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three out of fifty-three employers of “shipmen” employ at least a few “Kontraktarbeiter."
It may be mentioned that there are certain features about the position of the “Kontraktarbeiter" which make the whole system odious to the German Transport Workers' Union. The system was introduced definitely with the object of minimising the chances of another strike. The men have from one to three shillings deducted from their wages each week according to the amount of their earnings. This amount is placed to their credit in a savings bank. If they break their contract the whole amount is forfeited, and in any case they can only take out from their account one-half of what they have standing to their credit above £10. That there is some weakness in the position from the point of view of relations between employer and employed would seem to be indicated by the fact that nearly a third of the whole number of "Kontraktarbeiter" leave the service of the Port Employers' Association each year, in spite of the economic security which is offered. The following table shows the years of engagement of the "Kontraktarbeiter” who remained in the service of the Employers' Association at the end of 1911 :No. at end
But the ulterior objects of the employers, the relations of the “Kontraktarbeiter" to trade union labour and the compulsory thrift, are incidentals from the point of view of the system as an experiment in the technique of organising the labour market. The nature of the machinery, not the spirit in which or the authority by whom it may be operated, is at the moment the important consideration.
The whole of the Hamburg "shipmen," other than the “Kontraktarbeiter," are engaged not merely through, but actually at, five branch Labour Exchanges situated round the harbour and conducted by the Employers' Association. Preference is given to men holding cards issued by the Association and known as “Hilfsarbeiter.” Only when no single “Hilfsarbeiter” is available can a "Gelegenheitsarbeiter," or casual, be engaged. Any man is free to go and take his chance at a “Gelegenheitsarbeiter" at one particular Labour Exchange, from which alone casual “shipmen” are sent. An employer or foreman who wishes to engage men takes one of two courses. He can go and pick his men at a Labour Exchange, in which case an official of the Association stands by, takes the registration cards from the men who are
chosen, and hands them a slip of paper bearing the name of the employer. This constitutes the actual legal engagement. The employer can, if he chooses, telephone to the Exchange. In that case he must take the men who are sent, though he may, of course, ask for particular men. An employer who engages or allows men to be engaged from off the street, or in any other than the prescribed manner, receives a letter from the Association. If he does this a second or third time, he is liable to be fined by the Association in accordance with its rules, the amount of the fine being recoverable at law, owing to the fact that the Association is a legally registered body.
The Employers' Labour Exchange in Hamburg is probably the best organised in the world. It contains many other interesting features, to which there is not space to allude here. It has gradually been extended to other classes of port workers besides the "shipmen." viz., quay porters (in so far as these are not employed by the State ?), coal porters, shore gangs, boiler- and ship-scalers, and recently certain classes of warehouse workers. The whole of the harbour workers in Harburg, a small port a few miles up the Elbe, haye also been organised in a similar manner by the Hamburg Port Employers' Association (which the Harburg employers have joined). The Port Employers' Association was at the end of 1912 also negotiating with the Master Lightermen with a view to bringing their employees into the system. There are now altogether eleven distinct offices comprised in the Labour Exchange. The annual reports of the Association contain the most complete statistical survey of a casual labour market which has ever been made. They deal (separately for each section of the harbour workers) with the numbers daily employed (with special figures for night shifts), the number of days worked by individual men during each month, the number of engagements for labour on each day, the surplus of men present on each day, and the number of cases of refusal of work offered and of failure of men to attend after being engaged. The present writer hopes to publish shortly an account of these statistics. Here it must suffice to mention that, on the average in 1911, no fewer than 13 per cent. out of a total number of 3,843 “Hilfsarbeiter " "shipmen” worked for less than ten days during each month, while 37 per cent. worked for from ten to nineteen days. The number of individual “Gelegenheitsarbeiter
The State owns all the quays in Hamburg and works them all except those which are leased to four large steamship lines,
engaged during each month varied from 227 to 1,680. Only a very small proportion of these secured even ten days' work in the month.
It is interesting to note that the same difficulty which has arisen in Liverpool, with regard to the shortage of men in times of pressure, often occurs in Hamburg. The annual reports of the Employers' Association generally contain a complaint that, although the number of “Kontraktarbeiter” and (registered) “Hilfsarbeiter are in excess of the number of men required on the busiest day, still it has been impossible on several occasions to satisfy the demand for labour, or only to satisfy it with the aid of a considerable number of unregistered casuals. This condition of affairs is more striking in Hamburg than in Liverpool, because in the former place, in order to keep on the register (and therefore count in the statistics of registered men), a “Hilfsarbeiter" has to have his card specially stamped once a month. The Liverpool “tallies,” on the other hand, have been issued for an indefinite period, and, as was noted above, the Labour Exchanges Divisional Officer a few months ago thought that about a thousand men possessed two.
The temporary shortage question will probably prove the most difficult point of policy in connection with the question of the control of the influx of labour, which was noted above as one of the two essential features of the organisation of a casual labour market. The Board of Trade is understood to regard it as essential that the decision as to whether a man is to be admitted into a casual labour market should rest, not with its officials, but with some officially recognised, but actually unofficial body, such as the Joint Committees of Employers and Workmen which are established in connection with its schemes. There are some important considerations in connection with the temporary shortages of men which should not be overlooked by anyone who is either practically concerned or theoretically interested in the question of the organisation of casual labour markets. In the first place, it is not to be expected that after experiencing, or rather actually forming a part of, the gamble for employment for years—perhaps a whole lifetime—the docker should suddenly become anxious to work regularly for six days a week at a laborious employment, in order to suit the convenience either of employers or social theorists. Least of all can this be expected at times when, owing to a system of overtime and night work,
1 An annual renewal of discussions of the scheme.
was mentioned during the preliminary
he can earn relatively large sums of money in a short space of time. In the second place, if the employers of a port require on the average (say) 7,000 men, but on twenty or thirty days of the year require up to 12,000, they have no right to complain if on any particular day 12,000 men cannot be obtained. If the employers of a port state that they require a certain normal maximum of men, then they should pay for their labour at such a rate and in such a manner that the total sum of wages is sufficient to provide a fair wage all the year round for each of those men, except in so far as the Government is able, through its Labour Exchanges, to find other work for some (or all) of them when they are not required for port employment. This may seem a bold proposition. But it is absolutely certain that nothing short of its recognition in practice can save the port employers of this country from the reproach of conducting an industry, which is as certainly and definitely parasitic as was agriculture in southern England under the old Poor Law'.
In point of fact, of course, there is already a considerable amount of “dovetailing ” of casual dock labour with other employments, and with the aid of organisation such “dove-tailing" could be improved. Such holdings or allotments may, in some places, provide a certain amount of subsidiary work for dockers.
In dealing with the question of the mobility of casual labour, it is as important to enable a certain proportion of the labour to move in and out of a given market with ease as it is to make all the labour within the market mobile. On both these points hints may be gained from the Hamburg organisation. It is certainly better to meet the occasional specially large demands for labour, above what may be termed the normal maximum, by importing extra men when the supply of ordinary registered men is insufficient, than to go on registering men indefinitely. The Labour Exchanges of the Hamburg Port Employers' Association are, of course, not connected with any outside system of exchanges. By bringing extra casuals into the scheme, they therefore incur the disadvantage of keeping “stagnant pools” of labour on the fringe of the system.
But in any English casual labour scheme the natural course of procedure, if extra men were temporarily required, would be to take them, not direct from the streets, but from the registers of the ordinary Government Labour Exchanges, so that there would be as much
1 Though unfortunately in Liverpool there is no sufficiently large quantity of seasonal labour in the summer to balance the busy winter season of the cotton warehousemen and dockers.
opportunity as possible of “dove-tailing " the work with other occupations. In dealing with the mobility of labour within the market in the Liverpool and Goole schemes 1 the Board of Trade (no doubt wisely) abandoned any attempt to introduce any fundamental alterations in the methods of engaging men at the outset. In Liverpool the eighty or ninety separate stands, with the accompanying system of “Umschau” (as the Germans call the unorganised search for work), still exists. The surplus stands cannot yet be said to have achieved a great deal in the way of altering it. The two Board of Trade waiting-rooms in Goole are, perhaps, rather more successful as centres from which men are summoned to work. But the almost perfect system of control of engagements of labour in the Hamburg Employers' Labour Exchanges is certainly far in advance of anything in England, and seems to dispose of the arguments as to the impracticability of reducing the number of places where men may be taken on.? What German employers can do in their own interest in Hamburg, English employers can do in the public (if not in their own) interest in Liverpool, London, Glasgow, or Hull. As regards the employment of dockers at different classes of work (such as stevedoring, unloading, and porterage), there is great variety of practice, both in English and in German ports. Obviously, the fewer the barriers between the different classes of work the better. Probably the greatest difficulty in arranging for men to be transferred from one to another is the fact that the rates of wages differ so widely.
The arrangements for joint weekly pays, which are being organised by the Board of Trade, are undoubtedly valuable. Some of the dockers' leaders hold emphatically that “human nature being what it is,” the system of daily pays or unlimited "subbing does not conduce to the expenditure of the docker's income in the best interests of himself and his family. Joint weekly pays are thus a step in advance. But what is really needed is a guaranteed weekly wage for the docker. No satisfactory solution of the problem will be found until a man, who does not receive a weekly minimum wage from a single employer, can only be hired through a public authority on such terms as would enable it taking into account such periods of employment as it could obtain for him in other occupations, to procure him a regular weekly wage of a reasonable amount. It has been
1 But not in the little Manchester cloth porters' scheme.
2 Although the Port of Hamburg, owing to its geographical arrangement, lends itself to schemes for organising labour more easily than London or Liverpool.
NO. 89.-VOL. XXIII.