Aireborough Historical Society

1895 Letter to Leeds Mercury



Title
Letter to Leeds Mercury
Date August 1895
Location Aireborough
Photo ID

Compiled by Carlo Harrison from documents held in the AHS Archive Room, Yeadon Town Hall

Comment The following is an extract from a letter sent in to the Leeds Mercury early in August 1895 & was signed by a "Textile Worker" who claimed that he was not biased because his wage was not involved & that he had private means to support him during the dispute.
The dispute was because the manufacturers decided to post notices in the mills lowering the wage rates, in some cases by 30% & in other cases by 14%.
The weavers immediately left their jobs on strike.

"A man weaver it must be understood has two looms and he is obliged to have either a boy or girl to help him, for which he has to pay - out of his own pocket - from 6s to 8s 6d a week at the least, so that the sum earned by these two looms is set down in the cash book as wages to one person.
The manufactures try to impress upon the weavers that the average wage paid to a person with two looms was 36s per week previous to the 1839 scale, but that since the average has only been one half that sum.
This statement is incorrect in the way the manufacturers know it will be taken, & is highly calculated to mislead those persons not conversant with the textile trade.
But we will assume that he does earn this 36s set down to him in the cash book. He has left after paying the boy or girl out 28s. But unfortunately they do not state the number of hours the person has worked; that will not of course suit their purpose.
These wages they admit were earned previous to 1893. At the time referred to the trade in the district was exceptionally good & these two firms (claimed by "Textile Worker" to be leading the manufacturers against the weavers), in particular are noted for working very long hours, although, when it is possible, the others are no exception to that rule.
They begin work at six o'clock in the morning & work till 8 o'clock at night, &, in some instances 10 o'clock, & some persons, not satisfied with these hours begin soon after they have finished their meals.
Now, at such times as these, when disputes do happen to occur, the masters are only too glad to trumpet forth their virtues, & show that they are anything but despicable & hard-hearted creatures they are made out to be by paying the wages that they stated. But surely after working the long hours that they are known to work & are forced to it by the masters themselves - or else they would get the "sack" - the weavers should have a decent remuneration for their labour."


"Textile Worker" who goes on to say that the manufacturers say that the 1893 scale of wages meant a rise of 13 to 25% in wages.
"Textile Worker" points out that in some cases, there were reductions of wages.
It was common practice before this agreement to pay weavers the same piece rates for broad cloth as for narrow widths of cloth. Further, the 25% rise in piece rates applied to types of cloth not made in this district.
It was common for weavers to average out under 24s a week, not the 36s stated by the manufacturers. Further, the manufacturers offered to discuss the new rates under dispute with non-union weavers only.
One manufacturer started to pay the lower rates before any discussions took place. Others were conspiring to do likewise, whatever the outcome of the talks.
The Yeadon manufacturers have lately imagined that the continued depression in Yeadon is solely due to the 1893 scale being too high; they do not seem to recognise the fact that it has been general, & not confined to Yeadon alone.
To lay the blame, as they do, on the standard scale is either a direct untruth or palpable ignorance.
Two of the largest firms in the district since it was adopted have had their machinery running day & night, & at the time, one of these firms came out he had some machinery running day and night.
It is well known in Yeadon that when one of these manufacturers is "strong" & he has been since the scale was adopted that he pays the weaver about one-third more for the night work than day work, which results in a greater cost & less production.
Therefore, I should like to know where the consistency is; also, that notwithstanding this depression he has enlarged his mill considerably, & at the time present he is increasing his premises to such an extent that one would think foolish if one believed all this band of patriots choose to tell him.
The Yeadon manufacturers in their letter point out that the Guiseley manufacturers, as a whole had no hand in drawing up the 1893 scale, but they do admit that some of them had, & these in Guiseley are still continuing paying the old scale.
As regards the other manufacturers, if they did take no part in drawing up this scale, it was because they were satisfied that their scale was better than the standard scale."

 

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