are nearly always to be found among the members of the union. And yet of these men, thus carefully selected, eighty-eight out of every thousand are always unable to find work. We repeat unable to find work, because their inability is tested by the fact that they are in receipt of allowances-unemployed benefit :-paid over to them by

’ their own comrades, who would be perfectly conversant with their circumstances. In fact it is probable that more than this number of unionists are really unemployed, for many men have too much pride to come on their society in case of a temporary loss of work.

If, then, we find that among the pick of the skilled artisans nearly nine per cent. are unemployed, we shall not be far wrong in assuming that in the less skilled and unskilled trades the proportion will be eighteen or twenty per cent. This percentage taken over our assumed wage-earning population of five millions, will give us nearly a million extra workers. Or, looking at the question another way, these five millions who now have an irregular and uncertain day of ten hours would then all have a regular and certain day of eight hours. If there is still a demand for labour, there is an inexhaustible supply in the nine million women of the census return, many of whom are now reluctantly dependent on fathers, or brothers, or lovers. There is in fact no difficulty in getting extra workers; the real question is, would they be called for?

The argument that the reduction of the normal working day from ten hours to eight would make room for so many more workers obviously rests on the assumption that the amount of work to be done would remain the same, and this assumption many people are inclined altogether to dispute. In other words it is contended that any serious reduction in the hours of labour would drive the trade out of the country. If so, of course, the whole argument tumbles to the ground.

Let us examine this contention a little more closely. It is urged that to reduce the hours of labour would be equivalent to increasing the cost of production, and that we should then find ourselves undersold by the foreigner. To this the first answer is that a great many of the occupations in which English wage-workers are engaged, are totally exempt from foreign competition. It will, perhaps, be convenient to give these occupations a name, and call them our domestic industries. These domestic occupations, then, include, first, all services,' e.g. railway service; secondly, all industries where the thing produced is for home consumption only, or is of such a nature that it cannot be imported from abroad. Without troubling to draw a fine line between these categories, for they merge into one another, we will enumerate some of these domestic industries.

First and foremost come the great building trades. We cannot import our houses ready-built from abroad, and an export trade in ready-made houses is equally out of the question. It is true the


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doors and sashes come from Norway ready-made, but we must have carpenters here to fit them in. Again, locks and bells might come from Germany, but they must be fixed and hung by people here. Making allowances for foreign enterprise in these two or three points, and deducting employers, we have still left, according to the census, some six hundred thousand carpenters, joiners, masons, bricklayers, slaters, tilers, plasterers, whitewashers, plumbers, painters, glaziers, paperhangers, locksmiths, bell-hangers, and gas-fitters, who are purely

domestic 'wage-workers. To these we may add 50,000 brick-makers, tile-makers, lime-burners, and workers in clay, sand, gravel, and chalk, and 18,000 men employed in gas-works.

Next we have the clothing trades. Here it is true that we do a large business in exporting ready-made clothes to the colonies, but an immense number of tailors and dressmakers are employed in making clothes to order, and the work of these people is of course purely domestic.' How many milliners, dressmakers, sempstresses, and tailors are included in this second category it is impossible to find out accurately; but allowing for employers, and men and women working on their own account, we may put the number at not less than three hundred thousand. The remaining classes need no explanation. Hotel and eating-house servants, 68,000; carmen, carriers, carters, tramway-drivers, &c., 124,000; men employed about docks, wharfs, and warehouses, 70,000; railway employees of all sorts engaged in manual work, 190,000; messengers, watchmen, &c., 120,000; paviors and road labourers, 14,000; and hospital service, 10,000.

This list is by no means exhaustive. We might have added wheelwrights, saddlers, and shoeing-smiths, printers engaged on newspapers, all government and municipal employees, electric light and telephone service, &c., and the thousands of overworked clerks and shop-assistants who now form a vast black-coated proletariat. Without these additions, however, our list amounts to more than a million and a half wage-workers who are absolutely untouched by foreign competition.

We now turn to those trades in which foreign competition does exist, and it is only right at once to confess that in many cases the competition of foreigners either in our own or in neutral markets is so keen that we could not increase our cost of production without the risk of losing our share of the trade. Here, however, it must be pointed out that a reduction in the hours of labour does not always mean an increased cost of production. Thus in the cotton trade it can be shown that if the 'hands,' instead of working in one shift of nine and a half hours a day, worked in two shifts of eight hours each, the extra work got out of the machinery would more than compensate the mill owner for the diminution of hours. Again, there are some trades where we might profitably sacrifice our export business if we saw a chance of doing a better business at home. For example, if



by bringing into steady employment a number of people now on the threshold of the workhouse, we could create a large home demand for clothes, boots or shoes, and knives and forks, it would be worth our while to drop the ready-made clothing trade for the colonies, and give up selling shoddy cutlery to Central Africans.

This question of the home demand is a very important one. Even with our immense export trade our own people are still our best customers, and whatever improves their condition betters our best market. An eight hours day, by bringing into work a number of workless and wageless people, would create a new body of customers on whose patronage our manufacturers might with some safety rely, and whose varying whims they might with some accuracy forecast. On the other hand it may be urged that since our work people are thus to a large extent their own customers, they would be the first to suffer by any measure which tended to raise prices. As before, the answer to this is that labour is not the only element in the cost of production, that it is possible that the other elements may be reduced, and that even if they are not, and an actual increase of cost occurs so that the profit is reduced, it does not follow that there will be an increased price, for the reduction of profit on each article may be more than compensated for by increased sales.

For example, in the case of railways it is difficult to see how an increased outlay on labour could give rise to increased charges for transport. The directors could not raise passenger fares, for presumably these are already fixed at the point which the railway companies find most profitable. To raise them would bring about a diminution of receipts. With regard to rates on goods, much the same argument applies. It is possible therefore that reduction in the hours of labour would mean a reduction in dividends. But the probability is that most railway companies would in the long run benefit by the introduction of a universal eight hours system ; for the working classes have already shown that travelling is the form of indulgence they most appreciate, and an increase of leisure throughout the community would be sure to bring about an increase in the passenger traffic on railways.

To return, however, to the question of foreign competition, When erery possible allowance has been made, it must be confessed that there would be a considerable danger in any sudden reduction of the hours of labour. There are, however, two ways of proceeding safely. Either we can enter into negotiations with foreign governments and try to induce them to legislate pari passu with us, or we can proceed at once to commence a series of gradual reforms. By proceeding gradually we should be able to ascertain, as we went

2 The Swiss Government is now offering Europe a grand opportunity for practically discussing the question of international action, but apparently our Government means to let the chance go by.


along, how far the development of machinery and other economies in production made up for the reduction in the hours of labour, and to regulate our pace accordingly.

This brings us at length to the question, Are we to rely on trades’-unions, or to appeal to legislation ? A study of the figures will show the hopelessness of the former course. Few people realise how numerically insignificant these societies are. Even in the best organised trades, like the engineers and the iron-founders, only half the workers belong to their trade society. In other trades the unionists are only a small fraction of the total number of wage-workers, while in many occupations there is no organisation at all. The total membership of all the societies registered at Somerset House is 340,000, including agricultural labourers' unions and one or two women's societies. There are a few societies besides which are not registered, say altogether 350,000 trades’-unionists in England and Wales out of a wage-earning population in industry and agriculture of five to six million adults.

Moreover, even in those trades where the unionists are most powerful, their present practice does not lead one to hope much from their future exertions. They are very fond of boasting that by their energy and organisation they have secured a nine hours day for the whole trade. That the nine hours day is due to them may or may not be the case: this is a matter of dispute ; but what is undisputed is this, that the limit of nine hours is purely nominal and has no relation whatever to the actual working day. When a compositor or an iron-founder says that his day is nine hours, all that he means is that his 'time' is nine hours and the rest is 'overtime. It will hardly be believed that this stupendous distinction is in many cases merely verbal and utterly without effective meaning. However, in most trades and shops, each hour of 'overtime' is paid at a higher rate than the nine hours of the day.' For example, an iron-founder's day ends at 5 o'clock; if he goes on working till nine, he is paid 'time and a quarter' for each hour; after nine, each hour is reckoned · time and a half.'

In consequence of this practice of habitual overtime, coupled with higher pay for the extra hours, many trades’-unionists have a very muddled notion of the meaning of the proposal for an eight hours day. They regard it, not as a plan for diminishing their work in order to make room for their fellows who are unemployed, but as a cunning contrivance for enabling them to get more money for the same work. If overtime—they argue-began to be counted after eight hours instead of after nine, there would be an hour lost at the low rate and an hour gained at the high rate. In the case of the iron-founders this change, if it did not lead to a reduction in the rate per hour, would mean an addition of about twopence a day to their wages. The change might also to some extent discourage

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employers from working overtime, and so would be a slight benefit to the rest of the community.

Such a microscopic reform as this is hardly worth discussing, but the mention of the muddled notion is useful as illustrating the undeniable truth that trades'-unionists cannot, as a body, be relied upon to bestir themselves seriously on behalf of the whole of the working classes. Their idea of solidarity does not, in fact, extend beyond their own ranks. As has often been pointed out, they form an aristocracy of labour and they have that great defect of aristocrats, the want of sympathy with other classes. Moreover, it is important to know that in some cases—though probably rare ones—the trades'unions are actually in the hands of employers. In one of the branches of the Sheffield cutlery trade, for example, the trade society is composed almost entirely of little masters—men who work with their own hands it is true, but who also employ as many as four or five men to work for them. This society, is in fact, a friendly society of sweaters organised for mutual protection. The sweatee, it is true, may come in if he likes, but he realises that he is not wanted and stays away.

Even though such cases as this may be quite exceptional, the fact remains that the trades'-unions are only powerful in a very few trades. As the figures quoted amply show, the great mass of the working classes is outside the trades’-union movement. Moreover, in many trades where the union is numerically strong it is really only a benefit club. The members pay in so much money a week as an insurance against sickness and old age, and when the time comes draw out their allowances. To this extent the society is an excellent institution, and generally performs its functions admirably. But this is all; as regards the regulation of wages and the hours of work it is powerless.

We cannot, then, trust to the trades'-unions to do anything more than slightly improve the condition of the upper-class artisan, and even here their efforts are constantly neutralised by the competition of the great mass of unorganised labourers underneath. How are we to deal with them? How is their condition to be improved ? The advice most freely given to them by amiable philanthropists and laisser-fairé politicians is to organise themselves, even as their more prosperous brothers have done. It is instructive, however, to note that the very same set of people who are now giving this advice so generously, twenty or thirty years ago were vehement in denouncing the wickedness of trades'-unions. At that time the unions were undoubtedly a power in the country, and were doing a very great deal to improve the condition of working men generally. They were then bold and aggressive, as men must be who have a cause to fight for. Now that their part of the fight is over, now that on their lines nothing more of importance can be done, they have become passive

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