Page 13, 12th November 1937

12th November 1937
Page 13
Page 13, 12th November 1937 — The Living Wage And The Existing im ages Everyone who is

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Locations: Manchester, Glasgow


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The Living Wage And The Existing im ages Everyone who is

eager to put the social teaching of the Church into practice finds himself continually advocating the Living Wage, Without being able to define the Living Wage in terms of pounds, shillings and pence (for there are so many factors which directly or indirectly influence the value of a wage, and which affect almost every individual in a different way), he has nevertheless a shrewd idea of what is a living wage and what isn't.

It seems from the replies received so far to last week's questionnaire, that quite a number of people exist on what isn't.

In Middlesbrough an unemployed foundry worker draws £2 Is. each week from the Unemployment Assistance Board. On this he has to keep himself, his wife, and five children who are all under nine years of age. He has almost given up hope of getting work again. But if the miracle should happen, the chances are that he will earn very little more for a full week's work than he is getting at present. Previously his wages varied from 25s. up to £5 5s., the average being £2 5s.

£4 for a Bank Messenger A London bank messenger receives £4 a week. He is married and has four children. He rents a controlled house for 17s. 2d. a week. He feels that he is lucky to have found a house at such a cheap rent, and indeed he is. He gives an extraordinarily detailed budget showing how every penny he earns is spent by the time the next week's wages come round. Out of his overtime money he pays for such things as clothes and boots. . . " Although, I suppose, some would say I am well paid, with my family I have not a penny to spare; as a matter of fact, without a very good wife, who manages (God knows how) to provide us with food. I do not know where we should be." Fortunately he belongs to a pension scheme for which his firm deduct 4s. a week, so he has some small security to reassure him.

It is his experience that the cost of living has gone up. " A year and a half ago we found it much easier to live, quite frankly it is now costing me another 7s. 6d. a week."

Plenty of Experience A man from Glasgow had some most interesting facts about wages. At present he is a houseman earning £2 a week, this is an increase -in 18 months of 27s, 6d. Previously he had been an ice-cream vendor at 10s. a week, plus commission. He worked a seven-day week, and each day from 9 a.m. till 10 p.m. He had also beer a milkman working from 5.30 a.m. till 4 p.m. for £1 a week and commission which usually brought it up to 25s.; and a hotel waiter at 15s. with tips which made up his wage to 30s. or 35s. a week. For this wage he had to work from 6 a.m. till he was finished often at 11 or 12 o'clock at night. He always had to swallow his meals in the shortest possible time. He had no free Sundays, no half-days, and no time off.

£3 a Week for Family of Seven

Is the £3 a week for the worker in a Midland chemical factory, who has a wife and five children, a living wage? • Nor the 35s. a week of the Lancashire weaver, who has a wife and a child to keep. Nor the £2 10s. audit clerk, who has been with his firm at Lowestoft for 15 years, ever since he left school. True he is not married, but what sort of chance has he of getting married on 50s. a week?

But there are so many people who are hopelessly underpaid, one could go on fill ing columns with just the depressing facts of hours and wages, until the mind would be clogged with a plethora of figures, and become powerless to feel the living thing. One suspects, as one reads these answers, that this is the real trouble today. Perhaps our Government has digested so many detailed reports, considered so many figures, examined so many graphs that their senses have become (lulled and their feelings numbed to the inner significances.

However, there arc people who are paid a just wage. Often they are employed by firms which arc not in such a prosperous position as those wIls pay bad wages.

" This is Adequate " c trade considers that provides himself and ir children, none of whom are older than eleven, with the reasonable and frugal comforts of life. There are only six on the staff, so it is not a gigantic firm. His employers are " both Jews and Freemasons who have the greatest respect for Catholics, providing they are known to be practising Catholics. They pay a living wage and are concerned in the health and domestic happiness of all their staff. In many respects they are a better example of personal concern for the well-being of their staff than many Catholic employers."

The civil servant who is earning £450 a year, with the knowledge of gradual and inevitable increase, and security for himself and his wife and family of three children, is one. of the fortunatcs, but then his employer can afford to give him a decent salary.

Yet the question of being able to afford or not, does really not apply when it is a question of a living wage, was the opinion of one well-paid man with whom I talked this week. There should be a minimum wage for all married men, indeed for all

A man in the boo his £6 10s. a week his wife and his fo men, he said, as one must save money in order to marry; and unless an employer undertakes to pay this wage he should not be

allowed to conduct a biness. The increasing of this wage sho Id bear some relation to the man's increasing family responsibilities, as well as to his responsibilities at his work.

On the Whole On the whole doctors and men in banks and in insurance companies, draw reason-, ably good salaries; though in insurance companies a lot depends on the firm, and there is also considerable divergence in the salaries paid to men working in different grades. A local secretary, aged 34, to a Scottish insurance company receives £400 -this includes allowance for the fact that he pays no income tax. But a clerk of 31 in a Manchester company receives only £4 4s. a week, with little Shope of further advancement Generally black-coated workers, who have to " keep up an appe ranee " are paid poor wages, and have little prospect of any other life than of drudging routine rewarded with slow mincscule increments.

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