Thursday, 21 April 2016

Women Spinners Brought to Huddersfield

From the Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 7th April 1916.




The dearth of labour in the textile trade of the Huddersfield and Colne Valley districts is to be made good by the introduction of a large number of women from East Coast and East Midland towns.  The first batch of these women arrived in the district to-day, and the importation will proceed as rapidly as the new operatives can be absorbed to the industry and lodging or housing accommodation provided for them.

It was high time some action on these lines was taken, for the scarcity of male labour had become intensified, and a large amount of machinery in the trade is idle.  It is estimated that about 8,000 men from the Huddersfield district are now serving with the forces.  Of that number probably about 5,000 were engaged in the woollen and worsted cloth industries.  Until recently, by resorting to various expedients, the depleted ranks were filled up, but the problem has now become acute, and it is no longer possible to carry on the industry with anything like efficiency without making an extensive demand upon female labour.  Important Government contracts for army goods are at present being seriously delayed by the lack of skilled labour.

The revised list of certified occupations has not improved matters; indeed, so many occupations in the textile industry are now unstarred that it is inevitable that in the near future further large numbers of men engaged in the woollen and worsted mills will be called up for military service.  One effect of the changes which have been made is that very shortly 600 men will be taken out of the spinning department, a department which has been more severely hit than any other by the withdrawal of men.  So inadequate is the staffing of spinning machinery at present that there is a great shortage in yarn, a circumstance which is responsible for keeping a large number of looms idle.

It is in the spinning department that the women now being imported are to be engaged.  They will take the places of the 600 men as the latter are called up or transferred to departments in which heavy manual labour is involved and in which the services of women can not very well be utilised.  In the Huddersfield district women have somewhat singularly held aloof from piecing and spinning; way, it is difficult to say, because it is work which they can do, and in other districts mules are run almost entirely by women.  It is obvious that some time must elapse before the re-organisation of the industry can be carried out on the lines indicated, but arrangements have been made with the authorities whereby it is believed that this will be successfully accomplished and without undue interference or hardship.

The employers can count upon the support of the Home Office and the Board of Trade, for only recently Mr. Herbert Samuel (the Home Secretary) and Mr. Walter Runciman (President of the Board of Trade) issued an appeal to employers, in which they stated that there was only one source from which the shortage of Labour could be made good, and that was the great body of women who are at present unoccupied or engaged only in work not of an essential character.

Proper safeguards for the future have been provided, an agreement between employers and workpeople having been entered into.  The agreement provides that substitutions of men by women are temporary, and that those men who have joined the forces shall be entitled to be reinstated in their former employments if and when they return fit for resuming them; men thus reinstated to receive the rates of wages to which they would have been entitled had they remained in continuous employment.  The provisions as to wages are:—That where women are employed to take the place of men the rate of wages for such women shall be (a) If at piece-rates the same as for men, unless women's rates are already established for that class of work, provided no woman shall receive less than the district rate for women. (b) If at time rates for day-time work, and one or more women replace an equal number of men, they shall be paid the same rate of wages now being paid to males for an equivalent quantity of work, and in any case not less than four-fifths of the rate preciously paid to the men they replace. (c) If at time rates for day-time work, and a larger number of women are required to replace a smaller number of men, the aggregate wages paid to the women shall not be less than the aggregate wages paid to the men they replace, and in no case shall the wage paid to an individual woman be less than four-fifths of the wage previously paid to the man replaced.

The women who are coming into the trade are from Harrogate, Scarborough, Bridlington, Goole, Grimsby, Hull, Mansfield, and other towns.  A local Advisory Committee has been set up, but it is likely that considerable difficulty will arise in finding lodgings and housing accommodation for the new arrivals.  On the other hand, few families are now complete, and the room which is available should, wherever possible, be utilised.  Those who can find lodgings for the women now arriving will be performing a national service.

[Conscription, initially only of single men, but soon extended to married men, had been introduced in March 1916.  Some occupations were exempt form conscription, or 'starred', hence the reference to occupations becoming 'unstarred', and the predicted shortage of men in the textile trades. It's interesting that the Examiner says that the shortage of labour in Huddersfield to operate the spinning mules was entirely due to local custom and practice, and in other areas women were already doing that work before the war. ]

No comments:

Post a Comment