Extracts from the Annual Reports

Extracts from ITUC Conference on May 16th, 17th, and 18th, 1910, in the Town Hall, Dundalk

On the introduction of Labour Exchanges

From the Report of the ITUC Executive: Since your Committee last reported, the Labour Exchanges Bill has been placed upon the Statute Book. This measure had the cordial support of the Labour and Irish Parties, not as a remedy for unemployment, but on the ground that it would supply the necessary machinery for collecting reliable data by which the needs of the problem could be urged upon the country with greater effect. While the Bill was in Committee your Committee had its clauses under consideration, and in order to provide against the Exchanges being used against the workers in times of dispute they drafted two amendments to the first clause, which they entrusted to the member for College Green Division of Dublin (Mr Nannetti), who in due course moved, but withdrew, them, on receiving satisfactory guarantees that safeguards would be provided in the regulations issued under the Act. On considering the measure after it had received the Royal Assent, your Committee adopted and forwarded to the Government the following resolution:—

That while tentatively accepting the Labour Exchanges Act, with the Regulations made thereunder, as an effort towards reducing the acuteness of the Unemployed Problem, this Committee, on behalf of the Trade and Labour Unions of Ireland, cannot commit themselves to approval of the measure pending opportunities of observing its practical operation; and this Committee is strongly of opinion that if the scheme is to secure the confidence of the organised workers in Ireland, it is essential that their local official representatives should have an equitable part in its administration.

Your Committee regret that but a small proportion of the officials appointed to administer the Act in Ireland have been identified with trade questions, but venture to hope that as the Government schemes develop, more regard will be had to the workers’ predilections in this direction. Your Committee assume that the Act is now sufficiently well known to render reference to its provisions unnecessary. They, for the present, content themselves with drawing attention to a statement made by Mr Churchill on the 11th April last, “that though the machinery of the Act had only been partly erected, the Exchanges were finding situations for unemployed persons at the rate of 5,000 per week.”

There are now over 100 Exchanges in full operation in Great Britain and Ireland, whose work will be carefully if not sympathetically watched by all classes. The Regulations under which the Exchanges operate have been framed with the advice and assistance of the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Congress and the Labour Party.

Click here to launch page 8 the 1910 Annual Report (PDF) 

On Government Unemployment Insurance Scheme

From the Report of the ITUC Executive: This is an important feature in the Ministerial unemployment policy, and will be worked in connection with the Labour Exchanges established last year. The measure is in charge of Mr Sydney Buxton, President of the Board of Trade, and its chief points are as follows:—

(1) Both workpeople and employers will contribute

(2) the contributions will be supplemented by a substantial subvention from the State

(3) the system will be one of insurance by trades

(4) within the specified trades the system will be compulsory upon all unionists and non-unionists, skilled and unskilled workmen, and employers alike. The benefits will be somewhat lower than those which the trade unions pay. There will be a weekly payment over a period of unemployment, and the benefits will require between 5d and 6d per man to be raised weekly. The scheme will apply to the following trades:—

Housebuilding and works of construction, engineering, machine and tool making, ship and boat building, vehicles, sawyers. General labourers working at these trades will be included. The trades chosen for the first application of insurance form a group in which, unemployment is regular and persistent, and they are supposed to cover one-half the field of unemployment. When the worker loses his employment he must take his card to the nearest labour exchange, which, in conjunction with the insurance office, will be responsible for finding him a job, or paying him the benefit.
Click here to launch page 9 the 1910 Annual Report (PDF)

On Trades Boards

From the Report of the ITUC Executive: The Trades Boards Bill came into operation on the lst January last. This Act requires the establishment of Trade Boards for fixing minimum rates of pay in certain trades in which sweating exists. It includes four scheduled trades:—

(1) Readymade and wholesale bespoke tailoring;

(2) Cardboard boxmaking;

(3) Machine made lace and net finishing and curtain finishing; and

(4) Chain making.

The Act can be extended to other trades by provisional orders made by the Board of Trade, and confirmed by Parliament. So far as Ireland is concerned the two first-mentioned scheduled trades only are affected, and the Board of Trade have issued circulars to the operatives of those trades in which they say:—”It is in your interest that the best representatives of the workers should be chosen to sit on the Trade Board, and it is hoped that you will set to work to find out the sort of person that you would like to represent you and your fellow-workers.” Your Committee venture to hope that this advice will be fully acted upon. Every Trade Board will consist of three classes of persons—

(a) “Appointed persons, “that is to say, persons appointed by the Board of Trade;

(b) Members representing employers; and

(c) Members representing workers.

Click here to launch page 9 the 1910 Annual Report (PDF) 

Contested condolences for Royal Family

Miss Mary Galway, Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of the ITUC, opened the Congress. Miss Galway (Textile Operatives, Belfast) said that as a woman she thought they should first extend their sincere sympathy on behalf of the Irish workers to Queen Alexandra in her bereavement (interruption).*

Mr O’Brien (Amalgamated Tailors, Dublin)—Humbug ! Our sympathy had much better be extended to the victims of the colliery disaster at Whitehaven (applause).

Mr Stewart (ITUC, Dublin)—Conduct yourself. Respect a lady if you don’t respect yourself (applause).

Mr Dawson Gordon (Flax Roughers, Belfast)—What about Whitehaven? (applause).

Miss Galway proceeded to speak in favour of her motion, and said the late king did his best to give justice to every class in the United Kingdom.

Mr McGibbon (Belfast Bakers) seconded Miss Galway’s motion.

Mr Gordon—Couple the sufferers from the Whitehaven disaster.

Mr McCarron, TC (Amalgamated Tailors, Londonderry)—That is coming on later.

Mr O’Brien—Oh, evidently any time will do for them!

Mr Nolan (Bookbinders, Dublin) said that personally King Edward VII deserved respect, and he was a man who in every possible way showed sympathy for the people over whom he ruled. He (Mr Nolan) therefore supported the motion, although he did not recognise the English King so long as Ireland was denied constitutional rights.

Mr P T Daly (Dublin Paviors) also rose to speak, but Miss Galway asked all in favour of the motion to stand up, and she declared the motion carried.

Click here to launch page 9 the 1910 Annual Report (PDF) 

On the Right to Work and the Workhouse

ITUC President James McCarron said, I am extremely sorry that in the strain of the political conflict [over Home Rule] the “Right to Work” Bill did not come into the light for widespread discussion (applause).

The title of the Bill may tickle the fancy the “Right to Work” Bill did not come into the light for widespread discussion (applause). The title of the Bill may tickle the fancy of the humorous, just as twenty years ago the suggestion of an old age pension would have been ridiculed even by those who are now in receipt of it. But I should like it to be remembered that the right to work is the right to live, and we should hardly find anybody to-day prepared to dispute the latter proposition. But don’t forget that a right ceases to be a right if you are denied the opportunity of fully exercising that right, and yet I shudder to think of how many find themselves in that miserable category through the reason, I make bold to say, of some defect in our present social system. May I point out before leaving the subject that the motto of the Trades Union movement has always been “self-reliance, self-help,”—not charity (loud applause).

The establishment of the Labour Exchanges has been of such recent date that I hesitate to express my opinion of them, but let us hope that they will be worked in harmony with the various Trades Unions and not against them; and at the same time let us not forget that the system under which they are conducted tends to individual bargaining which may result in the reduction of wages if we are not, by thorough combination, in a position to protect our interests in that direction. Hence the necessity for a more perfect organisation now than before the Act became law. (hear, hear).

We have now over a year’s working of the “Old Age Pensions Act,” and we must admit that, though meagre, the pittance has brought a ray of hope to many aged poor; but much more remains to be done, particularly the immediate removal of the pauper disqualification which is most absurd, inasmuch as there is no better proof (all other sections of the Act being complied with) that those so circumstanced who apply for the Old Age Pension are entitled to get it than the fact that they have been compelled to accept Poor Law relief. Then, again, the age limit must be reduced and the amount per week increased. Surely, Society, for whom the aged workers created the wealth—yes, twenty times more than ever they consumed—shall not allow them to end their days in want and misery. No! on the contrary, shall not a grateful country enable those disabled soldiers of industry to live the few years that remain to them after their days of toil are past in comparative peace and comfort ? (applause).

Speaking of Old Age Pensions has suggested to me a few thoughts regarding the workhouse system which still remains unchanged. All finer human feelings revolt at it. By general consent it stands condemned. Then why should it remain? We should make it clearly understood that so far as the power and influence of the organised workers are concerned, the system must be abolished, and the sooner the better, both in the interests of the ratepayer and the deserving poor. And while discussing the workhouses, I think I may venture to introduce the sweating evil; for are not the two institutions closely connected ?—the sweater usually ending his days in the union (hear, hear).

Of all the evils with which the workers are cursed, I am convinced that sweating is the worst. I will not insult your intelligence by referring to it in detail, as I believe everyone of you are sufficiently acquainted with the system to thoroughly realise the terrible suffering it inflicts on the victim, and the great danger to health it is, through the spread of disease amongst the public who patronise the firms that employ the sweater. Now and again a great outcry arises about the sweating system when the pious and philanthropic in public and the diplomatic in Government feel called upon to bestir themselves for a while, and then the public conscience rests satisfied with something attempted but very little done.
Some may ask what about the Trades Board Bill? Will it, not mitigate the evil referred to, to some extent? Yes, in so far as its limited operations extend, it may do some good; but as there are many sweated industries to which it does not apply, particularly made-to-order tailoring, I am afraid the authors of the Act cannot lay claim to having touched more than the fringe of the sweating question.

Click here to launch page 18 the 1910 Annual Report (PDF)