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pay herself, and yet this is so small that long hours of work barely sustain life in herself and her children.
The enquiry thus changed its character from an enquiry into the “Sweating System” to an enquiry into those industries into which, or into some branches of which, sweating enters largely; sweating being defined as labour carried on for excessively long hours, for very low wages, and under insanitary conditions. Such trades were found to be very numerous.
In the lower branches of the Tailoring-trades women were found to be working in slop-shops from 8 a.m. to 10 or 11 p.m., for from a 1s. to 1s. 6d. a day. “The very lowest layer of the coat trade, that work done by women and men at their own houses, really does not pay the contractor to take it out," said Miss Potter. In trouser-finishing women toil, as we have seen, for the whole week for 48. or 5s.
The Shirt-trade is another of the sweated industries. Women are paid 28. 6d. a dozen for making shirts. They can with difficulty finish a dozen in a day and a half, giving some 78. 6d. or 8s. for a week of “ceaseless toil.” For “making” shirts with 7 button holes, 1.6., for all the work except the machining, women are now receiving d. each, earning 3d. a day on an average.
Work is done in the Cabinet-making trade by men who buy their own materials, and put their own labour into them, selling the finished article at the end of the week to the dealers for whatever they can get. These men work “all the hours that God gives them,” as one of them phrased it, in small and unhealthy workshops, and do not often earn more than from 158. to 168. a week.
The hard conditions under which the Chain-makers of Cradley Heath earn a mere subsistence, were widely known in 1890, when women from the district came to give evidence before the Lords' Committee. They and the Nail-makers of Halesowen and the neighbourhood are sweated to a degree which it seems impossible to exceed. When women do heavier work than the ordinary blacksmith for hours, which are limited only by their physical endurance, earning thereby 1s. a day or even less—men earning but 3s., when they work huge hammers called “Olivers," which often require the combined strength of a man and woman to move, and after all their toil are defrauded in the weight of their product, and the quality of the material supplied them, it seems as if the force of sweating could no further go!
And yet in the matter of wages the women employed in the Nottingham Hosiery-trades are worse off. They can barely earn more than from 38. to 38. 6d. a week, so that they are often partly dependent upon parish relief, and "even this wretched wage is often paid in goods from the middleman's shop, just as if the Truck Act had never been passed.”
The earnings in the Lace-trade, in the same district, are said to be 1fd. an hour or less.
Sweating also prevails in the Cutlery and File-Cutting trades of Sheffield, which are still in the stage of the small master and the domestic workshop.
Long hours are habitually worked in the Dressmakingtrades, and these are always liable to be suddenly lengthened by orders coming in to be executed at short notice. “Weddings and funerals," writes Miss E. March. Phillips, “are made occasions for excessive hours. A country dressmaker excused the employment of young girls from 7 a.m. one day to 8 p.m. the next. "Miss was going to get married. What could I do?!" When
one remembers that these long hours are worked by young girls in close and ill-ventilated rooms, the air in which is rendered still more noxious by gas, one can realise the damage to health which must ensue. “A few days of high pressure will permanently injure a child's health,” we are told. In addition to this the wages paid are often very low, beginners and “ apprentices” getting little or nothing, so that many girls are either partly supported by their relatives, or supplement their wages by prostitution.
Work in the Fur-trade is generally carried on in small workshops, sub-contracting of the worst kind prevails, and wages are so low, that 48. a week represents a common wage for women, and men rarely earn more than 128.
Even the recently developed Bicycle-manufacture is not free from the taint of sweating. Girls employed in tyre-making only get 8s. for working the usual factory hours, so that it may take the whole year's work of one of these women to earn the amount which the fashionable lady spends on her bicycle.
In the Mantle-making, Stick and Umbrella -making, Sack and Rope-making, Envelope-making, Ostrich-Feather making, in the Brush -making, Tinware-trade, and in a number of other minor industries, sweating is rampant. It is in such trades as these, where the work is mostly carried on in houses or small workshops in which good sanitary conditions do not exist, and where, whether under middlemen or “sweaters" or without them, men and women work for wearisome hours for a wage which is insufficient to maintain them in health and strength, that what is technically known as "sweating" is found.
SWEATING IN THE WIDER SENSE. But there are numbers of workers employed in the transport and distributive industries who toil under conditions which fulfil one or more of the requirements of “sweating.” Paid well, they may work in “dangerous trades" or in unhealthy surroundings, or in healthy employments they may be overworked, or may receive excessively low wages, or both abuses may be combined. In this wider sense we may safely say that a very large proportion of the workers in this and every other civilised country are sweated. Taking a 'bus to catch the last train from one of the London termini a few nights ago, I asked the conductor of Metropolitan Stage Carriage No. — whether I might expect the 'bus to keep its time? “Yes," he replied, “this is our last journey, and both the driver and I are anxious to get home.” In answer to further enquiries, he went on to say: “I get home about halfpast twelve, and if the missus has got anything warm to eat I have a little supper, that is, if I am not too tired to eat it, and then I get to bed, about one o'clock. I am on the 'bus again at eight o'clock in the morning. Yes! I feel tired now after standing all day, but I feel more tired in the morning; you see, six hours' sleep of a night is not enough for a man. Does standing hurt me? Well, I am a strong man, except my throat is a bit delicate ; but some of our men get soft leg (varicose veins) through standing, and then they sometimes make them timekeepers ; many men get paralysis, and that's far worse. I get 358. for a week of seven days, about 4d. an hour. Sundays off ? No, indeed! I work twenty-three days out of every twenty-four.”
Cases of overwork still occur among the great numbers
of men employed as guards, engine-drivers and firemen, and signalmen on the railways, and the work done by freightmen and shunters is very trying and dangerous. Though several inventions have been patented for coupling trucks without danger to the men, and even for automatic coupling, the companies still prefer to maim and slaughter a large number of their employees every year to incurring the expense of altering the arrangement for coupling their trucks. They do not, apparently, even consider the matter when ordering new trucks.
It is almost unnecessary to refer to the hard conditions of life and the overwork to the verge of exhaustion for small pay which is the lot of the vast number of men who work our mercantile marine. Continuous work during a voyage is their recognised lot. It is a joke among sailors that the fourth commandment is superseded for them by one which runs,
“Six days thou shalt labour
And do all that thou art able,
And clean the cable." A vivid picture of the life of the firemen on board our splendid ocean steamers is given in the following letter to the Daily Chronicle, May 25th, 1896, entitled,
“THE MOLOCH OF OCEAN SPEED. “Sir,-Having just stepped off a great liner, and having made some efforts during my passage to find out something of the conditions under which stokers live on board these floating palaces, I have been much interested in the paragraph of your issue of April 17th on the abnormal number of suicides among men of that class.
“My interest in the subject dates from a previous voyage, when the chief engineer took me down to see the workings of the vessel. We stood as near as we could to the door of the