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The engagement of men was to take place primarily, as before, at the eighty or ninety different “stands ” along the docks. But, as soon as a “stand” had been “called," the men who had not been engaged were to repair to one of sixteen “surplus stands,” where a telephone box in charge of a Labour Exchange official was established. Any employer or foreman unable to obtain sufficient men could at once telephone to the nearest surplus stand or come and choose his men in person. The surplus stands were to be grouped and connected through the six Clearing Houses. These latter were also to serve as centres for the payment of wages. Out of 67 employers who came into the scheme, 46 agreed to pay all their wages through the Board of Trade. The remaining 21 consented to pay their wages at the Clearing Houses, but directly through one of their own clerks. The charge to employers for work in connection with paying wages and stamping cards was the same as in the Manchester scheme, viz., 25 per cent. on insurance contributions.
The scheme has now been in operation for over six months. There was some opposition from a section of the men at the commencement, resulting at Birkenhead in a strike which lasted some weeks. But the scheme is now generally accepted, since the advantages of a control of the influx of labour from the men's point of view have become clear. Three practical difficulties have arisen in the working of the scheme. In the first place, there is no doubt that a considerable proportion of the men are unwilling to take a full week's work even if they can get it. Consequently, although the number of men already registered is sufficient to work the port on its busiest day, there was actually during the end of 1912 a considerable shortage of labour on several occasions. In point of fact, the issue of "tallies" to fresh men has gone on fairly extensively since the starting of the scheme. The Clearing House Committees, which took over the control of this matter in October, 1912, appear generally to have adopted the principle that a "tally" should not be refused at any rate to any man who had previously worked as a docker, though there is considerable feeling against “tradesmen” coming to the docks for a spell of work while they are unable to obtain omployment at their normal occupation. The total number of "tallies " issued up to the end of each month are as follows :July, 19,107; August, 22,942; September, 24,861 ; October, 26,152 ; November, 27,266 ; December, 28,172 ; January, 29,618. At the end of October it was estimated that about 1,000 of the "tallies" issued represented "duplicates," i.c., were in the hands
of men who also possessed another “tally,” and that at least 1,500 were held by men who were not altogether dependent upon the docks for a living.
These figures may be compared with the number of men who have worked during each week as shown by the total number of men paid wages either directly by employers or through the Board of Trade :
The second difficulty which has appeared, since the scheme was started, has also tended to accentuate the shortage of men which has been experienced from time to time during the busy winter season. Neither the employers nor the men have really made proper use of the “surplus stands." It is true that a considerable number of men have been placed in work through their agency, the estimates for each month being as follows :
4,536 4,820 4,161
But these figures are not large compared with the total number of daily engagements of labour in the port. Men still tend to walk along the docks after the stands are called, if they are not engaged. And not a few, for no reason at all other than force of habit, will not work for more than one or at most two employers, and will stand idle rather than take temporary work elsewhere. At a recent Clearing House Committee meeting it was stated that cases of men failing to go to work, to which they had been sent from a “surplus stand,” were not uncommon. Employers and foremen, too, sometimes refuse to make use of the “surplus stands ” from prejudice, or, after telephoning to a “surplus stand,” take on men whom they come across by accident, instead of waiting a few minutes for the men sent from the “surplus stand." All this human "economic friction" is exceedingly difficult to overcome.
The joint payment of wages also has not proved an easy
matter to organise on so large a scale. It is true that the number of firms who pay through the Board of Trade has increased, so that now only about a dozen are standing out and paying through their own clerks. But, although the proportion of wages "subbed” has never been so great in Liverpool as in other ports, such as Hull and Goole, the men refused to work on Saturdays unless they were paid for their work on the same day. found impossible for the Board of Trade (even with the aid of sixty supplementary clerks, who, along with a part of the regular staff, work all Friday night) to make up wages for the week beyond 5 p.m. on Friday. Consequently the employers have been compelled to give “subs” themselves to the men for work done on Saturday, in order to induce them to work at all, and have the trouble of conducting two distinct methods of paying wages side by side. The Board of Trade has not yet the satisfaction either of having established the weekly wage system on a firm basis, or of securing a complete record of the employment and wages earned by the men.
At the Goole docks a scheme on practically the same lines as that at Liverpool was also started when the Insurance Act came into operation. The chief formal differences are that (as is natural in a smaller port) there are no subordinate committees under the Joint Committee of employers and men, which was constituted specially by the Board of Trade, and that the employers' payments towards the cost of the scheme are calculated at the rate of a half per cent. on wages instead of 25 per cent. on insurance contributions. There are only five employers of dock labour in the port. Wages in Goole are calculated by the hour, and there is no minimum of a half-day's engagement, as in Liverpool. “Subbing ” has always been general. But it has been arranged that "subs” as well as the balance of the weekly wage shall be paid at the Board of Trade offices (of which there are two, on opposite sides of the harbour) on the presentation of a pay ticket from the firm. The number of tallies issued up to the end of each month since the starting of the scheme has been as follows:
The number of men who received wages in each week and the variations in the amount paid is indicated in the following table :
Col. (1)= pay day. Col. (2)=number of men paid. Col. (3)=percentage of average individual wage during each separate week to average individual weekly wage during the whole 26 weeks. Col. (4)=the percentage of the total wages “subbed" during each week.
In Sunderland there is a scheme in operation under section 99 of the Insurance Act, without any arrangements for joint pays, covering a few hundred dockers. Negotiations in several other ports have not yet resulted in the execution of any plans. In London the duty of regularising the labour of the port was laid by section 28 of the Port of London Act of 1908 upon the Port Authority, which has, however, power to act through other bodies, such as the Board of Trade Labour Exchanges. The Port Authority claims that it has done something to decasualise labour ; but during the Dock Strike in the summer of 1912 many complaints were made in Parliament and elsewhere that practically nothing had been done to carry out the instructions contained in the Act. Various circumstances, including the geographical arrangement of the docks and wharves, and the peculiar circumstances obtaining in the relations of the men's organisations to the employers and the Port Authority undoubtedly render the execution of any effective and comprehensive scheme in London exceedingly difficult at the moment. In Cardiff, Swansea, Barry, and Port Talbot there are schemes in operation under section 99 of the Insurance Act for ship repairers, embracing altogether 33 employers and about 6,000 men. In various other places the Board of Trade has made arrangements with groups of employers under section 99, and altogether nearly 130,000 men appear to be covered by such schemes. But probably not more than about 30 per cent. of these are casual workers, in the sense of being habitually engaged for periods of
1 Who are, of course, unlike the docker, included in the Unemployment Insurance scheme.
less than a week. A considerable number of them are, however, engaged in seasonal trades. In Leicester, for example, practically the whole of the employers in the building trades have made arrangements under section 99 with the Labour Exchange covering some 2,000 men. In Liverpool a special Labour Exchange has since June, 1910, secured the great bulk of the engagements of cotton warehousemen without the aid of a scheme under section 99. The number of these men normally varies from about 4,000 in the busiest time of the winter to something like 1,500 in the slackest time in the summer. But the work is not purely casual to a very large extent.
It is interesting to compare these schemes, which have been developed entirely with the object of attempting to counteract the effects of casual labour, with the organisation which the employers of dock labour in Hamburg have built up from purely business motives, with the object of securing as efficient a supply of labour as possible. In May, 1907, there was a strike amongst the “shipmen.” 1 The Port Employers' Association imported altogether 9,022 blacklegs (of whom 5,916 came from England), and succeeded in completely breaking the strike with the aid of these men. They then determined to place the whole organisation of labour in the port on a better basis. The foundation of the new system was to be 2,000 “Kontraktarbeiter" engaged by the Association on a monthly contract, but hired out to individual firms, who had to guarantee them at least a 30s. minimum wage, though, apart from this guarantee, they were to be paid for the time during which they actually worked. It was found, however, in practice, to be impossible to raise the number of “Kontraktarbeiter" to more than about 1,150, as long as individual firms had to guarantee the minimum wage of all the men whom they took. An interesting device was therefore adopted in 1910 in order to increase the number of “Kontraktarbeiter.” A number of the larger steamship lines agreed to take an additional number of "Kontraktarbeiter" on condition that they might give notice at midday on any day that the men would not be required on the following day. These firms undertook jointly, through the Employers' Association, to find the men work elsewhere, or guarantee the minimum wage. This plan enabled the number of “Kontraktarbeiter" to be raised from 1,165 at the end of 1909 to 1,463 at the end of 1910. Twenty
1 The Liverpool term “ 'shipmen ” is used in this article as the best English equivalent of the German “ Schauerleute.” The “ shipmen ” both stow and unload cargo, as distinguished from the quay porters who work on shore.