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THE SWEATING SYSTEM., Issue 7953, 8 July 1889
THE SWEATING SYSTEM.
A meeting between the Anti-Sweating Committee and warehousemen, manufacturers, and shirtmakers in the City was recently arranged by invitation from the Committee, and duly came off on Saturday evening. Four warehousemen, four manufacturers, and seven siirtmakers were writtin to, and in response to the invitation the fallowing attended Messrs J. Ross (Sargood, Son, ami Ewen), A. Wilson (Bing, Harris, ani Co.), 0. Strtium (Butterworth Brothers), warehousemen ; Messrs Mortis end Seelye, Levy and Guthrie, Inner and M’Failane, manufacturers; and about half a dozen shirrmakors, the members of the Committee present were Messrs A. Bathgate (chairman), O. Wishart, D. Pinkerton, J. Mil a r , and J Montgomery. The Chairman said that the object of the meeting was to consider a log of prices which had been prepared by the Committee this log, ho might explain, being based chiefly on the one adopted by the Victorian Union, but the prices were slightly under the latter’s prices. The Committee had already enrolled about 500 employees in tho different factories, and a Union would shortly be formed here. Before this, however, the Committee thought it advisable to have something practical to lay before the Union in the shape of a log, and with that view had asked the employers of labor to meet them. The simplest way to get on with the business would be for the secretary (Mr Millar) to read the “ log," and if any lady or gentleman objected to any item a mark could be put against it, and after the log had been gone through the disputed items could be reconsidered. Mr Wilson : I understand that some of the manufacturers objected to the log as a whole, and not to individual items.
The CHAißMAN|*sked what were their grounds. If there were any general objections it would be desirable to hare them stated. Mr Wilson : From what I can learn it amounts to this: that the manufacturers who have gone through the log find there is an increase in the workers’ wages of something like 3.11; per cent, on the present prices they are paying, and they say they can hardly afford to pay the difference and allow the industry to flourish. This is in reference to the clothing trade more particularly. Tho three largest manufacturers I have spoken to say that the girls are well paid and are making good wages. Mr Pinkerton said it was well known that the girls earned their wages now by taking work homo wi hj them and working till midnight, with the assistance, perhaps, of their sisters, cousins, and aunts, The Committee wanted them to be able to earn a good wage by working forty-six hours a week and no longer. Mr Wilson : That’s just what we want to prevent—the girls taking the work home. The manufacturers say that the girls can earn good wages without that. Mr Ross: I can confirm what Mr Wilson says. Our contractors say that in no case do the giils earn less than 15s a week, and in some cases they earn L2 5s a week. The Chairman : I should say that the best asswer to the statement that the girls have been earning sufficient wages la the revelations made as to sweating in tho town recently. If we cannot agree on any log, the only thing to do is form the Union, and let the Union deal with the matter, Mr Wilson asked if it might not be that the cases that had been made such an outcry about were isolated ones, The' manufacturers said that as a whole the girls employed in tho factories at present were making very fair wages, and some of them good wages. As far as he was concerned—and he thought every other importer was in the same position—it was immaterial what prices were paid the workers. If the importers oould manufacture their goods in the colony they would do so, but if the advance of wages and the present advance in colonial materials had the effect of putting the prices up to such an extent that they could not produce them here, they would be forced to import them. It was a matter of indifference what prices were paid the workers. But why shou'd not the “ log ” in force with tire manufacturers be now considered ? The Chairman soi l he understood that different finns had different rates. Mr Pinkerton remarked that one of tho largest manufacturing firms—Hallenstein’s—would not allow their log to be seen, Mr Wilson said the difficulty could be got over by getting tho prices from tho girls themselves He knew toat the wages paid by Lines and M’Farlane, Morris and Seelyo, and Levy and Guthrie were much the same. Mr Montgomery said the meeting was being misled by such statements as that some girls were earning L2 5s a week. They could not do it in legitimate hour*. Mr Statham said it appeared to him that they were running off tho rails. Those who, like himself, employed tho manufacturers were not in a position to say what wages were earn'd by those who worked for the manufacturers; neither, in a bns'ncss point of view, was it any concern of his what the manufacturers were paying, Tho matter lay between the manufacturers and the girls, and between the maaufacUm ra and firms like his own in this way: He was asked tho other day >f he approved of the Committee’s log, and he said “It is no use approving of that log; you tell me what the manufacturers are going to pay for making up on that log, and I will tell you whether or not I approve of it.” The point he had to consider was : What was he cal'ed on to piy the manufacturer for making up his work ? Then it had been asked: What are wages for a girl ? Are they LI or L 5 ? He would like to point out one thing to those takii g an interest in this question, and i. was this: It was absurd for people to say that girls mu t be paid more wages because they kept themselves. When work waa to be done it did not matter one iota whether the persons doing it lived at home in their families or kept themselves The work d >ne was the work paid for, and pay could only be made on that rule. It had been said that these people could not live on the wage) they earned, and he would ask: What wages could they live on? It was a very difficult question to answer, and if the manufacturers were forced to pay above a certain price for work now bring d.ne here it would be stopped, and goods would bo imported from Home.
Mr Millar pointed out that, according to the prices suggested in the Committee’s “log.” the rate of wages would vary from 13s to 25s according to the class of work. As to driving work out of the colony, he would point out that the prices under the log were lower than those in Victoria,
Mr Wishart : Wo do not ask the manufacturers to accept these prices, but merely esk for an expression of their opinion as to what they can pay. We do not ask them to accept the log in toto, but to suggest alterations if they think them desirable.
The reading of the log was then commenced by Mr Millab, but it was speedily found that an enormous quantity of time would be occu-p-’ed in considering every item separately. Most of the prices read out were approved of by the manufacturers. In some instances a rise was voluntarily offered, while in several others it was pointed out by the manufacturers that the employees were already being paid more than in the log. Mr M'Fablane eventually suggested that, to save time, the manufacturers should themselves draw up a log and submit it to the Committee.
Mr Guthrib eaid that the log submitted by the Committee was ridiculous, the prices in many instances being 50 per cent, out one way or the other.
Mr Ross said the suggestion was a good one. He failed to see why the warehouremen were at the meeting at all, tor they had not the manufacturers to deal with. It was really a matter between the manufacturers and the workers, and the warehousemen would deal with the former after a log had been agreed on. Mr Guthbus moved and Mr Seelie seconded a motion to tho effect suggested—the log to be submitted on Saturday next—aid the motion was oarriod.
Mr Robb asked if, after a log had been compiled, all other manufacturers in the town would be called on to fall in with it.
The Chairman : Certainly. Mr Boss : lam informed that this is not so.
The opinion was expressed that it would be compulsory op other fl.rat to accept the log, and in the event of their not doing so they would not fare wt 11.
Mr Guthrie : Might I ask if any o! Hallonstein’s bands have jr.ned the Union ? Mr Millar : Yes. We have 563 names on the roll, and I believe eveiyone in Hallenstein’s factory hj 9 joined. A Voice ; They need it there, Mr W‘FaRLABE( Is it necessary that we should oonshlt Hr Bstllensieid with regard to tlrslog? The Chairman : You should have unanimity as far as possible. If that cannot be got, a majority of the manufacturers should adopt the log. Tbe question was asked if Mr Halleustein had been requested to attend the meeting. The Secretary replied that he had. A Voicb • He has ignored it, Tbe log for shirt and collar making was next considered. Mr Boss said that with reference to a statement that a “Shakespeare” collar took ten minutes to make, he was informed by some ladies present that thejr could make a Shakespeare collar in three minutes, and if that was the case it would be a good paying thing. It was as well that misleading statements should not go forth. After considerable discussion as to the time taken in this work, Mr Wishabt said he regretted that such statements should have appeared, because he believed that the girls that mad e them had beep slightly drawing on
their imaginations. He waa not biassed on the matter in one way or the other, but wished to stiive for an amicable arrangement between employers and employed, so that a fair day's work should be done for a fair wage. What seemed the case just now was that what was a fact today was something else to-morrow. After further discussion, in 'the course of which it appeared that different prices were paid by Mrs Keates from those paid by other shirt-manufacturers in the room, Mr Ross said the matter was evident’y in a false position. He was told that the question of raising prices hid been carried on for some time by Mrs Keates for the purpose of drawing the best labor from the other factories. That was raising wages f iWly, Mr Wilson did not know that the prices were being raised Wse-y. His firm were paying higher wages than seme othrrs; and why should they not do so if they felt inclined? He wanted good workers and good work.
Mr Pinkerton said that what the Committee had attempted to do ou behalf of the Union was to fix the lowest rate of wages that should be paid. It any warehouseman wanted a superior article he might pay a higher price than the general rate, but he would not be allowed in any case to go under that rate. The bag-making trade was next touched on, and also the dressmaking, and it was stated by the Committee that the Union was intended to take in all daises.
The meeting closed with a vote of thanks to the chairman for presiding. A meeting for the purpose of forming the Union will be held on Thursday evening.
THE SWEATING SYSTEM., Issue 7953, 8 July 1889
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