Working Class Movement Library

A blog from the Working Class Movement Library in Salford

“Really intolerable” working conditions

Posted by wcmlibrary on March 11, 2010

An interesting 100-year old Minute Book has recently been donated to the Library containing a “transcription of shorthand notes” of minutes of meetings held in 1910 of a deputation to the Royal Small Arms Factory (Enfield Lock) from an Employees’ Union and the Amalgamated Society of Engineers.   The minutes, 150 pages, are in verbatim form and cover a wide range of subjects, big issues of rates of pay, piece-work, “time and speed” problems and so on, with fascinating glimpses of other issues affecting the workers at this factory.

Complaints were made about the “really intolerable” icy cold conditions in parts of the factory – having  to handle and work with the cold gun barrels, swords, bayonets and tools.   A designated worker could check the thermometer but had no power to order “lighting of the gas” (for warmth) and the foreman, who had the power, could refuse.

At one point of the meeting, a sword/bayonet was handed round with much discussion as to the seven stages of work required: filing, rounding-off, etc.   The piece-work on each had been reduced from 3d to 2d – a worker’s average output being 180 swords per week, earning thirty shillings.

Another matter was raised regarding a superintendent of the factory who, observing some black smoke issuing from the factory shaft, had reduced the stoker’s wages by four shillings per week and had reduced his status to “second-class stoker”.   A plea at the meeting to redress the situation was refused.

Irene, WCML volunteer


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