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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 81

Arbitration Act Stopped Sweating

Arbitration Act Stopped Sweating.

Much of all this is admitted by my critics, but some of them say that weating in this country was not eradiated by the Arbitration Act but by the Factory Act, passed before it or short-[unclear: y] after it. In reply, I appeal, first to the Arbitration Act itself, which opened a Court to every seven industrial workers to secure for them, at least, a [unclear: iving] wage in their calling—second, I appeal to the facts. At Wanganui I quoted figures taken from official reports and awards to establish the following facts:—

In 1890 tailoresses got 15s a week.

Hosiery workers, 9s a week.

Shirtmakers, 18s 6d a week.

These were the maximum wages paid and I quoted these and other trades to show that sweating rates existed in 1890. I also showed that under awards bf the Arbitration Court these rates had been nearly doubled, and were 25s, 20s, and 30s respectively. Now the simple question is, were these marked advances from a sweating to a fair wage effected by the Factories Acts? Plainly not, as the following facts prove:—

If you will refer to the Factories Act, in force in 1894, and the earlier Factories Act of New Zealand, you will find that they contain no piovision whatever for a minimum wage. Hence an employer could, until the awards of the Arbitration Act came into force, pay a factory operative no wage at all or as low a wage as the operative would agree to take. It was not until 1899 when "The Employment of Boy's and Girls without Payment Prevention Act, 1899,"' was passed, that is five years after the Arbitration Act became law, that any minimum wage was fixed for factory operatives in New Zealand, and what was that minimum wage? Here was the only statutory provision until 1902:—Section 2 of the Act of 1899 provides that "Every boy or girl under 18 years of age is to be paid in no case less than 4s per week for girls, and 5s per week for boys irrespective of overtime." until 1902 this was the only Factory Act provision for a minimum wage. Towards the end of 1901 a new Factory Act came into operation, and section 31 provided that for boys and girls under eighteen the rate of wage was to be not less tnan 5s per week, and thereafter an annual increase of not less than 3s weekly until twenty years of age. But on the pass, ing of the Arbitration Act, 1894, as I have said, any seven workers in any factory could form a union, bring a dispute as to wages before the Court, and have at least a living minimum wage fixed.

Thus by recommendations, agreements, or awards under the Arbitration Act, the wages of shop tailoresses and factory tailoresses and pressers were fixed at a living rate long before the Factory Act of 1901 came into force—see Parliamentary Return H. 11 D., showing awards, etc., under the Arbitration Act from its inception. The same return also shows that in scores of trades and factories the minimum wage was fixed by awards of the Court and not by any Factory Act—before, indeed, any Factory Act provisions for minimum wages existed.

In view of all these references can it be seriously contented that sweating in this country was eradicated by the Factory Act, and not by and through the agency actual and potential of the Arbitration Act.