time.
“Wages. Though experience shows that the establishment of an 8 hours day does not necessarily involve a reduction of wages, yet it is difficult to suppose, that under the system which would be introduced by this clause, women’s wages would not both positively & relatively decrease. The effect of the clause is not to make the normal working day one of 8 hours, but to divide it for one group of workers into two shifts of 8 hours each. Speaking generally one of the greatest causes of the general insufficiency of the woman worker is her tendency to look upon all industrial employment as supplementary & casual. The setting of a distinctly different set of hours for men & women and for different groups of women, in the same trade can hardly fail to accentuate this lamentable tendency, with all the workers - men in the same factory, and men and women in other factories which have not adopted this clause - workers for longer periods, the eight hour workers would consider themselves as only half timers, and it would be impossible for them even where well organised to maintain their standard of wages. Moreover the double shift would not really shorten the women’s hours of work, because they would either take up casual outside work or homework from some other factory, or might even as the Bill at present stands, put in a second shift at another factory; & this again would lead to the lowering of the standard of wages.
“Difficulties of Enforcement of the Provisions.
The safeguards provided in the bill against the same workers working the double shift are ineffective, and experience has shown in the old relay system, which was abolished 50 years ago, that no effective safeguard can be devised against evasion of the two shift system. How can an inspector detect the fraud if a woman, with the connivance of her employer, chooses to work a morning shift under one name & an afternoon shift under another? The difficulty of the Inspector is increased by the fact that the hours of the two shifts not being specified, there is no provision against overlapping shifts, in which it would be quite impossible to check the hours of each worker. Indeed the absence of any time for meals suggests that this overlapping equally fatal to inspection & to ventilation is actually intended.
Section 12, Section 27, Subsection 2, Section 30.
It is to be regretted that no serious attempt is made to deal with the Sanitary & other evils attaching to Homework. The extension of the list to all outworkers while being a step in the right direction is practically useless unless power is definitively given to the Factory Inspectors to visit the outworkers concerned & at least to put in force the existing provisions of the Public Health Acts.
8. 33. 34 & 36
We deeply regret to see the retrograde tendency in the matter of overtime exhibited in these sections. Even Sunday labour is proposed for the first time in a British Factory Act. The powers of exemption given to Crown factories by section 93 of the principal Act were always objectionable & their extension to other factories & workshops would be liable to much abuse. Surely the government as an employer of labour should set the example of strictly observing the law, not of suggesting by its Acts that the law is too exacting to be observed.
Section 21. No regulation of laundries will be satisfactory which does not recognise the fact of the transformation which this trade has undergone & is undergoing, & which does not, by specifying the limits of the working day, bring the laundry workers into line with other workers under the Factory & Workshops Acts. Moreover under this section given the present safeguards, both sanitary & with regard to hours, may be almost entirely taken away at the discretion of the Secretary of State.
Section 29. The annual return ordered by Section 34 of the Act of 1895 was a very small restatement of those statistical records of industry, which might be so inestimably valuable both commercially & historically & in which Great Britain so conspicuously lags behind other civilised countries. The value of this return would be entirely nullified by its being taken irregularly & at long intervals.”
The opinion was expressed by several members of the Council that the opposition to the bill raised by the memorandum was not sufficiently strong especially in regard to the double shift clause, & the extension of the Home Secretary’s power of initiative. It was resolved to endorse a memorandum, to add to it a further memorandum embodying the views of the M. S.& D. Women’s Trade Union Council, and to send them both around the Lancashire Members of Parliament.
The additional memorandum sent out was as follows:-
“The Manchester Salford and District Women’s Trades Union Council have endorsed the enclosed memorandum with which they are in general agreement, but they wish to express in stronger terms they disapproval of certain sections in the Governments Bill.
“Section 17. Owing to the overlapping of the shifts, the two shift system must prove unworkable unless at the expense of the proper administration of the Act. In the case of workshops it will be absolutely impossible for H. M. Factory Inspector to ascertain which women belong to the earlier & which to the later shift. Whether the processes are carried on altogether by machine work; the Act must prove unworkable except by the adoption of a shorter shift than 8 hours. This would lead to a serious fall in women’s wages, as women in this district are paid almost entirely by piece-work.
“The Council regards the dislocation of household arrangements involved in the altered meal times as a serious injury to the homes affected and a blow to working class progress in general. The tendency of legislation so far has been to unify hours for all workers and to focus them within a narrower working day. Anything which tends to lessen this concentration and extend the working day as a whole lowers the standard of home life, by separating the members of the family, and renders proper domestic arrangements more difficult.
“2. The power given to the Home Secretary is enormous, and is unparalleled in modern legislation.
“He may granted exceptions at his own discretion in “any class of non textile factories” which to meal hours & continuous employment; the special exemptions for emergency processes in fruit preserving, fish curing and condensing milk are withdrawn, and he may arrange the beginning & ending of the womens & young persons employment as he chooses. ( Clause 36 is written in the margin)
“Finally the regulation of laundries is placed entirely in the hands of the Home Secretary, who may apply “the provisions of the Factory Acts or any of their” subject to an ambiguously worded stipulation as to the weekly period of employment. (Clause 33 is written in the margin.)
“It is highly undesirable that so much power should be placed in the hands of a single individual, and the Council hopes that you will use your utmost endeavours to prevent clauses which would have so mischievious an effect upon the conditions of women’s labour from passing into law.”