Cotton Mills, etc. Act 1819
The 1819 Cotton Mills and Factories Act stated that no children under 9 were to be employed and that children aged 9–16 years were limited to 16 hours’ work per day.
Labour in Cotton Mills Act 1831
An Act to repeal the Laws relating to Apprentices and other young Persons employed in Cotton Factories and in Cotton Mills, and to make further Provisions in lieu thereof
No night work for persons under the age of 21.
Labour of Children, etc., in Factories Act 1833
The Factory Act 1833 was an attempt to establish a regular working day in the textile industry. The act had the following provisions:
Children (ages 14–18) must not work more than 12 hours a day with an hour lunch break. Note that this enabled employers to run two ‘shifts’ of child labour each working day in order to employ their adult male workers for longer.
Children (ages 9–13) must not work more than 8 hours with an hour lunch break.
Children (ages 9–13) must have two hours of education per day.
Outlawed the employment of children under 9 in the textile industry.
Children under 18 must not work at night.
Provided for routine inspections of factories.
Factories Act 1844
The Factories Act 1844 further reduced hours of work for children and applied the many provisions of the Factory Act of 1833 to women. The act applied to the textile industry and included the following provisions:
Children 9–13 years could work for 9 hours a day with a lunch break.
Women and young people now worked the same number of hours. They could work for no more than 12 hours a day during the week, including one and a half hours for meals, and 9 hours on Sundays.
Factory owners must wash factories with lime every fourteen months.
Ages must be verified by surgeons.
Accidental death must be reported to a surgeon and investigated.
Thorough records must be kept regarding the provisions of the act.
Machinery was to be fenced in.
Factories Act 1847
After the Whigs gained power in Parliament, the Ten Hour Bill (also known as the Ten Hour Act) was passed becoming the Factories Act 1847 This law limited the work week in textile mills (and other textile industries except lace and silk production) for women and children under 18 years of age. Each work week contained 63 hours effective 1 July 1847 and was reduced to 58 hours effective 1 May 1848. In effect, this law limited the workday to 10 hours.
This law was successfully passed due to the contributions of the Ten Hours Movement. This campaign was established during the 1830s and was responsible for voicing demands towards limiting the work week in textile mills. The leaders of the movement were Richard Oastler (who led the campaign outside Parliament), as well as John Fielden and Lord Shaftesbury (who led the campaign inside Parliament). Of course, employers found a ten hour limit acceptable as it meant that workers could be run in shifts, keeping the factory open for up to twenty hours a day.
R. W. Cooke-Taylor, the author of “The Factory System” was also an Inspector of Factories. In his book he explained the 1847 Factory Act.
After the 1844 Factory Act the agitation for a Ten Hour Bill continued. Early in 1846 Lord Ashley again brought forward a measure cast in this mould, which, on his defeat at the General Election that year, was taken up by John Fielden, and ultimately pressed to a division, when the Government escaped defeat by the narrow majority of ten. The next year the Whigs were in office, and Lord John Russell, Prime Minister. John Fielden reintroduced the Bill, and its progress through Parliament was one continued triumph.
With the enactment of the law the long struggle for a Ten Hours Bill is generally held to have come to a close. It limited the hours of labour to sixty-three per week from the 1st of July 1847, and to fifty-eight per week, from the 1st of May 1848, which with the stoppage on Saturday afternoon was the equivalent of ten hours work per day.
Factory Act 1850
This Act redefined the workday which had been established under the Factory Acts of 1844 and 1847. No longer could employers decide the hours of work. The workday was changed to correspond with the maximum number of hours that women and children could work. The act included the following provisions.
Children and Women could only work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the summer and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the winter.
All work would end on Saturday at 2 p.m.
The work week was extended from 58 hours to 60 hours.
Hours of work for age 9 to 18 were changed to 10.5 hours night and day.
Factory Act 1856
This Act redefined the workday which had been established under the Factory Acts of 1844 and 1847. No longer could employers decide the hours of work. The workday was changed to correspond with the maximum number of hours that women and children could work. The act included the following provisions.
Children and women could only work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the summer and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the winter
All work would end on Saturday at 2 p.m.
The work week was extended from 58 hours to 60 hours
Hours of work for age 9 to 18 were changed to 10 hours night and day.
Factory Act 1878
The Factory and Workshop Act 1878 brought all the previous Acts together in one consolidation.
Now the Factory Code applied to all trades.
No child anywhere under the age of 10 was to be employed.
Compulsory education for children up to 10 years old.
10-14 year olds could only be employed for half days.
Women were to work no more than 56 hours per week.
Factory Act 1891
The Factory Act 1891 made the requirements for fencing machinery more stringent. Under the heading Conditions of Employment were two considerable additions to previous legislation: the first is the prohibition on employers to employ women within four weeks after confinement; the second the raising the minimum age at which a child can be set to work from ten to eleven.
Factory and Workshop Act 1901
Minimum working age is raised to 12. The act also introduced legislation regarding education of children, meal times, and fire escapes.
Factories Act 1937
The 1937 Act consolidated and amended the Factory and Workshop Acts from 1901 to 1929. It was introduced to the House of Commons by the Home Secretary, Sir John Simon, on 29 January 1937 and given Royal Assent on 30 July.
Factories Act 1961
This Act consolidated the 1937 and 1959 Acts. As of 2008, the 1961 Act is substantially still in force, though workplace health and safety is principally governed by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and regulations made under it.
The eight-hour day movement or 40-hour week movement, also known as the short-time movement, had its origins in the Industrial Revolution in Britain, where industrial production in large factories transformed working life and imposed long hours and poor working conditions. With working conditions unregulated, the health, welfare, and morale of working people suffered. The use of child labour was common. The working day could range from 10 to 16 hours for six days a week.
Robert Owen had raised the demand for a ten-hour day in 1810, and instituted it in his socialist enterprise at New Lanark. By 1817 he had formulated the goal of the eight-hour day and coined the slogan Eight hours labour, Eight hours recreation, Eight hours rest. Women and children in England were granted the ten-hour day in 1847. French workers won the 12-hour day after the February revolution of 1848. A shorter working day and improved working conditions were part of the general protests and agitation for Chartist reforms and the early organization of trade unions.
The International Workingmen’s Association took up the demand for an eight-hour day at its convention in Geneva in August 1866, declaring The legal limitation of the working day is a preliminary condition without which all further attempts at improvements and emancipation of the working class must prove abortive, and The Congress proposes eight hours as the legal limit of the working day.
Although there were initial successes in achieving an eight-hour day in New Zealand and by the Australian labour movement for skilled workers in the 1840s and 1850s, most employed people had to wait to the early and mid twentieth century for the condition to be widely achieved through the industrialized world through legislative action.
The eight-hour day movement forms part of the early history for the celebration of Labour Day, and May Day in many nations and cultures.
Eight-hour day march circa 1900, outside Parliament House in Spring Street, Melbourne.
The Australian gold rushes attracted many skilled tradesmen to Australia. Some of these trades people had been active in the chartism movement, and subsequently became prominent in agitation for better working conditions in the Australian colonies.
The Stonemasons’ Society in Melbourne issued an ultimatum to employers on 18 August 1855, that after six months masons would work only an eight-hour day. Construction of many buildings was occurring with the rapid increase in population caused by the gold rushes, so skilled labour was scarce. Stonemasons working on the Holy Trinity Church and the Mariners’ Church (an evangelical mission to seafarers), decided not to wait and pre-emptively went on strike, thus winning the eight-hour day. They celebrated with a victory dinner on 1 October 1855. When the six-month ultimatum expired in February 1856, stonemasons generally in Melbourne agitated for a reduction of hours. Although opposed by employers, a two-week strike on the construction of Tooth’s Brewery on Parramatta Road proved effective, and stonemasons won an eight-hour day by early March 1856, but with a reduction in wages to match.
Agitation was also occurring in Melbourne where the craft unions were more militant. Stonemasons working on Melbourne University organized to down tools on 21 April 1856 and march to Parliament House with other members of the building trade. The movement in Melbourne was led by veteran chartists and mason James Stephens, T.W. Vine and James Galloway. The government agreed that workers employed on public works should enjoy an eight-hour day with no loss of pay and Stonemasons celebrated with a holiday and procession on Monday 12 May 1856, when about 700 people marched with 19 trades involved. By 1858 the eight-hour day was firmly established in the building industry and by 1860 the eight-hour day was fairly widely worked in Victoria. From 1879 the eight-hour day was a public holiday in Victoria. The initial success in Melbourne led to the decision to organize a movement, to actively spread the eight-hour idea, and secure the condition generally.
In 1903 veteran socialist Tom Mann spoke to a crowd of a thousand people at the unveiling of the Eight Hour Day monument, funded by public subscription, on the south side of Parliament House on Spring St before relocating it in 1923 to the corner of Victoria and Russell Streets outside Melbourne Trades Hall.
It took further campaigning and struggles by trade unions to extend the reduction in hours to all workers in Australia. In 1916 the Victoria Eight Hours Act was passed granting the eight-hour day to all workers in the state. The eight-hour day was not achieved nationally until the 1920s. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court gave approval of the 40-hour five-day working week nationally beginning on 1 January 1948. The achievement of the eight-hour day has been described by historian Rowan Cahill as “one of the great successes of the Australian working class during the nineteenth century, demonstrating to Australian workers that it was possible to successfully organize, mobilize, agitate, and exercise significant control over working conditions and quality of life. The Australian trade union movement grew out of eight-hour campaigning and the movement that developed to promote the principle.”
The intertwined numbers 888 soon adorned the pediment of many union buildings around Australia. The Eight Hour March, which began on April 21, 1856, continued each year until 1951 in Melbourne, when the conservative Victorian Trades Hall Council decided to forgo the tradition for the Moomba festival on the Labour Day weekend. In capital cities and towns across Australia, Eight Hour day marches became a regular social event each year, with early marches often restricted to those workers who had won an eight-hour day.
Manifestation in the Netherlands for the eight-hour day, 1924
At the turn of the 20th century the eight-hour day was introduced by Ernst Abbe at the Zeiss plants in Jena, Germany.
The 40-hour week was enacted in France during the Popular Front with the 1936 Matignon agreements.
In Portugal a vast wave of strikes occurred in 1919, supported by the National Workers’ Union, the biggest labour union organization at the time. The workers achieved important objectives, including the historic victory of an eight-hour day.
In the region of Alcoy, Spain, workers struck in 1873 for the eight-hour day following much agitation from the anarchists. In 1919 in Barcelona, after a 44-day general strike with over 100,000 participants had effectively crippled the Catalan economy, the Government in Barcelona settled the strike by granting all the striking workers demands that included an eight-hour day, union recognition, and the rehiring of fired workers. Spain was the first country to pass a national eight-hour day law. See Anarchism in Spain.
In Russia the eight-hour day was introduced in 1917, four days after the October Revolution, by a Decree of the Soviet government.
The Factory Act of 1833 limited the work day for children in factories. Those aged 9–13 could work only eight hours, 14-18 12 hours. Children under 9 were required to attend school.
In 1884, Tom Mann joined the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) and published a pamphlet calling for the working day to be limited to eight hours. Mann formed an organisation, the Eight Hour League, which successfully pressured the Trades Union Congress to adopt the eight-hour day as a key goal. The British socialist economist Sidney Webb and the scholar Harold Cox co-wrote a book supporting the “Eight Hours Movement” in Britain.
The 1926 general strike in the United Kingdom was a general strike that lasted nine days, from 4 May 1926 to 13 May 1926. It was called by the general council of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in an unsuccessful attempt to force the British government to act to prevent wage reduction and worsening conditions for coal miners.
After the Samuel Commission’s report, the mine owners declared that, on penalty of lock out from 1 May, miners would have to accept new terms of employment that included lengthening the work day and reducing wages between 10% and 25%, depending on various factors. The Miners’ Federation of Great Britain (MFGB) refused the wage reduction and regional negotiation.
In 1925 when employers attempted to impose yet another round of wage cuts and a lengthening of hours, they were faced with more formidable opposition from a re-grouped Triple Alliance of mine, railway and transport unions and the unofficial National Minority Movement formed in 1924.
Final negotiations began on 1 May 1926, when an agreement was almost reached. However, one million miners were locked out, it being impossible to get them back to work without firm assurances concerning their wages. Last-minute negotiations failed to achieve this, leading to announcement by the TUC that a general strike “in defence of miners’ wages and hours” was to begin on 3 May, a Monday, at one minute to midnight.
On the day the strike would have started, Friday 31 July 1925, the Government announced that it would grant a subsidy to the coal industry for nine months while a Royal Commission conducted an inquiry. This victory, accomplished without strike action, was hailed in banner headlines in the ‘Daily Herald’ as ‘Red Friday’, although as events were to show, Red Friday, significant as it was, was more of a truce than a victory.
The report of the Royal Commission (the Samuel Commission) was delivered in 1926. It rejected a continuation of the Government subsidy and approved the wage reductions that the owners had tried to enforce the previous year. The miners, under the leadership of A.J.Cook, swiftly announced their intention to fight under the slogan ‘not a penny off the pay, not a second on the day’.
On 4 May 1926, the number of strikers was about 1.5 – 1.75 million.
On 12 May 1926, the TUC General Council visited 10 Downing Street to announce their decision to call off the strike.
In Iran in 1918, the work of reorganizing the trade unions began in earnest in Tehran during the closure of the Iranian constitutional parliament Majles. The printers’ union, established in 1906 by Mohammad Parvaneh as the first trade union, in the Koucheki print shop on Nasserieh Avenue in Tehran, reorganized their union under leadership of Russian-educated Seyed Mohammad Dehgan, a newspaper editor and an avowed Communist. In 1918, the newly-organized union staged a 14-day strike and succeeded in reaching a collective agreement with employers to institute the eight-hours day, overtime pay, and medical care. The success of the printers’ union encouraged other trades to organize. In 1919 the bakers and textile-shop clerks formed their own trade unions.
However the eight-hours day only became as code by a limited governor’s decree on 1923 by the governor of Kerman, Sistan and Baluchistan, which controlled the working conditions and working hours for workers of carpet workshops in the province. In 1946 the council of ministers issued the first labor law for Iran, which recognized the eight-hour day.
The Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920 produced the Constitution of 1917, which contained Article 123 that gave workers the right to organize labor unions and to strike. It also provided protection for women and children, the eight-hour day, and a living wage. See Mexican labor law.
Promoted by Samuel Duncan Parnell as early as 1840, when carpenter Samuel Parnell refused to work more than eight hours a day when erecting a store for merchant George Hunter. He successfully negotiated this working condition and campaigned for its extension in the infant Wellington community. A meeting of Wellington carpenters in October 1840 pledged “to maintain the eight-hour working day, and that anyone offending should be ducked into the harbour”. New Zealand is reputed to be the first country in the world to have adopted the eight-hour working day.
Parnell is reported to have said: “There are twenty-four hours per day given us; eight of these should be for work, eight for sleep, and the remaining eight for recreation and in which for men to do what little things they want for themselves.” With tradesmen in short supply the employer was forced to accept Parnell’s terms. Parnell later wrote, “the first strike for eight hours a day the world has ever seen, was settled on the spot”.
Emigrants to the new settlement of Dunedin, Otago, while onboard ship decided on a reduction of working hours. When the resident agent of the New Zealand Company, Captain Cargill, attempted to enforce a ten-hour day in January 1849 in Dunedin, he was unable to overcome the resistance of trades people under the leadership of house painter and plumber, Samuel Shaw. Building trades in Auckland achieved the eight-hour day on 1 September 1857 after agitation led by Chartist painter, William Griffin. For many years the eight-hour day was confined to craft tradesmen and unionized workers. Labour Day, which commemorates the introduction of the eight-hour day, became a national public holiday in 1899.
In Puerto Rico in May 1899, while under US administration, General George W. Davis succeeded to Island demands and decreed freedom of assembly, speech, press, religion and an eight-hour day for government employees.
A strike for the eight-hour day was held in May 1919 in Peru. In Uruguay during the second term of president José Batlle y Ordóñez unemployment compensation (1914), the eight-hour day (1915), and universal suffrage were introduced. In Chile it was introduced in 1924, after the Saber noise event (Ruido de sables), by the September Junta.
In the United States, Philadelphia carpenters went on strike in 1791 for the ten-hour day. By the 1830s, this had become a general demand. In 1835, workers in Philadelphia organised a general strike, led by Irish coal heavers. Their banners read, From 6 to 6, ten hours work and two hours for meals. Labour movement publications called for an eight-hour day as early as 1836. Boston ship carpenters, although not unionised, achieved an eight-hour day in 1842.
In 1864, the eight-hour day quickly became a central demand of the Chicago labour movement. The Illinois legislature passed a law in early 1867 granting an eight-hour day but had so many loopholes that it was largely ineffective. A city-wide strike that began on May 1, 1867 shut down the city’s economy for a week before collapsing. On June 25, 1868, Congress passed an eight-hour law for federal employees, which was also of limited effectiveness. (On May 19, 1869, Grant signed a National Eight Hour Law Proclamation.
In August 1866, the National Labor Union at Baltimore passed a resolution that said, “The first and great necessity of the present to free labour of this country from capitalist slavery is the passing of a law by which eight hours shall be the normal working day in all States of the American Union. We are resolved to put forth all our strength until this glorious result is achieved.”
During the 1870s, eight hours became a central demand, especially among labour organisers, with a network of Eight-Hour Leagues which held rallies and parades. A hundred thousand workers in New York City struck and won the eight-hour day in 1872, mostly for building trades workers. In Chicago, Albert Parsons became recording secretary of the Chicago Eight-Hour League in 1878, and was appointed a member of a national eight-hour committee in 1880.
At its convention in Chicago in 1884, the Federation of Organised Trades and Labour Unions resolved that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labour from and after May 1, 1886, and that we recommend to labour organisations throughout this jurisdiction that they so direct their laws as to conform to this resolution by the time named.”
The leadership of the Knights of Labor, under Terence V. Powderly, rejected appeals to join the movement as a whole, but many local Knights assemblies joined the strike call including Chicago, Cincinnati and Milwaukee. On May 1, 1886, Albert Parsons, head of the Chicago Knights of Labor, with his wife Lucy Parsons and two children, led 80,000 people down Michigan Avenue, Chicago, in what is regarded as the first modern May Day Parade, in support of the eight-hour day. In the next few days they were joined nationwide by 350,000 workers who went on strike at 1,200 factories, including 70,000 in Chicago, 45,000 in New York, 32,000 in Cincinnati, and additional thousands in other cities. Some workers gained shorter hours (eight or nine) with no reduction in pay; others accepted pay cuts with the reduction in hours.
On May 3, 1886, August Spies, editor of the Arbeiter-Zeitung (Workers Newspaper), spoke at a meeting of 6,000 workers, and afterwards many of them moved down the street to harass strikebreakers at the McCormick plant in Chicago. The police arrived, opened fire, and killed four people, wounding many more. At a subsequent rally on May 4 to protest this violence, a bomb exploded at the Haymarket Square. Hundreds of labour activists were rounded up and the prominent labour leaders arrested, tried, convicted, and executed giving the movement its first martyrs. On June 26, 1893 Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld set the remaining leader free, and granted full pardons to all those tried claiming they were innocent of the crime for which they had been tried and the hanged men had been the victims of “hysteria, packed juries and a biased judge”.
The American Federation of Labor, meeting in St Louis in December 1888, set May 1, 1890 as the day that American workers should work no more than eight hours. The International Workingmen’s Association (Second International), meeting in Paris in 1889, endorsed the date for international demonstrations, thus starting the international tradition of May Day.
The United Mine Workers won an eight-hour day in 1898.
The Building Trades Council (BTC) of San Francisco, under the leadership of P.H. McCarthy, won the eight-hour day in 1900 when the BTC unilaterally declared that its members would work only eight hours a day for $3 a day. When the mill resisted, the BTC began organising mill workers; the employers responded by locking out 8,000 employees throughout the Bay Area. The BTC, in return, established a union planing mill from which construction employers could obtain supplies — or face boycotts and sympathy strikes if they did not. The mill owners went to arbitration, where the union won the eight-hour day, a closed shop for all skilled workers, and an arbitration panel to resolve future disputes. In return, the union agreed to refuse to work with material produced by non-union planing mills or those that paid less than the Bay Area employers.
By 1905, the eight-hour day was widely installed in the printing trades – see International Typographical Union (section) – but the vast majority of Americans worked 12-14 hour days.
On January 5, 1914, the Ford Motor Company took the radical step of doubling pay to $5 a day and cut shifts from nine hours to eight, moves that were not popular with rival companies, although seeing the increase in Ford’s productivity, and a significant increase in profit margin (from $30 million to $60 million in two years), most soon followed suit.
In the summer of 1915, amid increased labour demand for World War I, a series of strikes demanding the eight-hour day began in Bridgeport, Connecticut. They were so successful that they spread throughout the Northeast.
The United States Adamson Act in 1916 established an eight-hour day, with additional pay for overtime, for railroad workers. This was the first federal law that regulated the hours of workers in private companies. The United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Act in Wilson v. New, 243 U.S. 332 (1917).
The eight-hour day might have been realised for many working people in the U.S. in 1937, when what became the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S. Code Chapter 8) was first proposed under the New Deal. As enacted, the act applied to industries whose combined employment represented about twenty percent of the U.S. labor force. In those industries, it set the maximum workweek at 40 hours, but provided that employees working beyond 40 hours a week would receive additional overtime bonus salaries.
The 35-hour working week is a measure adopted first in France, in February 2000, under Prime Minister Lionel Jospin’s Plural Left government; The previous legal duration of the working week was 39 hours.
The 35 hours was the legal standard limit, after which further working time was to be considered overtime. The law has since been substantially weakened and exceptions have been established
In Australia, New workplace laws came into effect on July 1st 2009 called new Fair Work laws.
The standard working week in Australia is 38 hours per week (7.6 hours per day), usually worked Monday to Friday. Work beyond that amount is overtime and attracts a premium (Overtime).
In many workplaces, work is arranged over a four week, twenty work day cycle of 8 hours per day, with the accumulated 0.4 hours per day being taken on the twentieth day as an Accumulated or Rostered Day Off.
All time worked beyond 38 hours per week is overtime. In most cases it attracts a premium of 1.5 times the ordinary rate of pay for the first three hours (2 hours in some industries) and double time thereafter. Most awards require that employees be available to work “reasonable overtime” if the employer wishes.
In mid-2002 the Australian Industrial Relations Commission introduced a right for an employee to refuse to do overtime that would “result in the employee working unreasonable hours”.
Note: The struggle against Capitalist Exploitation has been hard and long fought. It is international with pacesetting struggles affecting each country throughout Europe, North America and the world. The struggle for a shorter working year has included the fight for longer and more frequent annual holidays.
The engineers’ 35 hour week campaign.
Article from: Industrial Relations Journal | September 22, 1992 | McKinlay, Alan; McNulty.
British engineering unions’ campaign for a 35 hour week in 1989-90 was a watershed dispute in terms of strike strategy and its impact on collective bargaining institutions. This article examines the dynamics the dispute and the tensions between the national and local leaderships of the union campaign and compares it to similar ones waged by the German metalworkers’ union, IG Metall.
This article analyses the background to and dynamics of the 1989-90 strike for the 35 hour week in British engineering. An outline of recent developments in industrial relations in engineering is followed by a detailed reconstruction of the dynamics of the 1989-90 union campaign for the 35 hour week. While much of this article is based on the minutes of the national leaderships of the Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF) and the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (CSEU), important insights were derived from interviews with shop stewards at one of the key strikes in the campaign, at Rolls Royce, Hillington. The CSEU strategy of using strikes at selected plants to lever a national settlement from the EEF inevitably involved a considerable devolution of control and authority to plant-level activists. The complex relationship between national strategy and local tactics proved to be a vital–and unpredictable–factor in the union campaign.
Flexibility, working time and collective bargaining
The slow adoption of the multi-divisional structure by British companies since 1945 has eroded the relevance of national bargaining institutions|1~. Institutional restructuring has compounded the historic fragility of British employer organisations which have always been an uneasy compromise between individual employer opportunism and collective action|2~. The prolonged economic crisis which began in the mid-1970s made firms acutely aware of their individual interests and lessened their need for defensive cooperation in industrial relations|3~. Employer collectivism was further weakened by incomes policies between 1976-1979, which increased the importance of plant-level productivity bargaining. In 1968 multi-employer agreements were the cornerstone of industrial relations in manufacturing|4~. By 1978, however, two-thirds of the manufacturing workforce was covered by single-employer agreements. In the last decade institutional change has been superimposed upon a trend away from the mass production of standardised commodities towards the flexible manufacture of customised products|5~. If mass production by relatively standardised workforces was the material basis of the era of centralised collective bargaining, then this era is now being superseded by one characterised by customised manufacturing performed by idiosyncratic labour operating under decentralised bargaining regimes. In engineering these processes weakened both the industry’s premier employer organisation, the Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF), and the relevance of the national level of collective bargaining. By the 1980s the annual national wage settlement in engineering had been reduced to a ritualised irrelevancy, for all save the lowest paid in the industry|6~.
Union demands for a shorter working week were a prime cause of the formation of a national engineering employers’ organisation in 1896|7~. The universal nature of the union claim was a powerful unifying force in an industry dominated by regional employer combinations. Despite the erosion of employer cohesion since 1945, regulating working time remained the prerogative of the EEF rather than the individual firm until 1979. The 1979 engineering dispute involved 1.5 million workers and some 16 million lost working days. A temporary realignment of the Amalgamated Engineering Union’s (AEU) internal politics forced a reluctant right-wing leadership to launch a series of weekly one-day strikes in support of a cut in working time from 40 to 35 hours per week|8~. The eventual settlement was based on a 39 hour week, but this typically involved marginal adjustments to finishing times rather than a reduction of a complete one hour bloc. For the AEU, the way in which companies were able to determine the form of the reduction in working time diminished the impact of their victory. As a result, union strategy focused on securing future reductions as a shorter working week rather than reduced working days. The implementation of the 39 hour week revealed the EEF’s lack of control over its member firms. Despite the Federation’s attempt to maintain uniform working time regimes one in five engineering firms had breached the 39 hour standard week by 1982|9~. For the EEF, this fragmentation of employer strategy threatened the residual utility of national collective bargaining. At this point Federation strategy shifted from vainly trying to maintain the credibility of national bargaining to squeezing one final gain before this bankrupt institution was abolished.
The re-emergence of reduced working time as a union demand in 1983 was countered by an EEF inventory of productivity and flexibility requirements. The customary sterile impasse of national bargaining was broken in 1984 by referring these issues to a joint EEF-CSEU working party whose deliberations over the next three years were euphemistically described as ‘confidential but not secret’|10~. The secrecy which cloaked the working party was intended to insulate the negotiators from the political pressures they would otherwise be exposed to within their host organisations. In return for conceding the principle of the 37.5 hour week the EEF required a national enabling agreement.
Castle Bromwich and the 35 hour week struggle.
Under British Leyland the Castle Bromwich Body and trim shops took part in the 35 hour week struggle initiated by the engineering unions. One day and two day strikes per week took place in various factories. The Plant manager, Stan Keyworth tried to initiate a save the plant from closure campaign and called on the Works Council of Trade Unions to call off the National strikes. The Works Council agreed to support the management and called meetings of all plant stewards. This was addressed by management and a vote took place. Militant shop stewards led by Ken Knapman denounced the action and Ken Knapman. a shop steward communist activist and advocate of the shorter working week, called for a picket. The militant shop stewards and rank and file workers in various shops refused to cross the picket line and various convenors called on-site meetings. The Birmingham Branch of RCPBM-L issued leaflets and the popular “Ignition” newspaper for the BL car workers called on the workforce to support the counter action. The National Front fascists organised a crossing of the picket with the support of the West Midlands chiefs of police. Transport and General Union leader Charlie Flint and some other leaders were forced to resign as meetings were called inside of plant. The Sheet Metal Workers Union were the first to rescind their action. Militant Sheet Metal worker Murphy stood beside Ken Knapman on the picket line from the earliest stages, lorries refused to cross the picket and workers turned around and went home. The picket line expanded with more stewards and rank and file workers taking part and the strike breaking initiative collapsed with a new Works Council forced on the union leadership. For the next ten years the Works Council became a militant leadership where Ken Knapman later became the Electrician’s convenor for the EETPU until 1989.He worked alongside the famous Moss Kendal, the militant Sheet Metal Workers Convenor who became a close friend and colleague. During this period Ken Knapman and Moss Kendall took up the role of Chairman of the Works Council, on separate occasions, and later chair of all three Jaguar plants as well as chair of the Joint negotiating Committee.
The Working Time Directive 2003/88/EC is a European Union Directive, which supposedly creates the right for EU workers to a minimum number of holidays each year, paid breaks, and rest of at least 11 hours in any 24 hours; restricts excessive night work; and makes a default right to work no more than 48 hours per week. It was issued as an update on earlier versions from 22 June 2000 and 23 November 1993. Excessive working time being alleged to be a major cause of stress, depression and illness, the purpose of the Directive is purported to be to protect people’s health and safety.
Like all European Union directives, this is an instrument which requires member states to enact its provisions in national legislation. Although the directive is supposed to apply to all member states, in the United Kingdom, it is possible to opt out of the 48 hour working week and work longer hours. France passed stricter legislation limiting the maximum working week to 35 hours, but French president Nicolas Sarkozy promised to abolish this legislation.
After the 1993 Council Negotiations, when the Directive was agreed to after an 11-1 vote, UK Employment Secretary David Hunt said “It is a flagrant abuse of Community rules. It has been brought forward as such simply to allow majority voting – a ploy to smuggle through part of the Social Chapter by the back door. The UK strongly opposes any attempt to tell people that they can no longer work the hours they want.”
Offshore energy workers have found that the EU is soft on the law anyway. They found that their campaign for paid leave was thrown out of court after a long running struggle. The directive is designed to replace permanent contracts with zero hour contracts rather than limit working hours to 48 hours a week. Under the directive hours are viewed on three monthly cycles, which can allow employees to work 56 hours one week and two hours the next.
EU calls for end to UK’s 48-hour week veto.(Business)
Article from: The Birmingham Post (England) | February 12, 2004 |
Euro-MPs yesterday called for an end to Britain’s opt-out from Europe’s maximum 48-hour working week.
They voted in Strasbourg for a resolution calling on the Brussels Commission to review the rules ‘with a view to’ obliging all EU member states to stick to the agreed maximum.
The move was welcomed by the TUC but condemned by the CBI.
The vote has no legal force, but puts pressure on the Commission to revise the rules in the face of strong UK Government opposition.
‘We believe that everybody should have the legal right to work longer than 48 hours if they choose to do so,’ said a Government spokesman.
Contemporary struggles for the 6 hour day and 30 hour week incorporating the 3 day weekend.
Apart from international organisational movements advocating the 6 hour day and 24 hour week this has long been advocated as an alternative to the capitalist status quo. The 4 or 31/2 day working week was put forward in the 1980′s as a means to achieve a split week or variations such as the three day weekend. At present the shorter Friday working and finishing time extended the weekend in many workplaces after the 39 hour week enabled earlier starting and finishing times and removal by some factories of the Friday lunch and breaks. This being inadequate led to some establishments finishing half way through Friday.
Some proponents of the 6 hour day suggested that it would enable 4 shift working (4X6hours=24) instead of three shifts (3x8hours=24) others advocating the 30 hour shift Monday to Friday at 6 hours. The 24 hour shift would be Monday to Thursday with a 3 day weekend some saying that 6 hour shifts could have reduced on site times by removing the lunchtime. So start times could vary such as 9am until 3pm or 8am until 2pm l3eaving workers with longer time at home or leisure etc.
The first advocate of the 6 hour day was Joseph Stalin in his book Economic Problems of the USSR (published 1952) where it is suggested that days off were supplemented with compulsory Polytechnic education to advance skills in the Soviet economy and build Communism.
“It would be wrong to think that such a substantial advance in the cultural standard of the members of society can be brought about without substantial changes in the present status of labour. For this, it is necessary, first of all, to shorten the working day at least to six, and subsequently to five hours. This is needed in order that the members of society might have the necessary free time to receive an all-round education. It is necessary, further, to introduce universal compulsory polytechnical education, which is required in order that the members of society might be able freely to choose their occupations and not be tied to some one occupation all their lives.” (JV Stalin) Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR. Concerning the Errors of Comrade L. D. Yaroshenko.
Marx and Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung Politisch-ökonomische Revue 1850
The English Ten Hours’ Bill
Source: MECW Volume 10, p. 288;
Written: in March 1850;
Signed: Frederick Engels;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Politisch-Ökonomische Revue No. 4, 1850.
Engels revised the article The Ten Hours’ Question, published in the Chartist The Democratic Review, going into greater detail of the struggle for the Ten Hours’ Bill, for this article published in the Revue, for the benefit of German readers.
The workers of England have suffered a significant defeat, and from a direction from which they had least expected it. A few weeks ago the Court of Exchequer, one of the four highest courts of law in England, pronounced a judgment by which the main provisions of the Ten Hours’ Bill enacted in 1847 are as good as abolished.
The history of the Ten Hours’ Bill provides a striking example of the peculiar mode of development of class antagonisms in England and therefore deserves closer investigation.
We know how, with the rise of large-scale industry, there arose a quite new and infinitely callous exploitation of the working class by the factory owners. The new machines rendered the labour of grown men superfluous; their supervision demanded women and children, who were much more suited to this occupation than the men and simultaneously cheaper to employ. Thus industrial exploitation at once took possession of the whole of the worker’s family and locked it up in the factory; women and children had to work day and night without a break until they were overcome by utter physical exhaustion. The pauper children of the workhouses became a regular article of trade with the growing demand for children; four-year-olds and even three-year-olds were auctioned off by the score in the form of apprenticeship contracts to the highest bidding manufacturers. The callously brutal exploitation of children and women at that time-an exploitation which did not let up so long as there was a muscle, a sinew or a drop of blood left to extract profit from-still remains a vivid memory for the older generation of English workers, and not a few of them bear this memory in the form of a crooked spine or a mutilated limb, and they all bear their thoroughly ruined health with them wherever they go. The fate of the slaves in the worst of the American plantations was golden in comparison with that of the English workers in that period.
Very soon measures had to be taken by the state to curb the manufacturers’ utterly ruthless frenzy for exploitation, which was trampling all the requirements of civilised society underfoot. These first legal restrictions were, however, extremely inadequate and were soon circumvented. Only half a century after the introduction of large-scale industry, when the stream of industrial development had found a regular course for itself, only in 1833 was it possible to bring in an effective law that to some extent curbed at least the most blatant excesses.
As early as the beginning of this century a party had been formed under the leadership of a number of philanthropists which demanded the legal limitation of labour time in the factories to ten hours. This party, which, under Sadler in the twenties and after his death under the leadership of Lord Ashley and R. Oastler, continued its agitation up to the actual passing of the Ten Hours’ Bill, gradually united under its banner, besides the workers themselves, the aristocracy and all the factions of the bourgeoisie hostile to the manufacturers. This association of the workers with the most heterogeneous and reactionary elements of English society made it necessary for the Ten Hours agitation to be pursued quite separately from the revolutionary agitation of the workers. It is true that the Chartists were for the Ten Hours’ Bill to the last man; they were the mass, the chorus, in all the Ten Hours meetings; they made their press available to the Ten Hours Committee. But not a single Chartist agitated officially in conjunction with the aristocratic or bourgeois Ten Hours men, or sat on the Short Time Committee in Manchester. This Committee was exclusively composed of workers and factory overseers. But these workers were completely broken, exhausted by work, placid, god-fearing, respectable folk who felt a pious abhorrence towards Chartism and socialism, who held throne and altar in due respect and who, too crushed to hate the industrial bourgeoisie, only retained the capacity for humble veneration of the aristocracy, which at least deigned to interest itself in their misery. The working-class Toryism of these Ten Hours people was the echo of that first opposition of the workers to industrial progress which attempted to restore the old patriarchal situation and whose most energetic manifestations of life did not go beyond the smashing of machines. just as reactionary as these workers were the bourgeois and aristocratic chiefs of the Ten Hours party. They were without exception sentimental Tories, for the most part romantic ideologues revelling in the memory of vanished, patriarchal forms of hole-and-corner exploitation with their train of religiosity, domesticity, virtue and narrow-mindedness, and with their stable, traditionally inherited ways. One look at the revolutionary maelstrom of industry and their narrow skulls were seized with dizziness. Their petty-bourgeois frame of mind was horrified in the presence of these new forces of production shooting up with magical suddenness, flushing away in a few years the hitherto most venerable, most inviolable, most essential classes of society and replacing them with new, hitherto unknown classes whose interests, whose, sympathies and whose whole way of living and thinking stood in contradiction to the institutions of the old English society. These soft-hearted ideologues did not fail to take the field from the standpoint of morality, humanity and compassion against the pitiless harshness and ruthlessness with which this process of upheaval asserted itself, and to oppose to it as their social ideal the stability, the stagnant comfort and moral complacency of dying patriarchalism.
Whenever the Ten Hours question attracted public attention these elements were joined by all sections of society whose interests were suffering and whose existence was being threatened by the industrial upheaval. The bankers, stockjobbers, ship-owners and merchants, the landed aristocracy, the big West Indian landowners and the petty bourgeoisie joined forces more and more at such times under the leadership of the Ten Hours agitators.
The Ten Hours’ Bill provided splendid terrain for these reactionary classes and factions to combine with the proletariat against the industrial bourgeoisie. While significantly restricting the rapid development of the wealth, the influence, and the social and political power of the manufacturers, it gave the workers merely material, indeed exclusively physical advantages. It protected their health from being too rapidly ruined. But it gave them nothing which could make them dangerous to their reactionary allies; it neither gave them political power nor altered their social position as wage-labourers. On the contrary, the Ten Hours agitation kept the workers still under the influence and partly under the leadership of these propertied allies of theirs, which they had been more and more striving to draw away from since the Reform Bill and the rise of the Chartist agitation. It was quite natural, especially at the start of the industrial upheaval, that the workers, who were in direct conflict only with the industrial bourgeoisie, should ally themselves with the aristocracy and the other factions of the bourgeoisie by whom they were not directly exploited and who were also struggling against the industrial bourgeoisie. But this alliance adulterated the labour movement with a strong reactionary admixture which is only gradually disappearing; it reinforced significantly the reactionary element within the labour movement-those workers whose trade still belongs to manufacture and is thus itself threatened by industrial progress, like for instance the handweavers.
It was thus a piece of good fortune for the workers that in the confused period of 1847, when all the old parliamentary parties were dissolved and the new ones had not yet taken shape, the Ten Hours’ Bill was finally passed. It was passed in a series of most confused votes, directed apparently only by chance, in which no party voted compactly and consistently except the decidedly Free Trade manufacturers on the one hand and the fanatically protectionist landowners on the other. It got through as a piece of chicanery that the aristocrats and a faction of the Peelites and the Whigs put over on the manufacturers to avenge themselves for the great victory which these had wrested from them in the repeal of the Corn Laws.
The Ten Hours’ Bill not only gave the workers the satisfaction of an indispensable physical need, by protecting their health to some extent from the manufacturers’ frenzy for exploitation, it also liberated the workers from their alliance with the sentimental dreamers, from their solidarity with all the reactionary classes of England. The patriarchal drivel of an Oastler, or the moving assurances of sympathy from a Lord Ashley could find no more listeners once the Ten Hours’ Bill ceased to provide point to these tirades. Only now did the labour movement concentrate wholly on achieving the political rule of the proletariat as the prime means of transforming the whole of existing society. And here it was faced by the aristocracy and the reactionary factions of the bourgeoisie, only shortly before still the allies of the workers, as so many raging enemies, as so many allies of the industrial bourgeoisie.
Thanks to the industrial revolution, industry, by which England conquered the world market and held it in subjugation, had become the decisive branch of production for England. England stood and fell with industry, rose and declined with its fluctuations. With the decisive influence of industry, the industrial bourgeoisie, the manufacturers, became the decisive class in English society, and the political rule of the industrialists, the removal of all social and political institutions standing in the way of the development of large-scale industry became a necessity. The industrial bourgeoisie got down to the task. The history of England from 1830 until now is the history of the victories which it has one after the other achieved over its united reactionary opponents.
Whereas the July Revolution in France brought the finance aristocracy to power, the Reform Bill in England, which was carried immediately afterwards in 1832, marked the fall of the finance aristocracy. The Bank, the creditors of the national debt and the stock-exchange speculators, in a word the money-dealers to whom the aristocracy was deeply in debt, had hitherto held almost exclusive sway in England under the brightly chequered mantle of the electoral monopoly. The further large-scale industry and world trade developed, the more intolerable their rule became, despite individual concessions. The alliance of all other factions of the bourgeoisie with the English proletariat and the Irish peasantry toppled them. The people threatened a revolution, the bourgeoisie gave the Bank its notes back en masse and brought it to the brink of bankruptcy. The finance aristocracy yielded at the right moment; its flexibility saved England from a February Revolution.
The Reform Bill gave all the propertied classes of the country, right down to the smallest shopkeeper, a share in political power. All the factions of the bourgeoisie were thus given a legal ground on which they could establish their claims and assert their power. The same struggles of the individual factions of the bourgeoisie among themselves which have been fought out under the Republic in France since the June victory of 1848, have in England been fought out in Parliament since the Reform Bill. It goes without saying that the conditions being quite different the consequences in the two countries are also different.
The industrial bourgeoisie, once it had conquered the terrain for parliamentary struggle with the Reform Bill, could not help gaining victory upon victory. The aristocratic appendages of the financiers were sacrificed to it in the limitation of sinecures, the paupers in the Poor Law of 1833 and the tax exemption of the financiers and landowners in the tariff reductions and the introduction of income tax. With the victories of the industrialists the number of their vassals increased. Wholesale and retail trade became their tributaries. London and Liverpool fell to their knees before Free Trade, the Messiah of the industrialists. But with their victories their requirements and their demands also grew.
Modern large-scale industry can only exist provided it expands incessantly, continually conquers new markets. The boundless facility of production on the most massive scale, the unceasing development and improvement of machinery, and the consequent uninterrupted displacement of capital and labour power, force it to do so. Any stoppage here can only mean the beginning of ruin. But the expansion of industry is conditioned by the expansion of markets. And since industry at its present level of development increases its forces of production at a rate disproportionately faster than that at which it can increase its markets, there arise periodical crises in which, due to the excess of means of production and products, circulation in the commercial body suddenly comes to a standstill and industry and trade are almost totally immobilised until the glut of products has found an outlet in new channels. England is the focus of these crises, whose crippling effects unfailingly reach into the most distant, most obscure corners of the world market, and everywhere drag a significant part of the industrial and commercial bourgeoisie down into ruin. From such crises, which moreover bring home most tangibly to every section of English society its dependence on the manufacturers, there is only one means of escape: expanding markets, either by conquering new ones or by exploiting the old ones more thoroughly. Apart from the few exceptional cases, like China in 1842, in which a hitherto stubbornly closed market is burst open by force of arms, there is only one means of opening up new markets and exploiting old ones more thoroughly by industrial methods-by cheaper prices, that is, by reducing production costs. Production costs are reduced by new and more highly perfected modes of production, by cutting profit or by cutting wages. But the introduction of more highly perfected modes of production cannot provide a way out of the crisis since it increases production and thus itself makes new markets necessary. There can be no question of reducing profit in a crisis when everyone is glad to sell even at a loss. The same goes for wages, which are furthermore, like profit, determined by laws that are independent of the will or the intentions of the manufacturers. And yet wages form the principal component of the production costs, and their permanent reduction is the only means of expanding markets and escaping from the crisis. Wages will fall, however, if the workers’ necessities of life are produced more cheaply. But in England the cost of the workers’ necessities of life was raised by the protective tariffs on corn, English colonial products, etc., and by indirect taxes.
Hence the stubborn, vigorous and universal agitation by the industrialists for Free Trade and particularly for the abolition of the corn tariffs. Hence the characteristic fact that since 1842 every crisis in trade and industry has brought them a fresh victory. With the abolition of the corn tariffs the English landowners were sacrificed to the industrialists, with the abolition of the differential tariffs on sugar, etc., the landowners in the colonies, with the abolition of the Navigation Acts the ship-owners. At the present moment they are agitating for limitation of state expenditure and a reduction of taxes, as well as for the admission to the franchise of that section of the workers which offers the surest guarantees. They wish to draw new allies into Parliament in order to conquer so much the more quickly direct political power for themselves, by means of which alone they can get rid of the traditional appendages of the English state machine, now emptied of meaning but very expensive, the aristocracy, the Church, the sinecures and the semi-feudal system of jurisprudence. Undoubtedly the new trade crisis, which is now imminent, and which to all appearances will coincide with new and great collisions on the Continent, will bring with it at least this step forward in England’s development.
In the midst of these uninterrupted victories of the industrial bourgeoisie, the reactionary factions succeeded in forging the chains of the Ten Hours’ Bill for it. The Ten Hours’ Bill was passed at a moment of neither prosperity nor crisis, in one of those in-between periods in which industry is still labouring sufficiently under the consequences of over-production to be able-to set only a part of its resources in motion, in which the manufacturers themselves therefore do not allow full-time working. At such a juncture, when the Ten Hours’ Bill limited competition among the manufacturers themselves, and only at such a juncture could it be tolerated. But this juncture soon gave way to renewed prosperity. The empty markets demanded new supplies; speculation rose again and doubled demand; the manufacturers were unable to work their factories hard enough. The Ten Hours’ Bill now became an intolerable fetter upon industry, which now more than ever needed the most complete independence and the most unrestricted disposal of all its resources. What would become of the industrialists during the next crisis if they were not permitted to exploit the brief period of prosperity with all their might? The Ten Hours’ Bill had to succumb. If the strength to revoke it in Parliament was lacking, then ways had to be found for getting round it.
The Ten Hours’ Bill limited the labour time of young people under the age of eighteen and of all female workers to ten hours daily. Since these and children are the decisive categories of workers in the factories, the necessary consequence was that the factories were able to work only ten hours daily. The manufacturers, however, when the boom made an increase in the labour time a necessity for them, found a way out. As hitherto with children under fourteen, whose labour time is even more restricted, they engaged a few more women and young people than before for assistance and replacement. In this way they could make their factories and their adult workers work thirteen, fourteen or fifteen hours at a stretch, without a single individual covered by the Ten Hours’ Bill working more than ten hours daily. This conflicted partially with the letter of the law, but it conflicted still more with the spirit of the law and the intention of the legislators; the factory inspectors complained, the justices of the peace were divided and gave contradictory judgments. The higher the level of prosperity the more loudly the industrialists protested against the Ten Hours’ Bill and against the interventions of the factory inspectors. The Home Secretary, Sir George Grey, ordered the inspectors to tolerate the relay or shift system. But many of them, with the support of the law, did not allow themselves to be deterred by this. Finally a sensational case was taken right up to the Court of Exchequer, and this court pronounced for the manufacturers. With this decision the Ten Hours’ Bill has been abolished in practice, and the manufacturers have once again become the complete masters of their factories; in time of crisis they are able to work two, three or six hours, and in time of prosperity thirteen to fifteen hours, and the factory inspector no longer has any right to interfere.
If the Ten Hours’ Bill was advocated mainly by reactionaries and carried exclusively by reactionary classes, we can see here that in the mode in which it was carried it was a thoroughly reactionary measure. England’s whole social development is bound up with the development, the progress of industry. All institutions which inhibit this progress, which limit it or wish to regulate and rule it according to extraneous standards, are reactionary, untenable, and must succumb to it. The revolutionary force which has made child’s play of dealing with the whole patriarchal society of old England, with the aristocracy and the finance bourgeoisie, will indeed not permit itself to be dammed up within the moderate course of the Ten Hours’ Bill. All the attempts of Lord Ashley and his comrades to restore the fallen Bill by means of an authentic interpretation will be unproductive or, in the most favourable case, will only achieve an ephemeral and delusive result.
And nevertheless the Ten Hours’ Bill is indispensable for the workers. It is a physical necessity for them. Without the Ten Hours’ Bill this whole generation of English workers will be physically ruined. But there is a vast difference between the Ten Hours’ Bill demanded by the workers today and the Ten Hours’ Bill which was propagated by Sadler, Oastler and Ashley and passed by the reactionary coalition in 1847. The workers have learnt the value of an alliance with reaction from the brief existence of the Bill, from its easy annihilation — a simple court decision, not even an Act of Parliament, was all that was needed to annul it — and from the subsequent behaviour of their reactionary former allies. They have learnt the use of passing separate partial measures against the industrial bourgeoisie. They have learnt that the bourgeois industrialists are still in the first instance the class which alone is capable of marching at the head of the movement at the present moment, and that it would be a vain task to work against them in this progressive mission. For this reason, in spite of their direct and not in the least dormant hostility towards the industrialists, the workers are now much more inclined to support them in their agitation for the complete implementation of Free Trade, financial reform and extension of the franchise, than to allow themselves to be decoyed once again by philanthropic allurements to the banner of the united reactionaries. They feel that their day can only come when the industrialists have worn themselves out, and hence their instinct is correct in hastening the process of development which will give the industrialists power and thus prepare their fall. But because of this they do not forget that in the industrialists they are bringing to power their own direct enemies, and that they can achieve their own liberation only through toppling the industrialists and conquering political power for themselves. The annulment of the Ten Hours’ Bill has once more proved this to them in the most striking fashion. The restoration of this Bill can only have any significance now under the rule of universal franchise, and universal franchise in an England two-thirds of whose inhabitants are industrial proletarians means the exclusive political rule of the working class with all the revolutionary changes in social conditions which are inseparable from it. The Ten Hours’ Bill demanded by the workers today is thus quite different from the one which has just been overruled by the Court of Exchequer. It is no longer an isolated attempt to cripple industrial development, it is a link in a long chain of measures which will revolutionise the whole of the present form of society and gradually destroy the class antagonisms which have hitherto existed; it is not a reactionary measure, but a revolutionary one.
The de facts suspension of the Ten Hours’ Bill, in the first instance by the manufacturers on their own initiative and then by the Court of Exchequer, has above all contributed to shortening the period of prosperity and hastening the crisis. Whatever hastens crises, however, simultaneously hastens the pace of development in England and its next goal, the overthrow of the. industrial bourgeoisie by the industrial proletariat. The means available to the industrialists for expanding their markets and averting crises are very limited. Cobden’s reduction of state expenditure is either mere Whiggish jargon or equals, even if it should only help for a moment, a complete revolution. And if it is executed in the most extensive and most revolutionary fashion — as far as the English industrialists can be revolutionary — then how will the next crisis be met? It is evident that the English industrialists, whose means of production have a power of expansion incomparably superior to that of their outlets, are rapidly approaching the point where their expedients will be exhausted and where the period of prosperity which now still divides every crisis from its successor will disappear completely under the weight of the excessively increased forces of production; where the only thing still separating the crises will be brief periods of a dull, half-comatose industrial activity and where industry, trade and the whole of modern society must necessarily perish from a superfluity of unusable life force on the one hand and total emaciation on the other, if this abnormal situation did not bear within itself its own remedy and the development of industry had not simultaneously engendered the class which alone can assume the leadership of society — the proletariat. The proletarian revolution will then be inevitable, and its victory certain.
This is the regular, normal course of events, produced, with a necessity which cannot he averted, by the totality of the present conditions of society in England. It will soon be seen to what extent this normal process may be shortened by collisions on the Continent and revolutionary upsurges in England.
And the Ten Hours’ Bill?
From the moment the limits of the world market itself become too narrow for the full unfolding of all the resources of modern industry, when the latter requires a social revolution to regain free scope for its energies-from this moment on the limitation of labour time is no longer reactionary, it is no longer a brake on industry. On the contrary, it will he introduced quite of its own accord. The first consequence of the proletarian revolution in England will be the centralisation of large-scale industry in the hands of the state, that is, the ruling proletariat, and with the centralisation of industry all the conditions of competition, which nowadays bring the regulation of labour time into conflict with the progress of industry, fall away. And thus the only solution to the Ten Hours question, as to every question depending on the antagonism between capital and wage labour, lies in the proletarian revolution.
On February 8, 1850 the Court of Exchequer acquitted a group of manufacturers accused on violating the Ten Hours’ Bill, creating a precedent tantamount to repealing the Bill. As a result of resistance by workers, a further bill was passed on August 5, 1850 fixing a 10 1/2 hour working day for women and juveniles and setting the time when work was to begin and end.
The Reform Bill of 1832 was directed against the monopoly of the landed and financial aristocracy and gave Parliamentary representation to the industrial bourgeoisie, thanks to agitation by the workers and petit-bourgeoisie.
The Corn Laws were first introduced in the 15th and 16th century to impose tariffs on the import of corn to protect landowners by maintaining high prices for corn on the home market. In June 1846, the Corn Laws were repealed by the Peel Government.
In the 1830s and 1840s a series of laws against trading in jobs and granting sinecures to aristocrats were passed in Britain. The Poor Laws adopted in England in 1834 provided for only one form of relief for the able-bodied poor: workhouses with a prison-like regime in which the workers were engaged in unproductive, monotonous and exhaustive labour. The people called these workhouses “Bastilles for the poor”.
The Nanking Treaty of 1842
The Navigation Acts of 1651 and subsequent years set up a system for Asian, African or American produce to be imported for consumption into the United Kingdom and its colonies only in ships under the British national flag, and for European produce to be carried either in English ships or in those belonging to the exporting country. These laws were repealed in 1854.
Struggle over The Ten Hours’ Bill
A few months ago I took occasion to remark on the progress of the Ten Hours’ agitation in the Factory districts. The movement has been going on all the while, and has at last found an echo in the Legislature. On the 5th inst., Mr. Cobbett, M. P. for Oldham, moved for leave to bring in a bill to restrict factory labor to ten hours on the first five days of the week, and to seven and a half hours on Saturday. Leave was given to bring in the bill. During the preliminary debate, Lord Palmerston, in the warmth of improvisation, allowed a distinct threat to escape him, that, if no other means for protecting the factory women and children existed, he would propose a restriction of the moving power. The sentence had scarcely fallen from his lips, when a general storm of indignation burst forth against the incautious statesman, not only from the direct representatives of millocracy, but particularly from their and his own Whig friends, such as Sir George Grey, Mr. Labouchere, &c. Lord J. Russell having taken Palmerston aside, and after half an hour’s private pourparler, had to labor very hard to appease the storm, by assuring them that “it appeared to him that his honorable friend had been entirely misunderstood, and that in expressing himself for a restriction of the moving power, his friend had meant to express himself against it.” Such absurd compromises are the daily bread of the Coalition. At all events they have the right to say one thing and to mean another. As to Lord Palmerston himself, be it not forgotten that that old dandy of Liberalism expelled a few years ago some hundred Irish families from his “estates,” much in the same way as the Duchess of Sutherland did with the ancient clansmen.
Mr. Cobbett, who moved the bill, is the son of the renowned William Cobbett, and represents the same borough his father did. His politics, like his seat, are the inheritance of his father, and therefore independent indeed, but rather incoherent with the state of present parties. William Cobbett was the most able representative, or, rather, the creator of old English Radicalism. He was the first who revealed the mystery of the hereditary party warfare between Tories and Whigs, stripped the parasitic Whig Oligarchy of their sham liberalism, opposed landlordism in its every form, ridiculed the hypocritical rapacity of the Established Church, and attacked the moneyocracy in its two most eminent incarnations—the “Old Lady of Threadneedle-st.” (Bank of England) and Mr. Muckworm & Co. (the national creditors). He proposed to cancel the national debt, to confiscate the Church estates, and to abolish all sorts of paper money. He watched step for step the encroachments of political centralization on local self-government, and denounced it as an infringement on the privileges and liberties of the English subject. He did not understand its being the necessary result of industrial centralization. He proclaimed all the political demands which have afterward been combined in the national charter; yet with him they were rather the political charter of the petty industrial middle class than of the industrial proletarian. A plebeian by instinct and by sympathy, his intellect rarely broke through the boundaries of middle-class reform. It was not until 1834, shortly before his death, after the establishment of the new Poor Law, that William Cobbett began to suspect the existence of a millocracy as hostile to the mass of the people, as landlords, banklords, public creditors, and the clergy-men of the Established Church. If William Cobbett was thus, on one hand, an anticipated modern Chartist, he was, on the other hand, and much more, an inveterate John Bull. He was at once the most conservative and the most destructive man of Great Britain—the purest incarnation of Old England and the most audacious initiator of Young England. He dated the decline of England from the period of the Reformation, and the ulterior prostration of the English people from the so-called glorious Revolution of 1688. With him, therefore, revolution was not innovation, but restoration; not the creation of a new age, but the rehabilitation of the “good old times.” -What he did not see, was that the epoch of the pretended decline of the English people coincided exactly with the beginning ascendancy of the middle class, with the development of modern commerce and industry, and that, at the same pace as the latter grew up, the material situation of the people declined, and local self-government disappeared before political centralization. The great changes attending the decomposition of the old English Society since the eighteenth century struck his eyes and made his heart bleed. But if he saw the effects, he did not understand the causes; the new social agencies at work. He did not see the modern bourgeoisie, but only that fraction of the aristocracy which held the hereditary monopoly of office, and which sanctioned by law all the changes necessitated by the new wants and pretensions of the middle class. He saw the machine, but not the hidden motive power. In his eyes, therefore, the Whigs were responsible for all the changes supervening since 1688. They were the prime motors of the decline of England and the degradation of its people. Hence his fanatical hatred against, and his ever recurring denunciation of the Whig oligarchy. Hence the curious phenomenon, that William Cobbett, who represented by instinct the mass of the people against the encroachments of the middle class, passed in the eyes of the world and in his own conviction for the representative of the industrial middle class against the hereditary aristocracy. As a writer he has not been surpassed.
The present Mr. Cobbett, by continuing under altered circumstances the politics of his father, has necessarily sunk into the class of liberal Tories.
The Times, anxious to make good for its humble attitude against the Russian Czar by increased insolence against the English workingmen, brings a leader on Mr. Cobbett’s motion that aims to be monstrous, but happens to turn out plainly absurd. It cannot deny that the restriction of the moving power is the only means for enforcing upon the factory lords a submission to the existing laws with regard to the hours of factory labor. But it fails to understand how any man of common sense who aims at attaining an end can propose the only adequate means to it. The existing Ten-and-a-half-hours act, like all other factory laws, is but a fictitious concession made by the ruling classes to the working-people; and the workingmen, not satisfied with the mere appearance of a concession, dare insist upon its reality. The Times has never heard of a thing more ridiculous or more extravagant. If a master should be prevented by Parliament from working his hands during 12, 16, or any other number of hours, then, says The Times, “England is no longer a place for a freeman to live in.” Thus the South Carolina gentleman who was placed before and condemned by a London Magistrate for having publicly whipped the Negro he had brought with him from the other side of the Atlantic, exclaimed in a most exasperated state of mind, “You don’t call this a free country where a man is forbidden to whip his own nigger?” If a man becomes a factory hand, and enters into contract with a master, in virtue of which he sells himself for sixteen or eighteen hours, instead of taking his sleep as better-circumstanced mortals can do, you have to explain that, says The Times.
Note: There is a connection between pensions and reduced working time known as, A Shorter working life and pensions. Intensification of labour during the working day and lengthening the working day are two aspects of capitalist exploitation. The struggle for
Longer breaks and lunchtimes is part of the reduced working time and Togging allowances have been negotiated whereby workers have fought for the right to put on work ware during working hours and paid even though actual production has not been engaged. The right also to shower at the end of the day in many cases where it is essential to de-tog or clean up is also part of this.