The Ashburton Guardian. FRIDAY, OCTOBER 29, 1880. Prison Labor.
TOWN EDITION. [lssued-at 5 p.m.]
During the agitation that was recently made by the unemployed, when big meetings were held all over the colony, it was frequently said by the men that they had to compete with prison labor, inasmuch as many public bodies in the vicinity of gaols enjoyed the benefit of the free labor of the convicts, and the work done by the red-jackets was just so much money taken out of the pockets of hard-working, honest, and law-abiding men, who would otherwise have been engaged upon the work. Government have now removed this grievance, and we may expect to hear that public bodies which have hitherto gone in for convict labor will throw their work open to contract. The Wellington Post, published at the seat of Government, has the following on the subject: notably in Canterbury, have hitherto enjoyed the great advantage of gratuitous prison labor for their public works. In justice to the free laborers, who found employment so scarce, and to the rest of the colony who contributed towards the cost of the prison maintenance, it has been decided that in future local bodies, instead of being allowed the use of prison labor gratis, in fact at the expense of the whole colony, shall pay for it at the rate of 25 per cent, under the current scale of wages, prison labor being valued at about so much less than free labor in respect of the results given. It is quite clear that so long as local bodies could get their work done without having to pay for it they would not be likely to employ free laborers whom they would have to pay, and so the unfortunate unemployed were unable to obtain work because they had so formidable a competitor in gratuitous convict labor. Under the new arrangement, although the rate of pay demanded by the Government for prison labor is nominally 25 per cent. less than current wages, the work produced is admittedly so far inferior as to compensate fully for the difference. The result is that the two classes of labor will compete on equal terms, and it now appears that one local body, at any rate, refuses to employ prison labor, even at 25 per cent, under current rates. If this example is followed by other bodies we believe that the Government have in view certain works on which the convict labor can be utilised without in any way entering into competition with the ordiary wages class of workmen.”
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