Meeting of Council, June 16th, 1896
8 p.m. Room 3. Floor 3. 9 Albert Square.
Present Chair Mrs. W J. Arnold proposed Mrs. Schwann, seconded Mr. Horsman
Mrs. Schwann, Mr. Horsman, Professor Weiss, Mr. Berkley, Miss Weiss, Miss Wilson, Miss Fallows, Miss Cooke, Mrs. Millington, Mrs. Redford, Mr. F. Brocklehurst
Letters of apology for inability to attend were received from Mrs. Lyttleton, Mr. C. E. Schwann, Miss Bulley, Miss Cox, Miss Bamford, Mrs. Eckhart, Miss Gaskell, Mrs. Mumford, Rev. F Dormer Pierce.
The minutes of the Council meeting held on March 31st were read & passed.
The minutes of the Executive Committee held on May 12th were read & passed on the motion of Mr. Horsman seconded by Mrs. Schwann (only members of the Executive Committee voting). This was done because the Executive Committee which should have met half an hour before the Council had not been able to do so, because it could not get a quorum.
It was reported that Mr. Dickson had resigned from the Executive Committee because of inability to attend the meetings. His resignation was accepted & Miss Ashwell was authorised to ask Mr. Hamilton of the Bookbinders Society, if he would be able to fill the vacancy.
Miss Welsh then reported as to the work which had been done in forming the union of women employed in the Bookbinding & Printing Trades. This organisation was now duly constituted, with officers of the its own, & was meeting regularly each week. It had a membership of 83 women. Great help had been given by the Book Binders Union (men) who were circulating a special appeal to all women to join the Union, & using their influence. A difficulty had been experienced at the outset by the attempt to introduce piece work at low rates of payment, but it had been partially overcome.
The hour & dates of the next Council meeting were then discussed.
Mrs. Millington moved, Miss Weiss seconded that the next Council meeting be held on September 29th at 8 o’ clock pm. This was carried.
The attention of the meeting was drawn to the need of increased subscriptions to carry on the work of the Council.
Miss Ashwell then reported as to the work which had been done in organising the laundresses. Three meetings had been held
May 11th attendance of 30 women
“ 18th “ “ 4 women
June 15th “ “ 6 women
Twelve laundresses were now paying members of the Federation of Women Workers, & it was thought that more would join. The chief grievance of laundry workers was, irregular & late hours, inadequate meal times, & in some cases defective sanitary arrangements. The majority of women objected to late work on Saturdays but found themselves often obliged to continue working till 7, 8, 9 or 10 o’ clock at night in the existing state of the law, which permits a laundry proprietor to fix the hours of work himself, & to vary them on different days of the week, thus leaving it open to him to shorten the hours of work on Monday & require late work up to the 60 hours per week limit on Fridays & Saturdays. The Longsight Laundry, Stockport Rd, one or two often large laundries did not avail themselves of this liberty but had fixed hours for the commencement & conclusion of work which were as rigidly enforced as in a textile factory, but large numbers of small & medium sized laundries worked excessive hours still, which could not be traced by a factory inspector at all satisfactorily, since the proprietor was allowed to fill in the statement of hours for different workers on the abstract himself & he could not be checked practically if he chose to make inaccurate statements to save himself a breach of law, the women were seldom courageous enough to give evidence against him much as they might desire reasonable hours for fear of being sent away from the laundry. In one instance where defects had been reported to the Sanitary Inspector, improvements had been made, but the woman who gave the information & also her daughter had been turned away from the laundry. ( written in margin “Devonshire Laundry, Upper Brook Street”)
The wages of ??? seem to be good & to range from 13s – 25s, the wages of washers were much lower, sometimes as low as 8s per week. In some laundries the piece-work system prevailed, in others the standing –wage system & in some laundries certain kinds of work were paid by piece-work rates & others by standing wages. This of necessity tended to create a division of interest among the women, as to the regulation of working hours.
Miss. Wilson expressed the opinion that members of Council should have the information as to laundries for personal guidance-
Mr. Brocklehurst proposed & Mr. Beckley seconded that Miss Ashwell should be empowered to draw up a list of fair dealing laundries.
This was carried unanimously.
A discussion then took place as to the desirability of leaving unions started by the Council’s organisers to do their own work, & manage their own affairs. It was explained that one of the greatest difficulties which the organisers had to meet was the finding of a suitable woman for the secretarial work. With the Umbrella Coverers & the Folders & Sewers they had not been very successful in this matter, & Miss Welsh accordingly acted as Secretary to these societies & no effort was being spared to find suitable members for the work. These unions chose their own committees presidents & officers, were urged to conduct their own business & did so. It was also desired that unions using the office of the Council as a meeting room, should pay a small sum for use of the it, after the initial stages. Mrs. Millington, President Folders & Sewers said that this union would be glad to do so. Miss Welsh explained that the Umbrella Coverers had been paying for a room at the Duke of Albany Coffee Tavern Oldham St in the winter.
It was desired that the fair list in different trades, tailoring, printing should be provided, in sufficient numbers it possible to send to all members of Council.
The question of Mr.MacGuffie who had shirts made by homeworkers which he sold in 13 retail shops in Manchester, Liverpool, Oldham & Bolton, using a label given several years since by the Federation of Women Workers next came up. The price paid for these shirts was 4s per dozen, but this included buttonholing & finishing. Miss Welsh explained that the women were not altogether satisfied, as the shirts took longer to do than those of other firms. Mr. MacGuffie did not employ the usual number of cutters, & the work required more cutting out after the worker had received it.
Miss Ashwell asked the Council to recommend the Shirt-Makers & Cutters Society to investigate the matter & deal with it. Miss Fallows Sec. of Shirt-Makers & Cutters Society, said that the society desired to deal with the matter, & wished for the aid of the Council’s organisers.
Miss Ashwell & Miss Welsh were empowered to deal with the matter.
The letter from Mr C. E . Schwann M.P. was read, in which he drew attention to the report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Factories & Workshops, showing how much yet remained to be done to lessen the risks to the life & health of the workers by greater attention to suitable sanitary arrangements & to mechanical contrivances for preventing the noxious effects of ingredients used in dangerous & deleterious trades, such as water proofing in the india-rubber trade.
Sept 29th/96 M.K. Lyttleton