The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78
Rate paid.—3s. per 100 gross of buttons.
Worker's Outlay for Thread, &c..—2d. in every 3s.
Average Working-day.—Fifteen hours.
Average Earnings.—3s. 6d. per week.
Remarks.—Six small and twelve large buttons are put on each card.
Little need be said about this trade, since the remarks made regarding hook and eye carders would apply generally to this class of workers Buttons are given out daily by weight, and cards are provided by the firm, but not needles or thread. Each button has to be firmly stitched on its little square drawn on the card. The cards are then neatly tied up in packs, and taken back to the factory each day before more work can be obtained. Payment is usually made on Friday. The buttons are weighed out, not counted, and workers sometimes complain that the weight does not always tally with the number, as they are paid by the gross. Any shortage, however, has to be paid for by the carder.page 9
The wages are better for button-carding than for hooks and eyes, as the wages investigated averaged at 5s. 3d. per week for constant work, as against 3s. 3½d. for hooks and eyes.
Pearl buttons are considered the best work, though they are trying for the eyes. The rates for these buttons vary from 2s. 9d. to 6s. 8d. per 100 gross—i.e., 1d. to 2£d. for carding 432. A quick worker can do three or four gross per hour of the lower-rated kinds.
For linen buttons the payment is 2s. 9d. to 4s. 2d. per 100 gross, and since a quick worker can do four gross of the lower-rated kinds in an hour, in that time she earns about l½d. Trouser buttons are carded at a rate of 3s. per 100 gross.
The variation in the rates paid is due to the varying sizes of the buttons, and also to the fact that often when the buttons are received by the women from the factory they are all mixed up in different sizes and qualities, and have to be sorted before being carded. The rates given above include payment for this sorting.
Most of these workers are very poor, and their homes are fairly clean as a rule, considering the long hours that some of them work. Sometimes a woman is found who works in a factory during the day, cards, buttons, or hooks and eyes before and after going to the factory, and in addition attends to her house and children as best she may. One such woman's working-day was from 3 or 4 in the morning to 11 or 12 at night.