Page:The British Coal Trade - Jevons.djvu/15

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combined to give this result; curtailment of the export trade to neutral countries through shipping difficulties and high freights; difficulties of obtaining pitprops and materials for further development of collieries; shortage of labour due to recruiting; also in the last two or three years, in some coalfields, a tacit adoption amongst the hewers of a "stint," or maximum number of trams to be filled per day; and since 16th July, 1919, the reduction of the statutory working hours from eight to seven. This Act of 1919 brings the average time spent by men below ground to about 7 hours 40 minutes. A further reduction to a statutory working day of six hours will come into effect from 1st January, 1921, if Parliament resolves that the condition of the coal- mining industry then permits it.

One of the first effects of the War was to increase the price of food, and generally to raise the cost of living. This was reflected everywhere by demands for wages to be increased. In 1915 Mr. Asquith, then Prime Minister, gave an award to the effect that wages should be increased substantially, but that the Conciliation Boards of the various districts must settle the amounts separately. In South Wales the increase was 17½ per cent., and similar advances were made elsewhere. Immediately afterwards the Wages Agreement of 1915 expired in South Wales, and a new standard was adopted at 50 per cent, above the standard of 1879. Since 1915 there have been considerable increases of the percentages throughout the country, whilst in September, 1917, a general War Wage of 1s. 6d. per day for all adult workers and 9d.