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who would, I doubt not, have inspired as much admiration as does the artist. The great home for musicians which he succeeded in bringing to completion just before his death, in its way, speaks as eloquently of his greatness as do any of his musical works.
In conclusion, I must beg my readers to be lenient with this modest causerie, which on the spur of the moment alone has fallen from my pen.
COPENHAGEN: February 1901.
THE BRITISH WORKMAN AND. HIS
THERE are distinct signs in the building trade that the wonderful prosperity of the last few years is waning. It is equally true that the German and American manufacturers are gradually, but surely, relieving England of very considerable portions of her trade. The cry of technical education is in the air; the London County Council have it in their minds to provide secondary education, and the sudden idea that new dwellings for the working classes are the antidote by which the British workman will successfully compete with his foreign friends has been propagated with marked success; but the real reason why the British workman will most assuredly be left behind has, somehow or other, been entirely overlooked.
I am fully satisfied that the British public has no real grasp whatever of the causes which are leading up to loss of trade in this country, and it is as much in the interest of the workman himself as of the public that no mistake should exist on this point.
As an architect I have for many years taken more than a passing interest in the men at work on the building, and it is to these men, and these only, that I propose to confine my remarks, giving credit, as I do, for the many who would only too willingly do their duty to their employers, and to themselves, if they were permitted.
I find from the new working rules which were agreed upon last year between the representatives of the London Master Builders' Association and, respectively, the Operative Bricklayers', the Operative Stonemasons', and the Carpenters' and Joiners' Societies that the working hours in summer of the above-mentioned trades are fifty per week for forty weeks; that during twelve weeks of winter the working hours are for the first three weeks and the last three weeks forty-seven hours per week, and during the six middle weeks forty-four hours per week. The rate of wages is to be advanced one halfpenny per hour from certain dates in 1900 and 1901. Imagining for a moment that the men worked on Saturdays the same number of hours as on other days, this would give, as the average length of working hours for the six days in the week, say eight hours per day, or, in other words, about one-third of the six days and nights of a working week devoted to labour, the
other two-thirds, with, in addition, the whole of Sunday, being devoted to rest, study, and pleasure.
The Labour Department of the Board of Trade have recently issued a report on changes in the rates of wages and hours of labour in the United Kingdom in 1899, based on statistics from which the following are extracts :
The net result of the changes in wages of all classes of workpeople in 1899 was an aggregate rise of wages of no less than 115,000l. per week, compared with 95,000l. in 1898 and 45,000l. in 1897. It will thus be seen that the rate of increase in 1898 was maintained in 1899. Great, however, as was the rise of wages in 1899 it has been considerably exceeded in the eight months of 1900 which have already elapsed (October 1900). The change recorded during this period may have affected nearly a million individuals, and have resulted in a net increase of more than 150,000l. a week, by far the greatest rise recorded in any similar period.
Let us consider the effect upon the workmen of this increase of 150,000l. per week, an increase in my opinion due to the efforts of Labour Members of Parliament, to Labour Members of the London County Council, and to Trade Unionism. It might be reasonably assumed that the decrease in the hours of labour, and the increase in wages, must result in improvement to the minds of the workmen, the laying up of a little store for future old age, and in extra comforts for the wives and children. We know that the men are paid at noon on Saturday, and that many of them are not seen again on the building till the Tuesday morning following. It may be that they have been studying the handiwork of their predecessors in the South Kensington Museum, or that they have been giving the benefit of their practical knowledge to some of the pupils at the technical schools, or have been doing a little work in the garden. That I do not know; but I do know that at the dinner hour on the Tuesday some of the men who have taken 31. or so on the Saturday cannot get their dinner till they have borrowed the price of it from the foreman, so that the increase of wage has resulted in loss of work to the master, itself of the utmost importance, and has conferred no benefit whatever upon the workman or upon his family.
We will now take notice of the workmen upon the building, as I have found them. At 6.30 A.M. in summer, and 7 o'clock in winter, they commence work. They will first look around to detect whether or not there is a man who hath not on a 'ticket' to prove that he is a' Unionist.' If one is found who is not a Unionist, the foreman is requested to immediately dismiss him on pain of the whole of the men in that trade instantly quitting. The result may be imagined; the master has to succumb. Having successfully performed this little operation, and 8 o'clock having arrived, the men retire for their breakfast till 8.30. At 10.30 beer is served round to the men (for which beer they pay, but not for the time in getting to and
VOL. XLIX-No. 289
drinking it), and this refreshment enables them to reach 12 o'clock noon for an hour's dinner-time in summer and half an hour in winter. About 3 P.M. beer is again served round to the men, which sustains them till 5 o'clock in summer and 4.30 in winter, at which time they quit the job. On Saturdays the men leave off work at 12 o'clock noon, winter and summer.
A few peculiarities-which are permanent-may now be referred to. A bricklayer in some kind of work can well lay 1,200 bricks a day, but in the ordinary run of work he can easily lay, on the average, 750. Rules, however, step in which absolutely fix him not to exceed 500. If a bricklayer catches a plasterer fixing a wall tile nine inches by three inches he is again at the foreman to stop it, not, however, if the tile is six inches by six inches. Bricklayers have recently made up their minds that roof-tiling is their work, and not that of the regular tiler who thoroughly knows his work; so unless this work, which they do not understand, is given over to the bricklayers, and the tilers dismissed, the bricklayers strike the job. If the eagle eye of the plasterer observes a man fixing a fireproof plaster material-that is to say, a man sent off by the manufacturer of the material, and who is not a Unionist-off that man has to go, notwithstanding the important fact that he thoroughly understands that particular work and that the ordinary plasterer does not. The resulting defective work has to be ultimately made good at the cost of the master or building owner. This same plasterer has also prevented, by his society, any superfluity of 'apprentices.' The present race of plasterers mean to have plenty of work in their time; let the future of the trade take care of itself. The mason too, also on the look-out, sees a bricklayer fixing a piece of stone to take the end of a girder; that is soon stopped; and the mason leaves his legitimate work to come and set this piece of stone, whilst the bricklayer looks on and perhaps smokes his cigarette-and so on. The other day a clerk of works, on work being carried out under my superintendence, informed me that all the bricklayers had struck because he refused to allow a bricklayer who was drunk at the dinner hour to go on the building. Fortunately we were able to fill their places with men from the country, but had to put up with the loss of time and inconvenience.
We will assume now that all is peaceful and quiet on the building; that the foreman has been subdued, and made to understand that he must not try to overwork his men. In times gone by if a foreman was seen approaching a group of idlers they would at once scatter and resume work; now they do nothing of the kind; they will stand idle and grin at the foreman or at any one else, as much as to say, 'Now look at us; we are being paid for working; we are not working, and what have you got to say?' I have to say that, taking the men on the average, they do not give a return of more than four hours' real honest work per day for the eight hours for
which they are paid. The result, of course, is that the building costs so much more than it should; and this not because of the short number of hours on the building, not because of any serious rise in the price of materials, not because the men are paid too much per hour, but solely because they are subject to the unwritten, but well-understood, law that their duty on the building is to carry out the doctrine of idleness, and to do their level best to consume the greatest possible amount of time in producing the smallest possible amount of work. Trade Unionism, the London County Council, the Electric Lighting Companies, and the District Councils are mainly responsible for this state of things, because of the want, or fear, of adequate supervision, and of the quiet toleration of organised idleness. From those who do not really know, one hears that our men will be much improved, directly, by the result of the vast expenditure now incurred by the ratepayers on Technical Education. Last year alone 145,000l. was expended by the Technical Education Board of the London County Council, and to my mind, so far as the building artisan is concerned, this money was absolutely and entirely wasted. The majority of the men will be as blundering as ever; their handiwork is bad enough, but their eyes are about as well educated for the just appreciation of line and curve, for horizontal and vertical, as those of a cat. There never has been, and there never will be, any good substitute for the old-fashioned apprenticeship. Mr. J. D. Crace's letter on this subject, which appeared in the Times of the 2nd ult., should be read, and well digested, by every friend of the British workman; it is written by a man who knows, and I endorse every word of it.
I have referred to the current topic of dwellings for the working classes, and I say that one of the real reasons why they cannot be built to allow of low rents is the idleness of the workmen themselves.. Fifteen years ago the price inserted in builders' tenders for the labour on a rod of brickwork was about 4l.; to-day it is 8l. ; and even at that a builder is never sure that it may not be exceeded; and, dealing with the other trades, in the same proportion, I shall not be far wrong in stating that a block of workmen's dwellings which could well be erected for 100,000l. will now cost 132,000l., solely by reason of organised idleness, and interferences with the contractor in carrying on his work in a perfectly legitimate manner.
Then as to trade leaving the country, and why. Germans and Americans have seen, clearly enough, that if the cost of manufactured articles is so great in England-not by reason of enhanced price of materials, but only because of restriction in output of labour-they, unhampered by Trade Unionism, by the levelling down instead of by the levelling up, can produce and send over here articles quite as good in half the time to make, and with a third off the price which obtains in England, the result being that