Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/543

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
535
OUR FOREIGN COMMERCE IN 1901.

would lay 1,000 or 1,200 bricks in a day. In America, we are given to understand, the figure is even higher. Now, by an unwritten but mercilessly enforced trades-union law, a man must not lay more than 400, and if he works for the London County Council—that is to say, for the ratepayers—he must not lay more than 330. Our correspondent quotes a case of a building put up for the school board in which the average output of the bricklayers was 70 bricks a day. Yet these are men receiving the highest current rate of wages, a rate very greatly in excess of what was paid when 1,000 bricks were laid per day. This is typical of what goes on in every trade, though it may not always be so easy to give exact figures."

The United States consul at Liverpool, Mr. Boyle, in his annual report for 1901,[1] gives a most interesting description of the lengths to which this restrictive policy is carried. "The charge is made," he says, "that there is a general disposition on the part of British workingmen to obstruct as much as possible the use of labor-saving machinery, and to limit its output whenever the employers add machinery to their plant; and also that, in certain trades, the rule is 'one man, one machine,' whereas in America one man will attend to two or three machines. It is furthermore charged that there is an increasing disposition on the part of British workingmen to shirk work, and to use all expedients to perform as little labor as possible during the hours for which they are paid. These charges are made with great particularity against trades-unionists. There is, it is to be noted, a growing tendency throughout the country to shorten the hours of labor, while at the same time there is an upward movement in wages. As a rule, trades-unionists deny the charge of obstructing the use of labor-saving machinery and limiting the output; and they retort that employers are lacking in enterprise in not fitting up their factories with up-todate plants. It is undoubtedly true, however, that, speaking generally and quite apart from the question of trades-unionism, English manufacturers find it almost impossible to get the same amount of product from machines as is obtained in America. There are two reasons that account for this, independent of any agreement, expressed or implied, on the part of trades-unionists to limit the output. The first reason is that, as a rule, the British workman is not as adaptable as the American workman—he does not so readily get command of new appliances as the American workman; and the second is that it is not the custom of the country for an Englishman, whether mechanic, clerk or laborer, to work as hard as an American." In Consul Boyle's opinion, 'trades-unionism has an influence in England far beyond what it has in the United States'; but he adds: 'It is but just to say that there is greater


  1. See 'Advance Sheets of Consular Reports,' No. 1222 (December 24, 1901).