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men, women, and even little children, who often worked under the most degrading conditions and in the most horrible and insanitary surroundings. “Freedom of Contract” was not then interfered with, and laissez-faire was the motto of the Government, excepting when the working classes ventured to meet and discuss their almost intolerable wrongs, or to combine to better their condition, when they were mercilessly suppressed. But in 1802 the first timid attempt was made by the State to protect little children from the horrible sufferings of overwork, and from that time onward a series of Acts have been passed for the protection of women and children, and the regulation of hours of labour in factories and workshops, culminating in Mr. Asquith’s Act of last year. By this Act protection has been extended to young persons, and, in some degree, to women working in laundries where sweating had formerly prevailed. Outwork has at last been forbidden for children, and for any women and young persons who are employed both before and after the dinner hour. Registration of workshops has been made compulsory. More stringent regulations have been made as to sanitation, and henceforth 250 cubic feet of space (400 during overtime) must be allowed for each worker, to prevent overcrowding. What is now required is the further extension and development of this legislation, and the enforcement of the Acts by an adequate staff of competent inspectors with power to levy penalties for the infraction of the law. Work taken home by women to be finished at night, after long hours of toil at the workshop or factory, has been one of the most common and most oppressive forms of sweating. The following incident will show how a resolute enforcement of the Act would eradicate this form of oppression.
" "In a London workshop some half-dozen girls were employed in making certain articles of apparel. They were paid on a piece-work scale, and constantly received a considerable quantity of work to take home at night, which they were to bring back finished in the morning. The latest Factory Act has, since the beginning of this year, declared that practice illegal, and the circumstances coming to the knowledge of the Women's In. dustrial Council, the Factory Inspector was communicated with. An inspector called on the employer and informed him that the practice was illegal. The employer drew up a statement for signature by each employee, declaring that the work was taken home to be done not by herself but by her relatives. The Council again informed the inspector. The inspector visited again, and arrived just as the girls were going home at night with work. What the inspector said to the employer on this occasion is of course unknown to the Council, but the practice of carrying home work was stopped at once. The girls working now only the legal hours found their wages much diminished, and went to the employer to complain that they could no longer live on what they earned. The employer raised their wages. in a proportion that seems to be from 40 to 50 per cent. He also engaged six now workers in order to get the work done which had previously been done at home, and is enlarging his work-place to accommodate them."
THE REFORMS Most URGENTLY NEEDED. 1. The employer should be made responsible for the condition of the places to which he sends his outwork, and should be subject to a penalty if it is performed in insanitary places or by sweated workpeople; or, better
still, as was suggested to the Labour Commission by Mr. Inskip, the employer should be compelled “ to find healthy and convenient workshops for all working at trades that are done indoors."
2. The landlord should be held responsible for the condition of any house or part of a house in which any process of manufacture is carried on. Miss Potter (Mrs. Sidney Webb), in her examination before the Committee on Sweating, said that the landlord should be "responsible for giving notice to the Factory Department that such-and such a manufacture is being carried on, and then he becomes liable by that notice to certain penalties, supposing certain sanitary conditions are not carried out." “I would rather make him liable to the penalty," she added, “than have the inspector come down and tell him 'this ought to be put right and that ought to be put right,' because he never does it; but if he is liable to a penalty his rent collector takes pretty good care that nothing is going on that is wrong." By these means it might be possible to secure that, if out-work continued, it was at least performed under tolerable conditions ; but they would undoubtedly tend to the abolition both of out-work and of the small workshop, and would hasten the growth of large factories, which could be dealt with in a more satisfactory manner.
3. The passing of an Eight Hours Bill would do much to render sweating impossible, especially sweating in the wider sense, in the lighter trades, and in the transport industries.
4. But not only should eight hours be the legal working day, but overtime, unless in very exceptional cases, should be abolished. Mr. Lakeman insisted above all things upon the abolition of overtime. He told the Lords' Com
mittee: “I would allow no overtime to be worked in the kingdom by any trade if I had my way. If overtime were done away with sudden demands would need more hands and larger factories and machinery;” and in his last report before his retirement he reiterated the same opinion: “As I said to the Lords' Committee, so I repeat here, that overtime is an evil, socially, morally and commercially.” It has been objected that in seasonal trades and such trades as millinery and dressmaking, where orders come in suddenly, it would be impossible to prevent working overtime. The answer to this lies in the fact that if overtime were forbidden by law it would apply equally to all engaged in the particular trade, and the result would be that the customers would merely be compelled to give their orders for goods or make their purchases in advance. Inspector Cramp, as the result of his experience, declares : “There is no necessity for this overtime; the season trade work and the press of orders would be executed just the same if it were illegal, and only mean the employment of more hands.” Long hours of regular work and sudden stretches of overtime are found in the same trades, whereas those trades in which only the hours allowed to women by the Factory Acts are worked—such as the textile industries—are free from these rushes. “In 1893, before the Royal Marriage, large orders were received for fabrics in special patterns. The textile trade, which had both to design and weave these, succeeded by dint of organisation in putting these goods on the market within the time required without working an hour extra, while the dressmakers who made up the stuff sent in a special appeal for extension of hours."'i
1 Miss E M. Phillips, Fortrightly Reriew, May, 1895.
5. Shop assistants as well as operatives would benefit by the amendment and enforcement of the Truck Act, rendering all fines, other than those of a strictly disciplinary nature, entirely illegal and subjecting the master who should impose such fines to a penalty.
6. The Employers Liability Act should be made more stringent, and no contracting out allowed under any pretence whatever.
7. The Factory Acts should be amended so that their provisions should apply to men, as well as to women and young persons, and the protection which they afford to the operative should be extended to other workers.
8. The Acts for the protection of labour should be consolidated into one new Act, and all previous Acts repealed; and, above all, the enforcement of the Acts should be made really effective. “In England," said Victor Hugo, “they venerate so many laws that they never repeal any. They save themselves from the consequences of their veneration by never putting any of them into execution.” The history of the Factory Acts goes far to justify the gibe of the great Frenchman. Though the first Factory Act was passed in 1802, no effort was made to enforce either it or the three following Acts. It was not till 1833 that any serious attempt was made to enforce the law. The inspectors were, however, so few in number and so hampered in their action that the law remained largely inoperative. When Mr. Arnold White was asked by the Lords' Committee in 1890 for his opinion upon the administration of the Factory Act, he replied: “I think it is a farce.” “Your opinion is that the staff is too small ?” he was asked. “I think it is so small as to be a travesty,” he answered ; "that is to say, we have an Act of Parliament which provides so-and-so,