The following is an editorial that appeared in the ‘People’s Journal’ under the name ‘A Christian Democrat’. This patronising letter exemplifies the paper’s aim to foster self-improvement among its readers.
Sir,— To win their bread by honest labour is the lot of the great majority. I do not consider this a misfortune. On the contrary, work is to us all a discipline, a privilege, and in itself far from injurious in any way. But, sir, workmen have often to submit to evils connected with their labour, which they feel all the more keenly that they know they are not necessary. Since I feel sure that many of these evils exist from pure want of consideration, I think much good may result from attention being called to them. First of all then, when a family is out of work there is no open labour market. Especially is this the case in country districts. The farmer has the corn market; the flax merchant has a weekly exchange; but for labour there is no proper open market. Employers would often be glad to buy labour which is abundant within a few miles of their works, while working people often sell their labour for less than its real market price. Strikes, too, are not infrequent from pure ignorance. To employed and employers alike a labour exchange would be a real advantage. The want of it leads to feeing markets in the country, and to arrangements (in towns) with foremen not at all favourable to the elevation of the operatives.
Again, in the best works persons out of employment are admirably met. There is a fire in winter, a comfortable seat, and a civil, kindly word, but in other public works the arrangements are very different. It is always a painful thing to refuse employment to a person willing to work, and when this must be done it should always be in a kindly way. In many country districts wages are still paid in public-houses. Woodcutters, labourers, and quarrymen often are so paid, and this is a custom fraught with countless evils.
Another and perhaps the very worst influence to which workmen have to submit is irregular employment. In many seaports engineers are made to work night and day to refit engines and boilers, then for days together they are idle. Sailors, miners, porters, and other whole classes of workmen are subject to irregular employment. More still, their work is generally far too severe while they are at it. A very littler arrangement would often obviate this irregular mode of working and save workmen from a strain which few natures can bear. All overtime, night work, and extra hours should as far as possible be avoided. When extra labour is needful care should be taken to secure relays of men, or where this is quite impossible, proper food should be provided. At a recent breakdown on a railway, which is usually well managed I found many of the workmen who for twelve hours had not tasted food except the bit of dry bread they had with them. Appliances for supplying hot milk, coffee, or soup are so simple that employers should see that they are at hand. At all great works they are sure to be required. Now and then managers think that there will be no more use for extra appliances. A dram of wretched whisky instead of good food is often given, not grudging of expense, it is pure want of taking proper thought a little beforehand. Continue reading “‘Unnecessary Evils Connected with Honest Labour’ by A Christian Democrat (28 February, 1880)”