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for a determination may now be made applicable to all establishments in the state if an Order in Council is issued to this effect.
Another form of competition to which a regulated trade is liable is that of a trade not subject to a determination, but this is now not likely often to occur, since nearly all industries and occupations outside of agricultural callings and domestic service are provided with wages boards.1
That part of the work of the various boards concerning which employers have made the most complaint has been the limitation of the number of apprentices. This complaint was made in the "slop " clothing trade in 18992 and in the wood-working trade and various other trades in 1901. The complaint became so loud that in 1902, Parliament took away from the boards the power to impose limitations on the number of apprentices. But the danger that apprentices would be used to displace adult labor and to defeat the purpose of the minimum rate led to the restoration of this right.
The same complaint in regard to the undue restriction of the number of apprentices and the counterclaim that apprentices were being used to keep down wages were made in Adelaide in the white work trade and in the bread trade.1 It is the employer doing business on a small scale who is most likely to be seriously affected by the limitation on apprentices, since a board usually provides that there may be one apprentice for a given number of adult workers and the small establishment not employing this number of men is thus at times denied the right to employ apprentices. As an offset
1 Schachner, op. cit., p. 239.
2 Report of Chief Inspector for 1899, p. 7.
Ibid., 1901, p. 39.
Report of Chief Inspector for South Australia, 1905, p. 2; 1908, p. 5.
to this evil of too few apprentices, Mr. Ord called attention to the fact that the practice of having the board fix the number and wages of apprentices made it incumbent on the employer to give them some real training, so as to make them worth the wages which he would be compelled to pay if they were employed by him. "The natural result will be," he said, "an improved class of workers who will be a credit to their employers, the trade and the state." 1
It is an opinion held by many in Australia that the wages board determinations benefit the large employer more than they do the small one. Because of his larger establishment the large employer can make a fuller utilization of the highly paid workmen. In the bakery trade, one Victorian inspector reported that the determination was weeding out the small baker, the man who employed only one hand. He would be unable to pay the minimum rate and would therefore himself enter industry as a wage worker. A determination made by the Hairdressers' Board had the effect, so it was stated, of closing some of the smaller shops and throwing 70 men out of employment. In this case it was claimed by some that it was the intention of the board to bring about this result, and that the representatives of the employers on the board connived with the employees to fix the minimum wage so high that suburban shops in Melbourne could not operate. The Government for a time refused to gazette the determination but finally decided to do so.
Mention has already been made of the fact that the limitation on the number of apprentices or improvers is likely to bear harder on the small than on the larger establishment. The same thing is at times true of the
1 Report of Chief Inspector for Victoria, 1900, pp. 11-12.
1 Report of Chief Inspector, 1900, p. 14.
reduction in the length of the working day. Small shops located in the residence districts and receiving considerable patronage from people going to or returning from work are most likely to feel the effect of early closing laws and of the determinations which limit the working hours of their employees.1
The small establishment, however, is not always the one to feel most the effects of a minimum wage. In quite a number of cases the increase of wages had the result of multiplying the number of establishments that undertook to employ no hired labor whatever. Such examples are frequent in the furniture, baking, butchering and wicker work industries. In general it
may be said that like any new element in industry, the effect of a determination is likely to be felt most by the least resourceful in any trade. Some readjustment has to be made to meet the conditions growing out of the increase in wages and at times this is best made by the large employer, at other times by the small one.
Except in a few instances the wages boards do not seem to have greatly increased specialization or to have hastened much the introduction of machinery. In the clothing trades increased specialization did come at about the time of the early determinations and was doubtless assisted by them.2 Attention has already been called to the increased use of machinery in the boot and shoe industry, which certainly was not primarily due to the determination of the wages board but was doubtless promoted by it. In this industry the reduction in the cost of production brought about by the use of machinery served fully to equalize the increase of wages by the determination. Mr. Ord felt that one of the most useful results obtained by the wages boards
1 Schachner, op. cit., p. 240.
Aves Report, p. 53.
was to be found in this trade owing to this introduction of labor-saving machinery.
If there had been no minimum (wage] the results would have been disastrous. With an over-stocked labor market, the inevitable results of individual competition would have been seen. The value of the labour would sooner or later (except in the better-class factories) have been the necessities of the workers. Each man out of work would have been willing to take a "little" less than the man in work and when such men had got as low as they would go, the old, slow, and infirm workers would come in and cut still lower.
It is improbable that a low minimum would result in one more man being employed, as the best man would always get the work in the end, and those at work might as well be paid good wages, since a lower wage would not benefit those out of employment.1
No positive proof tending to show either increased efficiency or a decline in output on the part of the individual worker as a result of the determinations can be furnished. Too many and diverse causes enter into this matter, even if it could be shown that an increase or a decline in output had taken place. In the clothing trades the general opinion seems to have been that the early determinations had resulted in increased efficiency, but this may well have been because of the adoption of the task system. Employers whom I interviewed were almost unanimous in the feeling that the efficiency of the average worker had declined in recent years, and this same opinion was expressed by others than employers, men on the whole favorably inclined to the wages board system. The decline was generally attributed
to the " go easy" or "make work" doctrines which they generally felt sure were being inculcated by tradeunion leaders. The trade-union secretaries, on the other hand, indignantly repudiated this charge and most of them said that such a matter had never even been discussed in their meetings. They were also inclined to believe there had been no decline in output. When one
1 Report of Chief Inspector, 1898, p. 12.
remembers that this same charge is made against trade unions in other countries, including our own, and is as vehemently denied by trade unionists themselves, he is prepared to conclude that, in the absence of any direct proof, whatever decline in efficiency, if any, has taken place is not to be charged up to the wages boards.
We may also say that there is very little evidence of speeding up" by manufacturers as a result of the wages board system, tho the adoption of the task system in the clothing and boot trades after the first determinations had been made furnishes examples. Generally speaking, however, the scarcity of labor in most lines of industry in Australia in recent years precludes any general adoption of such practice.
5. Growth of Trade Unions
To any one who is familiar with the strength of the trade-union movement in Australia and knows of the influence exercised in political as well as in economic affairs by the Trades' Hall in every capital city, it is hard to believe that the political system of wage regulation has not played an important part in this development of labor organizations. For the same reason it is hard to see why certain important officials of the American Federation of Labor are opposed to the regulation of wages in this country by wages boards or arbitration courts. One of the most important and influential of the Australian trade-union officials to whom I mentioned this attitude of our labor leaders shook his head and said: "I know it; out here we can't understand it."
According to a recent report of the Commonwealth Statistician, there were 433,224 members in 621 trade unions in Australia in 1912. There were 415,554 male
1 Report of Chief Inspector of Factories in Victoria, 1898, pp. 13–14.