STAGGERING PROFITS FROM SLUM PROPERTY Rent and Rail Strikers : Army Reserlists Unsettled
From Our Labour Correspondent TEE National Union of Railwaymen have demanded an increase in their minimum wage rate. The railways have rejected the demand. 150,000 railwaymen work for little. over 40s. A week.
The Seebolim Rowntree existence is about 56s. a week for a man and wife and three children.
The railway companies offer 45s. a week minimum for 15,000 out of the 150,000.
Their receipts were up this year by over £1,000,000.
Agricultural workers are petitioning for a 40s. minimum wage, which they are unable to obtain.
The Government is offering 40s. a week to farmers to train girls for the land.
The Baldwill Fund allocated 17s. 6d. a week for each refugee child.
The Spanish children got about 15s. a week each.
Three shillings a week has to keep the child of British unemployed.
The war of nerves is not being fought entirely on an international basis; bitterness is markedly growing ill the relationships between class and class, employer and worker, tenant and landlord. As the prices of essentials continue to appreciate, the demands of the workers for higher wages grow more insistent. As the international situation worsens the employers take comfort in the thought that public sympathy will be withheld from those who resort to strike action and " sabotage the national effort in their own selfish interests."
The Press is adding to the hatred and uncharity. One newspaper clamours for reduction of the social services, another for the expulsion of all Irishmen, a third denounces reservists who threaten to strike for better conditions as " traitors," and a fourth hints at physical violence against those who belong to organisations working for an understanding with the present German regime. There is a growing ugliness in the threats and counter-threats of demagogues, perhaps typified in that week-end preacher to militiamen who denounced the " great mush " of our present civilisation which preferred " children's courts to canes."
In labour disputes particularly we must recall the principles of the social encyclicals. Unless the worker is receiving an adequate wage for himself and his family the industry In which he works is not meeting its legitimate charges, and if it pays dividends is defrauding the labourer. No cry of " national emergency " can justify the payment of starvation wages, as long as dividends continue to be paid.
Complaints continue to pour in about the conditions of labour for militia-c.a.mp builders. One hundred and fifty downed tools at Lydd and returned to their camps in Brighton, after alleging that conditions were appalling. After one man had died in Folkestone Hospital and another returned home ill it was announced that the men would press for a Ministry of Labour inquiry. Strikes continue in West-country camps, and mass meetings have been held in a number of centres.
Ian Hay Pooh-poohs Army Reservists returning to civil life demanded a bounty equivalent to that received by the naval reservist. The War Office issued a tender appeal to employers to " waive any rules which might. entail lack of ready cash."
Meanwhile Ian Hay pooh-poohed the stories of militia hardship as the malevolent propaganda of those opposed to compulsory service, brasshets eulogised camp luxury life after nineteen-minute tours of the most notorious centres, and the War Office, as an act of pure generosity, increased the food allowances.
The rent-strike movement continues to draw support from all over the country. Helped greatly by the Birmingham Convention and the Hyde Park rally, membership of the Federation of Tenants' and Residents' Associations now approaches the 200,000 mark. The campaign against the building societies is running jointly with the fight against slum landlords.
A " sympathetic " strike of 30,000 householders is seriously contemplated In London, as well as the picketing of building societies' offices and the nonjerry-built homes of the societies' directors.
Any Catholic Shareholders Here?
In Stepney, where the anti-landlord movement first gained notoriety, the strike at Ellen House, Snlidtz Sirent, entered upon its twentieth week with the erection of barricades in anticipation of the bailiffs' arrival. A new strike commenced in Wicker Street, and the famous Langdale Mansions threatened to become a battleground again, as the landlords persisted in holding up repairs scheduled under the July agreement.
Strikes continue in Oxford and Leyton, and are threatened in many Industrial cities.
The St. Pancras Tenants' Defence League publishes astonishing details of the fortunes being made out of slum property.
In Midhope and Whidborne Buildings usually four and sometimes right families have to share one sink and tap and one antiquated lavatory, approachable only by an exposed balcony. The company owning the wage, corrected for 1938 prices,
tenements 'made 525,155 in clear profit in 1938, possessed a. reserve of S329417, and is about to add one 810 share to every £10 share held by its shareholders.
Are there any Catholics holding shares In the company possessing Midhope Buildings, St. Pancras?
Abolish Free Education
A distressing feature of the rent-strike movement is that the Right-wing Press generally is shutting down on the details of the movement. This boycott is playing right into the hands of the Communist Party, which has not been slow to capitalise the agitation in its own interests.
Meanwhile Lord Beaverbrook's cure for the ills of our time is a reversion to nineteenth-century laisser-faire.
The Evening Standard urges us to cut the social services. "Let people find their pensions and health insurance out of their savings, they would then value them more highly and take pride in their independence." Let us abolish free education, send the children of the poor out to work at the earliest possible moment. "It does not matter very much whether they start as errand boys."