Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners' Monthly Report.No. 181
John D. Prior, General Secretary Manchester General Offices:—95, Brunswick Street, Ardwick GreenJanuary, 1878.
Re-Arrangement of Branches.
During the month of December the National Association of Carpenters and Joiners has joined this society in conformity with the conditions recently adopted by a vote of the members. Their admission has necessitated the opening of three new branches in Birmingham, and one in each of the following towns:—King's Norton, Nottingham, Sheffield, and West Bromwich. The members of the National Association in Derby have joined our Derby Branch, and the members of the South Shields local society have united with our South Shields Branch. The Llanelly Branch has been removed to Swansea, and will in the future be known as the Swansea Branch. The Pontypridd Branch has been temporarily removed to Cardiff in consequence of the very depressed state of trade in South Wales, but as it is not intended that the removal shall be a permanent one, the name of the Branch will remain unaltered. A second branch has been opened in Glasgow. The Canterbury Branch has been closed. Secretaries will oblige by noting the change in the numbers of their respective branches, and by attaching the correct number of the branch to all documents forwarded to the G.O. during the present year.
Election of the Executive Council.
- Altrincham nominates Mr. Alexander Robertson.
- Bolton nominates Mr. Robert Vanston.
- Bury nominates Mr. James Lilley.
- Heywood nominates Mr. John A. Stone.
- Manchester 2nd nominates Mr. John Aitchison.
- Manchester 3rd nominates Mr. Tom Woods.
- Manchester 4th nominates Mr. G. J. Davies.
- Manchester 5th nominates Mr. Edward Edwards.
- Manchester 6th nominates Mr. Obadiah Whitehead.
- Middleton nominates Mr. Arthur Worrall.
- Oldham nominates Mr. James Taylor.
- Pendleton nominates Mr. George Wright.
- Radcliffe Bridge nominates Mr. Robert Kitchen.
- Rochdale nominates Mr. Thomas Ornierod.
- Royton and Shaw nominates Mr. John Hoyle.
- Salford 1st nominates Mr. Thomas Phillips.
- Salford 2nd nominates Sir. Walter Black.
- Stalybridge nominates Mr. Thomas Waters Barnett.
- Stockport nominates Mr. John Wildig.
Branch Resolutions and Decisions of Council.
The Manchester Strike.
"That the members of the Bury Branch fully endorse the opinion of the Leicester and Plymouth Branches in reference to the Manchester strike levy."
"That we, the members of the Hammersmith Branch, consider that the E.C. should at once take the necessary steps to get the votes of the members of the society taken for a general levy of sixpence per week, in aid of the Manchester and Salford joiners still on strike."
"That it be a recommendation of the Paddington Branch to the E.C., that in consideration of bringing the present strike in Manchester to a successful issue, a vote of the members be at once taken for £2,000, or more, as the Council may determine be taken from our general funds for the above object."—(Carried unanimously.)
"That we, the members of the Woolwich Branch, considering the position of the carpenters and joiners of Manchester and district, think it expedient for our E.C. to take the votes of the members upon a general levy, to assist them in their unequal struggle."
"That we, the members of the Woolwich Branch, are of opinion that the vote of the members would be the only satisfactory course for the E.C. to adopt, with respect to a general levy throughout the United Kingdom, on behalf of the Manchester strike."
"That this branch recommend the E.C. to make a grant of £1,000 from the funds to increase the strike benefit to society men on strike at Manchester."
- Abergavenny, 6d. weekly.
- Altrincham, 6d. weekly.
- Ashton-under-Lyne, 1s. weekly.
- Barnet, 6d. weekly.
- Barasley, 6d. weekly.
- Bath, 3d. weekly.
- Bingley, 1s. per member.
- Birkenhead, 6d. weekly.
- Birmingham District, 1s. weekly; since
- reduced to 6d. weekly.
- Blackburn, 8½d. weekly.
- Blackpool, 6d. weekly.
- Bolton, 1s. weekly.
- Bootle, 6d. weekly.
- Bradford 1st and 2nd, 6d. weekly.
- Brentford, 6d. weekly.
- Brighton, 6d. weekly.
- Bristol, 6d. weekly.
- Bromley, 6d. weekly.
- Burslem, 6d. weekly.
- Burton-on-Trent, 1s. per member.
- Bury, 6d. weekly.
- Cambridge, 6d. weekly.
- Carlisle, 6d. weekly.
- Chester, 3d. weekly.
- Colchester, 3d. weekly.
- Coventry, 6d. weekly.
- Croydon, 6d. weekly.
- Derby, 1s. per member.
- Doncaster, 6d. weekly.
- Dover, 6d. weekly.
- Ealing, 6d. weekly.
- Epsom, 6d. weekly.
- Falmouth and Penryn, 1s. per member.
- Folkestone, 6d. weekly.
- Greenwich, 6d. weekly.
- Hanley, 6d. weekly.
- Harrogate, 6d. weekly.
- Hastings, 6d. weekly.
- Hebburn Quay, 1s. per member.
- Kidderminster, 6d. weekly.
- Leeds 1st and 2nd, 1s. weekly; since
- reduced to 6d. weekly.
- Leicester, 6d. weekly.
- Liscard, 6d. weekly.
- London District, 6d. weekly.
- Maidstone, 6d. weekly.
- Margate, 6d. weekly.
- Nottingham, 2s. per member.
- Oxford, 6d. weekly.
- Penrith, 6d. weekly.
- Plymouth, 6d. weekly.
- Preston, 1s. weekly; since reduced to
- 6d. weekly.
- Prestwich, 1s. weekly; since reduced to
- 6d. weekly.
- Radcliffe Bridge, 1s. weekly.
- Ramsgate, 6d. weekly.
- Reading, 6d. weekly.
- Reigate, 6d. weekly.
- Rochdale, 6d. weekly.
- Scarborough, 6d. weekly.
- Sheffield, 6d. weekly.
- Shipley, 6d. weekly.
- Southampton, 6d. weekly.
- South Norwood, 6d. weekly.
- Southport, 6d. weekly.
- Stalybridge, 6d. weekly.
- Sunderland District, 6d. weekly.
- Torquay, 3d. weekly.
- Wakefield, 3d. weekly.
- Warrington, 6d. weekly.
- West Hartlepool, 6d. weekly.
- Weston-super-Mare, 6d. weekly.
- York, 2s. 6d. per member.
- Ballymena, 6d. weekly.
- Dublin, 6d. weekly.
- Sligo, 6d. weekly.
- New York, 50 cents weekly.
"Having our attention called to clause 8, rule 51, we wish to know whether any of the branches under 40 members have been paying the C.S. according to the old rule, and if so, whether the E.C. intend to call on the branches to refund the money illegally paid; or is the society to be at the loss of it, as we find in this monthly report 186 branches numbering less than 10 members?"
Reply.—Wherever the old rule has been duly observed there will be nothing to refund. It is true that the G.C. of 1874 did not clearly express their exact meaning, page 10 but an explanation was published in the monthly report for April, 1875. The Dewsbury Branch asked the following question:—"Will you please inform us what salary a check steward is entitled to in a branch numbering less than 50 members, say 34 members; as the rules are silent on this point?" The E.C. replied:—"It was not the intention of the G.C. to increase the pay of the C.S. in branches having less than 50 members; consequently in branches having less than 40 members, the C.S. should receive 4d. per night; from 40 to 50, 6d. per night; and in larger branches he should be paid in accordance with rule 51, clause 8."
Work and Wages in 1877.
|United States.||N. of England.|
In America, as in England, it will be observed that the building trades are disproportionately paid. The reason is the same in both cases. The demand is essentially local, and wages are given which could not be sustained if the price could be determined upon a balance of demand and supply distributed over a wider area. In all trades, which are subject in any degree to the influence of foreign competition, the American workmen are conscious of the necessity of working hard page 13 and well in order to keep up the high wages which they are at present earning. I do not shrink from telling the representatives of English labour whom I see before me, that any rules and regulations whereby the native vigour of the British workman is restrained must in the end prove fatal in their consequences. No doubt the effects are less baneful, in a commercial point of view, in the building and other trades, which are not brought face to face with foreign competitors. But, considering that improved dwellings are so urgently needed for the working classes, the unwisdom of imposing rules and restrictions tending to augment the cost of building must be patent to all. These remarks may be enforced by a reference to Mr. Lowthian Bell's comparison, made in 1874, of the net cost of labour in the coal mines in the United States and England. The American miners earned on the average 9s. a day. They worked for ten hours, and extracted six tons of coal. The average earnings of the English miners were 5s. 2d. a day, spending about seven hours in the pit and six in actual work. This was equal to 1s. 2d. per hour, for which the quantity worked was about 11cwt. Miners in the United States got about 13cwt., and were paid Is. Id. an hour. It it admitted that this comparison is not complete unless the relative facility of extraction is taken into consideration; and the work is generally easier in America than in England. Still, the fact remains that, while the daily earnings in America were greater, the hours were longer, and more work was done for a given sum of money. Provided the necessity of keeping down the cost so as to be able to compete with other producers is duly recognised, and the cost of living is not raised to such a point that the workmen are actually poorer than before, as in the case already quoted of the manufacturing population of Chemnitz, the working classes are clearly justified in seeking to better their condition. If they prefer to avail themselves of the advantages derived from an increased demand for their labour by shortening the hours of work, with a view to secure a little more leisure—leisure, which, wisely used, will tend to raise their intellectual and moral condition, they are not more deserving of reproach than the successful employer, who wisely prefers to give less time to business and more to nobler things. In either case it is a question of fitness of opportunity. Most certain it is that a state of apathetic resignation is a condition very detrimental to the interests of capital and truly melancholy to the labourer. In Mr. Young's volume the manufacturing population of Silesia is described as destitute of any aspiration to better their condition in life, while the monotony of their daily toil produces an inordinate longing for enjoyment. The United States Consul thus describes the people of Chemnitz:—"A stupid nature and dull ambition, with the inborn idea that they will labour all their lives, as their fathers did before them, make the working classes of some portions of Germany perpetual slaves to poverty; and the day is very far off when they shall be emancipated from thraldom." It is because it is so important to inspire workmen with the hope of bettering their condition that I have always advocated the principle of payment by results. My father entertained the firmest convictions on this point. I know that many trade unions object to it, on the ground that payment by the piece leads to overwork and bad workmanship. The answer to this is, that whatever may be the particular form of payment, whether it be by piece-work, contract, gratuity for extra diligence, or percentage upon profits, it is essentially necessary to give to the workman a personal motive for exertion. This must come from the prospect of participation in the profits which have been earned by his labour. His share in those profits should, of course, be proportionate to the amount of labour which he has contributed. 1 need not refer to the practices of intimidation and picketing. These are offences which concern chiefly the man of law, and I propose to confine myself to the labour question in its commercial aspects. Have you ever considered how extremely moderate are the rates of interest on English investments? You cannot have a more conclusive proof of this assertion than that which is afforded by an analysis of the dividends paid on railways. The share and loan capital of the United Kingdom forms an enormous total of £630,000,000. The average amount of dividend or interest returned for 1875 is represented by the modest figure of 4 54 per cent. The rates of interest on preferential capital being more uniform than the dividends on ordinary shares, afford the most accurate gauge of the ordinary returns on English investment, which present no speculative features. The most secure form of preference is that known as debentures or debenture stock. The process of converting terminable loans into debenture stock has of late been going forward with rapid strides. The amount increased from £67,000,000 in 1871 to £123,000,000 in 1875. In the same period the rate of interest on these investments was reduced from 4-25 to 4 18 per cent. The fact that debenture stocks bearing only 4 per cent interest can be issued by our page 14 railway companies at the rate of £16,000,000 a year, must be a positive proof to the working classes that they are not overcharged for the use of capital. This fact might be established upon evidence of a still wider and more conclusive kind than that afforded by the prices of railway securities. We might refer, for example, to the average bank rate of discount. The rates for each year, since 1867, have been as follows:—2¼, 3¼, 31/8, 27/8, 47/8, 4¾, 3¾, 3¼, and 2½ per cent. If the secure profits of business had been greatly in excess of the bank rate, there would have been less money on deposit, and higher rates would have been charged for banking accommodation. Do not forget the elementary truth in political economy, that it is when capital is relatively abundant, and labour relatively scarce, that wages tend to rise. Reduce the supply of capital, and the reward of labour must inevitably fall. Capital, except where it is invested in the permanent form of land, or the plant and appliances of a manufacturing establishment, is absolutely free to flow into any channel which the investor may select. It will flow abundantly into those countries where, under equal conditions as regards security, the highest rates of interest are obtainable. There is an international competition for the use of capital. The new world, which offers to the working man an El Dorado of high wages, is bidding high for the use of the capital accumulated in the older countries of Europe. No less than 75,000 miles of railway have been constructed in the United States. A very large proportion of that enormous capital required has been raised in Germany and the United Kingdom upon terms much more favourable to the capitalist than are obtainable here. Setting aside the speculative stocks, the rates of interest obtainable in the United States, as compared with the United Kingdom, on a first-rate security, may be taken to be as six to four. Fortunately for the English workman, there are some considerations apart from the rate of interest which make in his favour. If these did not exist the depletion of capital in this country would become a very serious question. I have spoken of the faults of the workmen. But in fairness I am bound to say that the present depression of trade cannot be laid wholly or indeed mainly to their charge. It we examine the recent labour movement historically, it will be seen that in order of time the inflation of trade preceded the inflation of wages. The demand upon the labour market became in consequence more and more urgent, and when, by the natural operation of supply and demand, the labourer had gained the command of the situation, he, in many instances, assumed a dictatoral tone, and gave a smaller return both in quantity and quality of work for the increased wages that were earned. But the capitalist must bear his share of responsibility. In the discussions on the state of trade and the causes of the prolonged depression throughout the commercial world, the exorbitant price of labour is continually referred to. We hear but little, however, of the larger share of blame which rests upon the capitalists, the employers of labour, and the investors and lenders of money, who overstock the markets and cause goods to be sold at ruinous prices, who, by encouraging speculative building, have raised the wages of tradesmen to their present level. For the sake of brevity, it will be necessary to confine ourselves almost exclusively to an examination of the recent history of the iron trade. In America the panic in the iron trade began to manifest its approach in 1873. Mr. Lowthian Bell tells us that the ironmasters complain that the construction of railways had been encouraged in the period more immediately preceding the panic by the action of Congress. Millions of acres of the public lands had been given to the companies as an inducement to make railroads which were not needed. Upon this there supervened a disastrous crisis. The unduly rapid extension of railways caused an excessive demand for rails. The supply not being equal to the demand, and a heavy protective tariff being imposed on imported rails, the American ironmasters realised immense profits, and they rapidly increased the rolling capacity of then- mills to an extent not warranted by the permanent prospects of trade. The consumption of rails in 1872 was 1,530,000 tons, of which 1,000,000 tons were made in America. In 1875 the capacity of the rail mills had been augmented to 1,940,000 tons. In the interval, however, there has been a panic in railways, and the consumption of railways had been reduced to 810,000 tons. The capacity of the mills, therefore, had been increased to two-and-a-half times the requirements, and a collapse ensued in the iron trade, from which there is no immediate prospect of recovery. The experiences of the American ironmasters were repeated in the contemporary history of the British iron trade, but the fluctuations were less violent. The course of events is succintly narrated in Mr. Lowthian Bell's report. The increased demand for coal and iron commenced in 1871. The increase amounted to 6½ per cent for coal, and 22 per cent for iron. In pig-iron there was an increased production of 664,000 tons in 1871, and 110,000 tons in 1872; the page 15 totals being for 1870—coals, 117,000,000 tons, and pig-iron, 6,627,000 tons. The supply was still deficient, and the price of pig-iron rose to 122s. 6d. in August, 1872. In 1873 the average price of 115s. was maintained throughout the year; yet the production, in spite of the inducement to make the utmost possible quantity, fell off to the extent of 175,000 tons. The difficulty of obtaining fuel, was the cause of the diminution. So brisk was the demand that coke, which could be had for 12s. in 1870, rose to 42s. a ton in 1873. British consumers had to outbid the foreign consumers. Meanwhile labour rose at the blast furnaces 50 per cent, and the cost of production was increased fully one-third. In 1874, the reaction set in rapidly, and Cleveland pig-iron receded from 115s. to 67s. 6d. In 1875 the price fell to 54s., the average for the year being 60s., but by this time a considerable economy had been effected in the cost of the manufacture, and there was a small margin of profit. In 1876 there was a further reduction of wages, and if the trade was, nevertheless, profitable, it was due to causes independent of the cost of labour. To an unbiassed mind, this brief retrospective narrative will scarcely support the assumption that the violent dislocations which have occurred were attributable to the action of the workmen. In every country, and in every line of business, the same tendency to overtrading has been manifested. There is a striking instance in the case of the steam communication between Liverpool and New York. New companies have been established, and the fleets of the older firms have been enlarged. The construction of numerous costly vessels on the banks of the Clyde—vessels which experience has shown to have been superfluous—had more effect in making labour scarce, and therefore dear, than all the machinations of the local trade unions. Again, the manufacturing industry of the country, especially in coal and iron, has been injured by the abuse of the facilities afforded by the Joint Stock Companies Act, for the conversion of private into corporate enterprises. Mr. Gladstone has denounced, in telling language, the folly of investors, who deluded themselves with the belief that they could expect, as shareholders in a company, to reap all the profits which had before been earned by trained and experienced manufacturers, who had spent their early lives in learning, and their maturer years in the administration of a complicated industry. In most cases the companies, on taking over the business from the vendors, expended large sums in additional plant and buildings. In order to find employment for their enlarged establishments, contracts were taken with no regard to price. In most cases the directors were without technical or practical knowledge, and could not know whether the tenders they were submitting were based on sound calculations. The total loss on joint stock concerns of the character described has been computed at many millions. The same rashness has been displayed in the management of railways both in America and England. You will have observed the recent remarks of Mr. Sherman. It was to meet the loss consequent upon an imprudent lowering of rates that the men employed were asked to submit to a reduction of wages, which led to the recent strikes and the conflicts of lamentable violence which have taken place. In England, as it was pointed out by Mr. Moon at the last half-yearly meeting, the accounts of the Northwestern Company show a lower rate of profit per train-mile than in any year since 1861. What is the cause? Is the working man responsible? No. The cost of coal has been reduced by 1s. 9d. per ton. In the locomotive establishment there has been a saving of £50,000; and it is only through the reduced prices of labour and materials that the effects of over-competition, for which the capitalists were responsible, have been neutralised. This discussion of the labour problem must be brought to a close with a few general remarks on trade unions. It has been recently said by Sir Edmund Beckett, who gives expression to views very widely entertained (1) that trade unions are a combination to do less work for a given wages; (2) that they teach the fatal doctrine that it is the business of working men to do no more than the least they can be paid for. These grave charges may be true in a measure, but they are not the whole truth. With regard to the second charge, if it be true that bad workmanship is advocated by trade unions, it must at least be admitted that the national reputation is still high for the production of many important articles of a quality far superior to that obtained abroad. In textile industry the quality of our woollens, prices being taken into consideration, is unrivalled. In ship-building, machinery, and hardware we have an admitted superiority. We are practically monopolists of the Suez Canal. The existence of trade unions must be accepted as a necessary consequence of the new phases into which the productive industry has entered; and the only practical question is how to direct this important and extensive organisation into a useful channel. The working page 16 classes must always be more or less in a state of uncertainty as to the profits which, their employers may from time to time be realising. This must, however, be known in order to decide whether they have a right to demand an advance of wages, or, what is the same thing, a reduction in the hours of labour. It is evident that the problem cannot be solved without an intimate knowledge of the state and prospects of trade. Highly qualified commercial advisers are needed to guide the deliberations of trade unions on these matters. It is not enough to understand the conditions of the labour market in this country. An international knowledge of the situation is essential. The organisation of the trade unions may be usefully employed for the purpose of obtaining reliable information from independent sources, both at home and abroad. As a practical suggestion, I venture to add, do not grudge an ample salary to a competent adviser. But the utility of the trade unions need not be confined to the single question of wages. They may be employed to organise mutual efforts for improving the social condition of the working class. By their agency building societies may be established, co-operative distribution extended, and, what is far more difficult, co-operative production may be organised. You may help to provide rational amusement for the masses, you may facilitate technical education. You have shown in the present Congress that you appreciate your responsibilities in the watchful observation of legislative measures affecting the welfare of the people. You may act as peacemakers in the negotiation of terms of agreement between masters and men, may use your influence in securing the observance of the conditions of a treaty, or acquiescence in the decrees of courts of arbitration. As a member of Parliament, I may claim that the course of recent legislation, so far as it affects the working men, has been marked by a generous spirit. I should like to see imprisonment for debts to the amount of less than £50 abolished, as recommended by Mr. Lowe. I approve of the extension to seamen of the Employers and Workmen Act. When the Bill for regulating the liability of employers for injuries to their servants is again brought forward, I am sure that Parliament will be considerate towards the workman. I am glad to learn that the Factories and Workshops Bill, which will be a prominent feature in the next Session, commands your hearty approval. Let me conclude by expressing once more gratitude for your kind invitation to be present at this Congress. To possess your confidence is an honour of which I am very sensible. It is one of the most regrettable incidents of the organisation of industry on a large scale, that the personal relations between employers and their workmen have become less intimate than before. In ray own case, the discontinuance of my father's business has deprived me of opportunities which I should have greatly prized of associating with the working class. How many prejudices are removed, how much personal regard is stimulated by an honest interchange of ideas, face to face, in a spirit of conciliation, and with a mutual and sincere desire to reach the truth, and to maintain justice!
Mr. W. H. Baker.
The members of the Plymouth Branch regret to announce the sad death of Br. William Hiram Baker, who was murdered at the Cape of Good Hope, May 12th, 1877, at the age of 40 years. Our deceased brother joined the Portsmouth Branch 1865, and became a member a short time of the Bristol Branch. From that branch he became transferred to the Plymouth, December 13th, 1875. During his stay in the Colony the branch has recorded the wife's death. Three children are left to mourn their parents' loss.
Mr. J. H. Beasley.
The members of the Northampton Branch regret to announce another death in their branch, by accident. Br. John Hine Beasley fell from a roof about 43ft. high on Monday, November 26th, 1877, and died the same night. He joined the Northampton Branch on December 29th, 1873, at the age of 23 years 9 months.
Mr. H. Ward.
Died on December 15th, 1877, after a painful affliction extending over a period of three years, Mr. Henry Ward, a member of the Manchester 4th Branch. He leaves a widow comfortably provided for.
Co-operative Printing Society Limited, Balloon Street, Manchester.