Labour in Lancashire

Many facts of interest to workers may be gleaned from the report of the International Federation of Textile Workers’ Associations, presented to their conference held at Amsterdam in June. Mr. Wm. Maryland, the General Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Cotton Spinners of England, is also Secretary of the Federation, and he tells us that out of the total membership of 430,027, England accounts for 200,000. During the three years the Report covers the membership in this country has remained stationary. This stagnant condition has obtained in most other lands, and is ascribed to “the severe depression in trade which has been more or less prevalent in all countries for the greater part of the three years.”

In the reports from the British Spinners’ Unions, Mr. Mullins, secretary of the Card and Blowing Room Operatives, states that the funds have suffered greatly during the last three years. In 1908 £1,730, 1909 £27,000, and in 1910 £45,000 was paid out for “Bad Trade” benefit. “The drain on our funds for accidents and injuries to members has been very great,” he points out, notwithstanding the century of “factory legislation” we have had.

On behalf of the Operative Spinners’ Association Mr. Marsland states that, since 1908 £277,000 has been paid in “Bad Trade” benefit and £173,000 for strikes and lock-outs.

Mr. W. C. Robinson, of the “Beamers, Twisters and Drawers,” says: “The mechanical drawing and tying machines grow but slowly ; however, they are increasing, and we expect they will do, consequently we have to make some additional provision for monetary payments to our members who are thrown out of work in consequence of their introduction.”

Under the “Weaving Section” reports, Mr. J. Cross, of the Northern Counties Weavers’ Amalgamation, points out that “the majority of the mills worked short time, and some of them were closed altogether for months at a stretch, and £276,000 was spent in the three years on strikes and stoppage.” After drawing attention to the pilfering “system in the weaving department of inflicting fines for alleged bad work,” mostly caused by the cheapest materials being used, Mr. Cross goes on to say : “In about one-half the weaving mills it is the practice to use artificial humidity in order to make what may be called a ‘weaving atmosphere.’ The practice is to send into the sheds hot steam ejected from the pipes, or to spray the air with fine particles of water. The workpeople have taken strong objection to artificial humidity of any kind on the ground that it is detrimental to their health, and that the practice is mostly required ia order to facilitate the weaving of inferior material. The objections of the workpeople can be well understood even by an outside observer, when it is explained that hot steam is sent through the sheds even during the summer months, causing the greatest personal discomfort and much physical prostration, and in the winter in months the sheds are heated to such an extent that many people are apt to contract bronchitis and rheumatism.”

It is news pregnant with dire meaning for the immediate future to learn that : “The Northrop loom is making progress, and if the adoption of the loom should assume a mire rapid character THE COTTON WEAVERS OF LANCASHIRE WILL BE FACE TO FACE WITH THE GREATEST PROBLEM OF THEIR LIVES. When it is considered that the operatives are working 12, 16, and 20 NORTHROP LOOMS EACH, AND THE NUMBER OF LOOMS OF THE LANCASHIRE TYPE WORKED BY EACH WEAVER (THE AVERAGE IS ABOUT FOUR LOOMS FOR EACH WEAVER) THE PROSPECT OF STEADY EMPLOYMENT IN THE FUTURE IS NOT VERY BRIGHT.”

“It is admitted on every hand that the introduction of the new loom means the displacement of a large number of workpeople, and it cannot be expected that the cotton trade will ever, under the most favourable conditions, be able to expand sufficiently to absorb the unemployed.”

Time after time during the last 70 years hours have been reduced in the cotton factories and strike after strike has been declared. Yet the fact stands out that the operative of to-day is faced with greater difficulties than ever before. He produces more in fewer hours, and works “short time” and is unemployed to a degree previously unknown. Through sheer depletion of their funds the operatives go back to work on the masters’ terms after being locked out for weeks. Combination among the masters and amalgamation of companies proceed fast and far. In view of the conditions under which the men work and the poverty they suffer, it is not surprising that ill health dogs their footsteps all their lives. At a protest meeting against the Insurance Bill held by the Lancashire Branch of the Brtish Medical Association we were told, anent the £160 limit: “That, as they knew in Lancashire, was going to take away from them the cream of their practice. Wage earners from 30s. per week upwards were the backbone of their practice, and they received from these wage earners more than from all the others combined.” Hence we see that it is the workers who provide the doctors with work—and fees—through illness resulting from the conditions of their toil.

What have the Lancashire toilers done to end their slavery ? History answers “Little.” Lancashire is a stronghold of Liberalism and Free Trade, and despite the fact that the great majority of the employers in her staple industries (textiles) are Liberals, they are voted info place aud power every time. Mr. C. W. Macara, the secretary of the employers’ federation, who has again and again organised the lock out of the operatives and reduced them to servile submission, is also Vice-President of the Free Trade Union and a noted Liberal. The officials of the trade unions are Liberals also practically to a man and the Labour M.P.s for local divisions may be seen advocating Free Trade upon the Free Trade League platforms throughout Lancashire. Is it not time that the workers of Lancashire took a lesson from their employers aad organised politically to protect their interests ? It cannot be done by Labour Parties who support half-time for children in the mills, and who seek to murder the toddling little ones by backing Bills to lower the age at which they leave school and enter the factory hells of Lancashire.

No ! The road to liberty, the road from slavery, is the Socialist road. March on, toilers of Cottonopolis !


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