First Examination Of
Bad Catholic Employers
A PRELIMINARY EXAM I NATION OF THE CATHOLIC HERALD SOCIAL SURVEY QUESTIONNAIRE HAS BEEN MADE. THE QUESTIONNAIRE WAS FIRST ISSUED A FORTNIGHT AGO.
Below will be found a few brief glimpses into Catholic men's and women's problems of how to live, how to educate their children, how little help they get from quarters whence they have a right to expect help, material and spiritual.
In order that this Social Survey may become the basis of a new and realistic social work, more answers arc required.
The questionnaire is printed again, and all, no matter of what class or occupation, or means, are asked to reply.
The questions as to whether workers are satisfied from the Catholic point of view with their unions, whether they belong to a Catholic Society and of what help it is are of special importance.
Every answer is carefully kept and its information tabulated. The results will be submitted to the ecclesiastical authorities, together with recommendations based upon the knowledge of the facts.
TIIINGS THAT ARE NOT SATISFACTORY
After an examination of the first batch of replies to the Catholic Herald Social Survey questionnaire, one feels rather sick
and depressed. The twittering advertisements in the evening paper, for mink coats and taffeta dresses, infuriate. At Barrowin-Furness new clothes are less than a memory to Dorothea Fleming, whose father has been out of work since 1930 and draws 30s. 6d. a week in " dole" in order to keep four people in existence.
In Wigan is an unemployed coalmines, John Lannon. He receives 51s. 6d. a week for the maintenance of himself, his wife and seven children. He lives in a neighbourhood which is 95 per cent. Catholic. The people sulk? in poverty and in injustice, but they remain on the whole fervent Catholics, attending Mass and receiving the sacraments. But they are regular subscribers to the Daily Worker because " the Communists arc the only party that will fight the grievances of unemployed at the Labour Exchange."
8 a.m. to 5.30 at £3 a Week
A chemical worker in a factory receives £3 a week, for long hours (8 a.m.
till 5.30 p.m.) of dangerous work. From his wage is deducted his unemployment and health insurance, and a contribution for the firm's pension scheme: so leaving him only £2 16s. 7d. Out of this he must keep his wife and five children, all below 9 years of age.
In Leeds there is a van driver aged thirty. He is married and has one child. He earns £2 10s. a week. Quite a princely wage in comparison with the examples above. Yet it is not by any means sufficient. In his work there is no hope of advancement. either in wage or in the importance;. For his Council house he must pay 10s. a week rent; so that he has just enough money left to provide food and clothes for his family and a little amusement for himself in the form of cigarettes or an occasional visit to the pictures. It is impossible to save. He is at the mercy of his employer utterly.
A young man of twenty at South Shields is unemployed but receives no "dole " as his elder brothers and sisters are in work. Formerly he was a motor driver earning 14s. for a week of 56 hours. His employer was a Catholic.
There arc plenty of other examples of bad Catholic employers. One will not allow his men to belong to a Union and employs some of his staff all day Sunday. Another is willing to employ a lad of sixteen as a bar-tender from 9 a.m. till 9 p.m. at 10s. a week.
Soldier Almost Satisfied Not all the people who sent replies are concerned solely with the problem of how to continue existence. A soldier aged 21 is satisfied with his wage of 17s. 6d. a week. Except for a weekly allowance of 8s. 9d. to his mother he can spend all his money on personal needs. Food, clothing and board are provided by the army and he is allowed small privileges such as reduced travel rates. But he has one grievance, there are no Catholic books available for him, and there is not a great deal of interest shown by the chaplain in his spiritual welfare. Two other soldiers have made the same point. One asserts that he was ill for eight weeks in military hospital without receiving a single visit from a priest, although the barracks were quite near a Catholic church.
The Price of Obedience
Another worry amongst those who arc in otherwise satisfactory circumstances, is that of education. A managing director of an enginering firm, who lives at Leicester. must either pay £450 a year to have his four children educated or send them to a school " where the children are not clean." The only other alternative is to disobey the Bishops and send them to a nun-Catholic school.
A lady with two adopted children was faced with almost the same problem. In her ease however a Catholic boarding school was out of the question because she
did not want her children to he away from home. Acting on the advice of her parish priest she sent them to the Catholic elementary school and was afterwards boycotted by her Catholic acquaintances.
Cost of Education There seems to be a great need for a Catholic equivalent to the English Grammar School. The Catholic public school is most expensive, and the average secondary school is inclined to spend all its energy on goading its luckless pupils through a series of examinations of no cultural value and little commercial value.
There were many replies from the silent and largely unprotected army of clerks. A girl of North London earns the quite excellent wage of £3 5s. a week as an insurance clerk. But out of this she has to support her mother and her younger sister, rent a fiat, travel to and from the City, buy her clothes and food, and save what is left over. In her office, out of 14 people, only one other besides herself practises any religion at all. The rest are utterly indifferent and inclined to resent any mention of religion,
Her parish social life is moribund. An occasional whist drive and dance in aid of church funds and that is the only cotnniunication she has with other Catholics.
Parish Study Circles It seems to be the exception, for a parish to run a study circle dealing with social questions, or to show any interest at all in
the lives of the workers. The parishes where there is a conscientious interest taken in these matters are usually parishes where notice of poverty could not be very well avoided; as at Bishop Auckland, Durham, from where a young unmarried miner writes full of praise for his hardworking priest who brings some enlightenment and happiness into the drab poverty around him.
This miner of 24 is paid on the piecework system, but he has had the minimum wage on an average eight times out of ten. The minimum wage after insurance has been deducted is 35s. He says his only protection against exploitation is from his Trade Union. It would seem from this wage that the Union is not altogether successful in its protection. Incidentally the firm he is employed by is one of the largest steel and iron contractors in the world and so cannot be excused by the plea that coalmining is a hard-hit industry.