|Rushden Echo, 16th March 1906, transcribed by Kay Collins
Work and Wages Rushden Council and Their Employees
Motion to Raise men’s Pay
A long discussion took place at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Rushden Urban Council on a motion by Councillor A J Dobbs to the effect that the wages of all able-bodied men employed by the Council be raised to 25/- a week.
Mr Dobbs, in bringing his motion forward, said he thought the Council’s labourers were insufficiently paid. Work that was worth doing was worth paying a living wage for, and 15/- or 16/- a week was not a living wage. It was not nearly so much as it cost to keep people in prison or gaol. If his resolution were accepted the Council would only be following the example of other councils. The Municipal Employees’ Association were asking for a wage of 28/- in the provinces and 30/- in London.
Mr Bates seconded the motion.
Mr Claridge: What are able-bodied men?
Mr Dobbs: The Council would have to decide that.
Mr Claridge: Not men 70 years old?
Mr Ballard: But what would be Mr Dobbs’s idea as to those old men? Should the Council dismiss them and put on able-bodied men at 25/-?
Mr Dobbs: If they are not able-bodied men, give them less, but give them
Enough to Live On.
Mr Skinner: At what age do they throw them out of the shops?
Mr Barley: They are worn-out, some of them, at 45.
Mr Dobbs: And 20, or any other age.
Mr Denton said he would be very sorry to see the factory system introduced among the Council’s employees. He was afraid if they fixed the wages at 25/- it would lead to those who were not able-bodied losing their positions and coming on the parish. If they only allowed the Surveyor to employ men who could earn the 25/- some of the present men must be shunted. He believed that the resolution would have just the opposite effect to what was desired. They would have to improve conditions all round before they could set the standard of living but most of the Council’s workmen did not earn that.
Mr Swindall said the labourers employed by the Council were
Far Better Off
than those in private employment, and though they were, many of them, in the same class as farm labourers they earned far more. He knew that some of the street sweepers were hoping that the resolution would be defeated because they were afraid of losing their places. The advance had not been asked for and he should vote against it.
Mr F Knight: It doesn’t look as though the men were dissatisfied, considering how long they have remained in the Council’s employment.
Mr Dobbs: If private persons sweat the men, the Council should not do so.
Mr Ballard: A good deal depends on what is considered an able-bodied man.
Mr Mantle mentioned one of the men he would regard as able-bodied.
Mr Denton: But I should think if that man got out of his place he would have great difficulty in getting the same money again. After all, we have to look at the matter from a
Mr Bazeley: Business standpoint.
Mr Denton: No, not altogether that, but we have to look at it to a certain extent from the supply and demand standpoint. It seems to me we are paying for what we are getting.
Mr Skinner: If the men did not like it they would leave.
Mr Dobbs: Yes, they have
The Chance to Starve.
Mr Ballard said her believed some of the men would have that chance if Mr Dobbs’s motion were carried. It would be a great injustice to some of the old men employed, and it was not fair to the ratepayers to deal with the matter in such a wholesale way. If some of the men did not receive enough, by all means let the Council consider the matter.
Mr Skinner: We had better spread the money over a large area than have half the men standing idle.
Mr Claridge thought the Council should be model employers, and he thought they really were, for they were paying fair wages for the class of work done.
Mr Denton: I suppose the money to pay them has to come out of the workers.
Mr Bazeley said he would be very sorry to see anyone turned off, but did not think the motion would have that effect.
Mr Knight: But Mr Dobbs keeps referring to the men who earn 15/- or 16/- a week.
Mr Dobb s: I don’t want the old men turned off, but surely men at 40 to 48 years of age can earn more than those wages. They could earn that
Standing on Their Heads.
Mr Ballard said he should vote against the resolution as a matter of justice to the old men. Under the resolution the old men would go to the wall.
The motion was then put and was lost.
Mr Bazeley moved that the wages of the whole of the men be considered by the Council to committee, each case to be taken on its merits.
The motion having been seconded, Mr Denton moved as an amendment that the remuneration of the men remain in the hands of the Surveyor. He thought if they interfered with the Surveyor in the matter they would impair the efficiency of the men’s work.
Mr Swindall seconded the amendment.
Mr Bates: What do the Council sit for? I thought we came here to deal with the business of the town.
Mr Bazeley said he did not wish to take the matter out of the Surveyor’s hand, but the Council could give the Surveyor fresh instruction if, after considering the matter, they thought fresh instructions were needed.
Mr Knight supported the amendment, because the present arrangement had worked well for years. The Surveyor had carried on the business well, and was on good terms with the men.
Messrs Ballard and Claridge supported the amendment, which was carried by six votes to four.
Mr Bazeley: The matter will come up again.