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the late hours, upon the character of the women. employers' were eager for legislative regulation. The political economists were satisfied that the danger of 'foreign competition,' or driving the trade out of the country,' was, to say the least of it, remote. Even the Home Office was converted to the desirability and actual urgency of legislation.

Unfortunately, the agitators for reform were imperfectly acquainted with the circumstances, and the officials were indiscriminate in their proposals. They ignored the fact that, besides the laundry, large or small, carried on as a business for profit, there exist many hundreds of establishments engaged in the same industry, but conducted with quite other ends. The washing of clothes for private customers is perhaps the most convenient occupation by which the inmates of reformatories and industrial homes of all kinds can earn some contribution towards their maintenance. The same industry has, moreover, become an adjunct of many convents, sisterhoods, and religious houses. These institution laundries' stand, it is obvious, upon a different footing from ordinary businesses. The employment of women and girls is, in these establishments, not primarily a means of gain, but an instrument of reformation, industrial training, the development of personal character, and the deepening of the spiritual life.

It would have been easy to have drafted separate clauses for these religious,' as distinguished from the commercial' laundries, and the Government did indeed eventually offer to make this discrimination. It was, moreover, not absolutely necessary to deal with them at all. But the Bill as laid before the House of Commons applied the same Draconic regulation to convents and charitable homes, commercial laundries carried on in a large way, and the cottages where old women took in a little washing. The result was an outburst of opposition from all parts of the country. When the clause relating to laundries was reached, it was found that, to the ordinary opponents of factory legislation, there was joined a large proportion of the religious world. The members of the Grand Committee on Trade were besieged by letters and petitions from convents and homes, clergymen and philanthropists, Anglicans and Roman Catholics. The Irish vote, usually with Mr. Asquith, turned solidly against him. Because it was far too rigid and stringent to be applicable to the institutions, the whole of the Government clause about laundries was rejected. Next the bewildered members tried their hands at amateur drafting, seeking to reconstruct a clause which should give some help to the oppressed washerwomen, whilst not offending the institutions. Finally, as the outcome of the muddle, after the new clause had been watered down with an undefined idea of making it universally applicable, a further amendment was carried exempting institutions altogether!

The result was the addition to the Statute Book of the following section relating to the hours of labour:

In any laundry carried on by way of trade, or for purpose of gain, the following provisions shall apply:

(i.) The period of employment, exclusive of meal hours and absence from work, shall not exceed, for children, ten bours, for young persons twelve hours, for women fourteen hours, in any consecutive twenty-four hours; nor a total for children of thirty hours, for young persons and women of sixty hours, in any one week, in addition to such overtime as may be allowed in the case of women.

(ii.) A child or young person or woman shall not be employed continuously for more than five hours without an interval of at least half an hour for a meal.

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(v.) The notice to be affixed in each laundry shall specify the period of employment and the times for meals, but the period and times so specified may be varied before the beginning of employment on any day.

Women employed in laundries may work overtime, subject to the following conditions :

(a) No woman shall work more than fourteen hours in any day. (6) The overtime worked shall not exceed two hours in any day.

(c) Overtime shall not be worked on more than three days in any week, or more than thirty days in any year.'

Now, this piece of amateur law-making reads smoothly enough, and there can be no doubt that the members of the Grand Committee, who patched it together after rejecting the clause of the Government draughtsman, thought they had done a good piece of work. But the subject is one of greater intricacy than appears at first sight, and the Home Office experts at once declared the new clause to be ineffective. There has now been over a year's experience of its working, and careful investigation into the matter convinces us that, great as is the need of the laundry workers for protection, the mangled clause which has become law has, in respect of their hours of labour, effected little or no improvement.

What the members of Parliament intended who substituted this clause for Mr. Asquith's was, presumably, to shorten the washerwomen's hours of labour. But they went about it in altogether the wrong way. As a matter of fact, it was only in a comparatively few of the worst laundries that the hours now legally sanctioned were being worked. In other trades, the practice of Parliament has been to take the standard of the good employers, and force the bad ones up to it. With regard to laundries the members took the standard of the bad employers, with the result that the good ones stand in serious danger of being forced down to it.2 Hitherto, where long hours had been worked, it had been with a knowledge that public opinion and sympathy was against such a practice, and with the consciousness that it would be immediately condemned when the law was extended to laundries. What, therefore, was the surprise both of employers and washerwomen to find that, far from condemning the long hours, the new Act had accorded to them the sanction of law. What has hitherto been done by bad employers with a feeling of shame can now be done openly as of legal right; whilst good employers, who have hitherto limited the day's work by their own sense of fitness and justice, are encouraged positively to extend their hours to those fixed by the Act. Under the present law, indeed, if two hours are allowed for meals, it is permissible to keep women continuously at work from 8 A.M. to midnight (sixteen hours) on two days in every week throughout the year; on two other days in the week from 8 A.M. to 8 P.M. (twelve hours); and on Mondays and Saturdays (the usual short days in the industry) from 10 A.M. to 8 P.M. (ten hours), and from 8 A.M. till noon (four hours) respectively. And this, be it remembered, without making any use of the permitted overtime. Moreover, as (unlike any other industry) the exact amount of time to be allowed by the employer for each meal is not defined by the Act, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for the Inspector to protect the workers in the enjoyment of their meal times.

· The law will be found precisely stated and conveniently explained in The Law relating to Factories and Workshops, by May Abraham and A. Llewellyn Davies (Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1896).

2 On the important question of overtime 'this has become only too apparent. 'he custom of the trade has always been to consider work after 8 P.M. as overtime, and the good employers habitually pay an extra rate for work after this hour. But

But this is not all. During any ten weeks in the year overtime may be worked, so as to make the following time-table perfectly legal : Mondays

8 A.M. to 8 P.M. Tuesdays

8 A.M. to 8 P.M. Wednesdays

8 A.M. to midnight. Thursdays

8 A.M. to midnight. Fridays

8 A.M. to midnight. Saturdays

8 A.M. to 12 noon.

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The above hours may be altered so as to make Saturday one of the long days, if the employer chooses. Moreover, it is permissible so to arrange the hours that a woman starting work at midnight on a Thursday may be kept at her tub until 8 P.M. on the Friday evening, or, indeed, varied in any other way.

The freedom thus given to the employers to spread the permissible number of working hours over the whole twenty-four in any way that they think fit is, we believe, an innovation without parallel in our factory legislation. At first sight it may appear an unimportant matter, as only adding to the employer's convenience. But in reality under the Act of 1895 a woman beginning work at 8 A.M. might continue, without drawing upon overtime, working until midnight. Unlike other trades, overtime is only reckoned after the maximum of sixty hours per week has been worked. This maximum is, as we shall show, quite illusory.

it deals a deadly blow at the efficiency of the whole law. It reduces to a nullity the Inspector's power of enforcing any limit of hours at all. The period of employment and the nominal hours for meals may be different in each laundry, and may even be varied, at the will of the employer, at the beginning of each day. Overtime may (within the perfectly nominal limit of ten weeks in the year) be added to the normal day, whether at its beginning or its close; or after any interval—say, for instance, beginning at 1 A.M. after closing at 8 P.M.; or on the whole of Sunday. With all these varieties and loopholes for escape, no employer can ever be caught exceeding the statutory limit of hours. We believe that there has not yet been a single prosecution on this point. The legal limit of hours in laundries by this Act is, and must remain, a dead letter.3

We have hitherto dealt only with the hours of adult women, but the thoughtlessness with which the Act has been drafted appears no less conspicuously in regard to 'young persons,' the girls between 14 and 18, whose hours of work are always 'more strictly limited than those of adults. These girls in the business laundries are employed chiefly in the machine-room in feeding steam-ironing machines (rollers). Their work requires unremitting attention, and that it is not without danger is shown by the not infrequent loss of fingers caught between the rollers. If they were at work in a textile (steam) factory, their maximum working day would be rigidly confined to the period between either 6 A.M. and. 6 P.M., or 7 A.M. and 7 P.M. with precisely defined meal hours. Under no circumstances whatsoever would any overtime be permitted, and they could therefore never be kept at the mill after 6 P.m. or 7 P.M. respectively. The girl of 13 or 14 in the laundry may now (subject to the illusory and unenforceable provision as to meal times) legally be kept at her rollers from 8 A.M. to as late as 10 P.M. on three days in every week throughout the year; from 8 A.M. to 8 P.M. on two other days of every week-five long days in a single week—and then still have four hours work to do on Saturday.*

3 Among the ambiguities of the Act it is questionable whether the sixty hours' limit is to be reckoned for each individual woman, or as the total number of hours during which women and young persons are to be at work on the premises. If the former, it is obvious that an employer may extend the working hours of his factory indefinitely, and it becomes absolutely impossible for any Factory Inspector who do not live on the premises of the employer to discover how long any particular woman has been at work. Such an absurdity could not have been contemplated, and is only another proof of the amateur drafting of the section.

* Tbe carelessness of Parliament as to the welfare of these girls is shown by the fact that the important provisions of the Factory Acts, which prescribe that children and young persons shall not work in a factory unless they have been certified by a surgeon as physically fit to do so, do not apply to steam laundries. It is difficult to see why a protection which is afforded to children and young persons employed in such light work as paper-folding in bookbinding works should not be extended to those engaged on machinery as dangerous and in work as heavy as that in the steam laundry, especially as the hours permitted are so much longer than in other trades.

The laxity thus permitted to laundry employers with regard to these young girls is all the more extraordinary in that the same Grand Committee which constructed this remarkable clause accepted without demur the stringent proposal of the Home Office absolutely to forbid any overtime whatsoever for young persons' in other trades. It is now a penal offence to employ any young man or young woman under 18, in any factory or workshop, for more than the statutory number of hours on any one day. Thus, a girl of 17 may not be kept at work in any manufacturing industry for more than forty-eight hours in the week (plus eight hours for meals). If the same girl goes to a laundry—it may be to a huge steam laundry, with dangerous rollers—she will have to work sixty hours (plus ten more, for only nominally protected meal times). But even this limit is illusory. In every other industry the period within which the young person may be kept to work is precisely defined, so that the Factory Inspector can discover when the law is broken. The laundry girl has no such protection. Her normal period of twelve hours' work may be arranged by the employer at any part of the twenty-four. It is, for instance, quite legal for a girl of 14 to be regularly kept at work in a laundry throughout the whole night-a laxity which makes all official checking of hours impossible. And this neglect to specify the working hours brings a new peril. Parliament declares that it is inexpedient to allow the vigorous young cotton-weaver, or the respectable book-folder or compositor, to be kept at work late at night, whatever may be the exigencies of their employer. Yet the same House of Commons deliberately permits the rough and untrained laundry girl, after standing long hours in the heat, to be turned into London streets or suburban lanes at any hour of the night, in such a way that not even the most careful mother could possibly keep an eye on her coming and going.

The disregard shown by Parliament for preserving to this large class the advantage of a weekly day of rest is especially amazing. Throughout the whole century of factory legislation, Sunday has hitherto always been marked out for respect. Alike in textile and non-textile works, in workshops as well as factories, at the lathe, at the forge or the loom, 'young persons,' and women at any rate, are in every other case protected in the sanctity and enjoyment of their Sabbath. It was reserved for the 1895 Parliament to break this honourable tradition. In fixing the hours for laundry-women and girls there is absolutely no mention of Sunday. The employer is as free to compel work on Sunday as on any other day, and thus to absorb the whole day and evening in continuous toil. Even if Parliament now counts itself a purely secular body, not concerned with the spiritual welfare of young girls, it might at any rate protect them in the weekly rest which is physiologically necessary for their development as wives and mothers.

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