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labour. The increased proportion of temporary placings in 1912 is due to the operation of section 99 of the Insurance Act (see pp. 4 and 11, below), which has enabled the Exchanges in some places, particularly South Wales, to secure a control of the engagements of labour in the more casual branches of the insured trades, e.g., ship repairing.
It was recognised from the first that some special machinery would be needed for dealing with large bodies of casual labour. Merely to fill casual labour vacancies of this type through an ordinary Labour Exchange does almost nothing towards improving the condition of things, except in so far as it accustoms people to the use of the Exchange, and prepares the way for a more definite organisation and policy in the future. Special plans of organisation are needed for each large local mass of casual labour, where such exists, and for gathering together scattered fragments of casual labour, wherever this is possible. Any such special plans must deal with two essential points (though they may also include other methods of increasing regularity of employment). In the first place they must establish some method of controlling the influx of labour into a casual labour market. Secondly, they must endeavour to increase the mobility of labour within the market. The first special scheme for dealing with a mass of casual workers was applied to the Cloth Porters of Manchester. In the warehouse quarter of that city there are some hundreds of men (perhaps four or five hundred in all) who make a living almost entirely by loading and unloading cotton cloth from “lorries” in the street. They are taken on by the hour (and after the first hour by the half-hour). The normal wage is sevenpence an hour, but some of the “bleachers' porters,” who have to carry heavier bales, receive ninepence or occasionally tenpence. The number of different employers appears to be considerably larger than the number of men, but many of the former may only require a man once in a few weeks. The number of those who, on the average, require at least one man once a week, is not very far in excess of a hundred. The demand for the men is partly caused by the fact that the police object to “lorries” standing in the streets longer than is absolutely necessary. Up to May, 1910, the men hung about the streets and the public-houses on the chance of a job. Employers or their representatives naturally got to know a certain number of
1 The contention of Mr. J. St.G. Heath, in the ECONOMIC JOURNAL for September, 1910, that the German Labour Exchanges, through their ordinary operations, had probably encouraged casual engagements, was warmly denied in Germany. See Der Arbeitsmarkt, March, 1911, pp. 455-6.
more or less reliable men, and where these could usually be found. It would have been difficult to imagine a more purely casual system of employment. In May, 1910, however, 56 of the employers were persuaded by the Labour Exchange authorities to combine in supporting an attempt to organise the labour of the
A special Labour Exchange (with a waiting-room, including a cheap temperance restaurant) was opened in the centre of the warehouse district. The 56 employers in the scheme agreed to send for their men to the exchange whenever they needed them, and to refuse to take men off the street. A man was only registered if he obtained a card from an employer containing a statement that he had been previously employed as a cloth porter. It was the general practice of employers to ask at the Exchange for a particular man, and to take others only if that man was not available. From the first the Exchange found itself sending the same men frequently two and even three times to different jobs during a single day. The number of firms using the Exchange increased steadily. The number of men applying for work at least once during each month varies greatly owing to a number of causes. The largest and smallest number was 513 and 228 in 1911, and 455 and 232 in 1912. The average number of men, for whom in each month work was found was 238 in 1910, 240 in 1911, and 264 in 1912. The total number of separate jobs provided in each month averaged 5,475 in 1911 and 5,160 in 1912. The number of days in each month on which each man worked, for whom employment was found at all, averaged 12 in 1910, 161 in 1911, and 15 in 1912. It is said that, on the average, over 100 separate employers are now using the Exchange in each week.
Casual labour was discussed in Parliament on several occasions in connection with the Insurance Bill in 1911. Section 99 of the Act contains provisions which aim at facilitating the work of the Labour Exchanges in dealing with the problem. It lays down first that the Board of Trade may undertake through a Labour Exchange the duties of employers under the Act (i.e., stamping cards, &c.), in respect of persons in their employ at the time when the arrangement was made or subsequently engaged by them through a Labour Exchange; and secondly, that in respect of such workmen different periods of employment of the same workmen or of different workmen may be counted as a continuous employment of a single workman, in so far as the employer's contributions for Unemployment (but not Health) insurance are concerned. Under the Unemployment (unlike the
Health) Insurance Scheme, each separate period of employment within a week (whether by the same employer or not) has to be accompanied by a separate contribution. Under the original draft of the Insurance Bill, the full contribution of 27d. had to be paid both by the employer and by the workman in respect of each period. But the Act as finally passed provides that, if the period of employment does not exceed two days, only twopence each shall be paid by the employer and workman, and if it does not exceed one day only a penny shall be paid by each.
The net effect of these provisions in practice is to afford three inducements, which a Labour Exchange is enabled to offer employers, in order to induce them to engage their labourand especially their casual labour-according to a definite plan. In the first place, it can offer to relieve the employer of a certain amount of trouble and expense (amounting in the case of the larger firms to the cost of one or two clerks) in keeping and stamping Health Insurance contribution cards and Unemployment Insurance books. Secondly, it can enable a group of employers to apportion the total cost of insurance contributions of both kinds amongst themselves, according to some plan which avoids the uncertainty, due to the fact that it may be more or less a matter of chance who happens to be the first employer of a casual worker in a week, and therefore has to pay the whole of his Health Insurance contribution. In the third place, the employer is offered a small direct financial advantage as far as concerns the contributions of men included in the Unemployment Insurance scheme. The Board of Trade has offered to employers of casual labour fourth inducement to join in decasualisation schemes, which is perhaps of more far-reaching significance than any of the others. It has undertaken in more than one centre to pay wages on behalf of the employers, so that a casual worker employed by three or four employers during the week may draw all his wages at one place. A charge is made by the Board of Trade (in the form of a percentage, either on the employer's insurance contributions, or on the wages paid on his behalf), for the clerical work involved in stamping cards and (if this is also included) paying wages.
The arrangements offered by the Board of Trade in connection with the Insurance Act were applied to the existing Manchester Cloth Porters' casual labour scheme as soon as the Act came into operation. About eighty employers agreed to engage all their cloth porters through the special exchange, to share the
total cost of their Insurance contributions amongst themselves (roughly) in proportion to the number of hours of work which they provided for either one or several men, and finally to pay all their wages through the Labour Exchange. The Board of Trade adds 25 per cent. to the amount charged to each employer for insurance contributions, as a set-off against the work done in keeping and stamping cards and paying wages. A short time ago it was found that the average amount charged to each employer for each man employed during the week was 11 d. The number of employers in the scheme has gradually increased to 116. The total amount of wages paid in each week varies from about £150 to £180. During the first week or two the men objected to receiving a weekly wage instead of casual payments in return for casual work. In order to meet this, employers continued to "sub” a portion of the money earned for a short time, but now the men are paid only on the Friday afternoon at the Exchange. The men are not compelled to leave their insurance contribution cards at the Exchange. About ten of them who work partly for firms outside the scheme carry their cards with them. And when (as frequently happens) a firm which is not in the combined wages scheme sends to the Exchange for a man, the man is given his card to take with him to the firm, if he has not worked previously during the week.
The number of men included in the Manchester Cloth Porters' scheme is not large ; but the organisation is interesting, because it shows the lines on which even the most casual types of labour can be treated, and may form the model for many other such arrangements. The Liverpool Docks, on the other hand, constitute one of what may now be termed the historic casual labour problems of the country, embracing about a hundred times as many men as are included among the Manchester Cloth Porters. From the time of the first establishment of the Labour Exchanges the officials had been in negotiation with the employers and with the men's representatives with the object of working out a suitable scheme. The whole position of affairs was, however, transformed by the Dock Strike of 1911. Till then the Union was more or less confined to the South End. After the strike every docker became a member of the Union, and the “Union Button” became a sine quâ non of employment. The employers decided, moreover, to try the experiment of according complete recognition to the men's representatives, and a Dock Labour
1 It is, however, arrangod that an employer never pays more than 3d. for a man however many times he employs him, and no charge of less than 1d. is made.
Joint Committee was formed to deal with all questions of employment in the port. On this committee, in conjunction with the Board of Trade Labour Exchanges Divisional Officer, fell the duty of working out a scheme for organising the casual workers. The results of its investigations into the statistics of employment at the Liverpool docks were published in the form of a pamphlet by Mr. R. Williams, the Divisional Officer.1 The chief facts ascertained in this inquiry were as follows. The total number of dockers (calculated from the Union records) was 27,200. The largest number applying for work at any one time on the docks during January, 1912, was 22,000. The total of the largest numbers employed by each firm on any day during that month was 28,514. But the largest number employed by all firms together in any one day of the month (the busiest known for many years) was 15,673. To obtain the total effective demand for labour on that day there must be added to this figure 3,901, representing men employed overtime or on night shift during the previous night, and 287, representing the shortage of men at various “stands.” On every week-day of the month (excluding New Year's Day, on which many of the men are unwilling to work), there were actual surpluses of men at various "stands” amounting in all to from 2,435 to 4,990. But on every day (excluding New Year's Day and a day on which there were snowstorms) there were also at other “stands” shortages varying from 83 to 770. In the case of each of two large firms (from whom alone such particulars were published) the number of individual men paid wages at the end of each of the four weeks of the month was practically double the largest number employed by them on any one day of the same week.
The plan which was finally approved by the Joint Committee for the organisation of the labour of the port proposed that on and after July 15th, 1912, no man should be employed who did not hold a Board of Trade “tally” or metal disc. In the first instance, “tallies” were to be issued only to men who obtained the signature of a firm to a statement that they had been employed as dockers. Afterwards the issue of tallies, subject to the general supervision of the Joint Committee, was to be in the hands of six committees of representatives of employers and men for the six Clearing House areas into which it was proposed to divide the port. Thus a definite system of control of the influx of labour into the port was established. It was proposed to improve the mobility of labour in the following
1 Reviewed in the ECONOMIC JOURNAL, June, 1912.