« AnteriorContinuar »
and the Act of Parliament is substantially a dead letter.” At that time forty-eight inspectors, with one or two juniors, had to look after all the factories and workshops in the United Kingdom. The district of Mr. Lakeman, that most conscientious and hard-working of inspectorsthe Central Metropolitan-included the whole of central London east of Farringdon Road, and extended to Hertford! In the inspection of this vast district, containing nearly 6,000 factories and workshops, he had the help of Mr. Birtwistle, of the West Metropolitan District, and was so overworked that he told the Committee that he never got through his work till 12 o'clock at night, and had “no amusement or recreation in his life.” In fact, sweating was so much a matter of course that the Government even sweated those whom they charged with its prevention.
The three Metropolitan districts, which included the major part of the Home Counties, as well as the Metro-polis, and in which there were 6,479 factories and 12,698 workshops, were supposed to be looked after by six inspectors ; five inspectors struggled with the difficulties of “ inspecting" the 6,518 factories and the 6,166 workshops scattered over the whole of Scotland, whilst neglected Ireland was divided into two districts, one of which — the Dublin district—including all Ireland, excepting Antrim, Londonderry, and part of North Donegal, and containing more than 5,000 factories and workshops, was intrusted to one inspector! Later on the workshops in the County of London, numbering 12,520, were separated from the factories, and were placed under Mr. Lakeman's supervision, aided by a staff of assistants.
Things are somewhat better now, yet we learn from the
“ Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories for 1895 ”_ just issued—that the total staff for the whole of the United Kingdom consists of one chief and six superintendent inspectors, forty-four inspectors (aided by sixteen juniors and twenty-five assistants), and the four peripatetic ladies appointed by Mr. Asquith, who have worked very hard trying to protect the women workers all over the country. A backward step seems to have been taken on the retirement of Mr. Lakeman, for the registered workshops in the Metropolis which had been placed under his care are now distributed among the four Metropolitan districts. These four districts comprise the whole of the county of London, together with the counties of Middlesex, Kent, Surrey, and Sussex, the larger part of Essex, Hertford, and Buckingham, and portions of Berks and Oxford. In this large area there are 10,664 factories and 18,320 registered workshops, looked after by six inspectors and four juniors, aided by ten assistants ! It is evident that with the best will in the world it is impossible for these men to properly inspect all these registered places of work, to say nothing of the time and labour involved in seeing that work is not illegally carried on in workshops which escape registration, and that in the vast numbers of “ domestic workshops" young persons are not worked beyond the time allowed by the Act.
Another great evil is the division of responsibility between the factory inspectors and the sanitary authorities. In very many cases the inspector possesses no direct power of enforcing proper sanitation, but has to inform the local sanitary officers of the case, who, as Mr. Hart of Norwich reports, “dare not, in many cases, be too energetic where shops, warehouses or factories belong to, or are occupied by, men under whose authority they work
and by whom they are appointed.” Very often these officers are quite ignorant of the sanitary provisions of theFactory Acts. We learn from the inspector at Walsall that “after the usual notices have been sent to the Medical Officer of Health, or to the clerk of the Local Sanitary Authority, they are in some cases sent back with the request to be informed why such notices are sent to them, and under what Act power is given to them to act in cases of contravention.”
In fact, great confusion results from the over-lapping of the Factory, Public Health, Truck, and Employers' Liability Acts, and through each new Act being merely an Act to "amend and extend” previous Acts, which have to: be referred to. Mr. Knyvett, an inspector, speaking of the new Act, says it " is full of great possibilities, which I feel sure I am not alone among my colleagues in hoping will be welded into shape by a Codifying Act. And realising the importance of and the widespread good resulting from the tempered Socialism of English legislation, I am convinced that the sooner the welding of the four Acts takes place. the better it will be for the manufacturers, artisans, and lastly, for that most puzzled body, Her Majesty's inspectors.”
In this Report the lady inspectors insist on the necessity of so altering the Truck Act as to make it really what it professes to be. Women workers are great sufferers by all kinds of arbitrary fines and deductions from their wages. Examples are given of deductions from working women's wages such as the following: " 4d. per week for room' (i.e., cleaning); 2}d. a reel for thread; 1d. per needle; id. in the shilling earned for power; and 3d. per week for the gas used in the gas irons.” Miss Anderson finds that very frequent complaints
are made to her about these matters, and says: “What is further required, if fines are to be admitted at all as anything but a violation of the principles of the Truck Act, is (1) publicity in the system of levying thern ; (2) strict limitation of their amount; (3) that subordinate officials shall have no power to levy them or determine their amount.” She also points out that the exclusion of the smallest laundries from the Act is a great evil, and will lead to the multiplication of domestic laundries and of those in which not more than two persons are employed, and to excessive toil in thèse. Only such shop assistants and laundry workers as are under eighteen are protected by the Act from excessively long hours, and a number of complaints are made in the Report of girls employed in-workrooms attached to shops being brought into the shop to serve customers after the workrooms are closed.
In spite of these and numberless other defects in our factory legislation, one is glad to find a tone of hopefulness running through the Report, and to learn that notwithstanding the inadequate number of the inspectors, and the difficulties they have to contend with in enforcing the Act, they have secured 3,038 convictions for infractions of the law in 1895.
Though the difficulties attending the efficient inspection of the vast numbers of factories and workshops scattered about the country are very great, and a largely increased staff of inspectors would have hard work in coping with them, even if their work was lightened by the codification of the Acts for the protection of labour; yet it should never be forgotten that the largest employer of labour in the country is the Government itself. Here it would be easy to effect such changes as would greatly benefit the workers and entirely prevent the possibility of sweating of any kind. Sanitary conditions for the workers, eight hours for all employees, a living wage, abolition of overtime and of out-work, should be enforced and an example afforded, and a standard fixed for the whole country. This would be especially useful in raising the tone of the municipalities, which are also large employers of labour, In such wise, as one branch of industry after another passed under the control of the municipal bodies or of the central government, sweating would disappear, and the work would be carried on in a manner consonant with justice and social well-being.
THE ULTIMATE CAUSES OF SWEATING. Sweating is a disease of the body politic, arising from arrested development, both economical and moral. The sub-division of labour and the introduction of machinery moved by steam power have given us the great factory, with its cleanliness and thorough organisation of labour. In these factories adequate inspection and efficient public control are possible. The ever-increasing concentration of capital and organisation of labour is fast preparing the way for the municipalisation and nationalisation of industry generally.
Though sweating-in the wider senso-may still exist to a greater or less extent in the large factory or establishment, yet the trades in which it is rampant are, as has been pointed out, those which have not shared to any considerable degree in the economic development of the century but have remained in the undeveloped condition of earlier times. The really efficient economic cure for sweating is to hasten the evolution of these backward industries and secure their organisation under public control.