The million-peopled city
Extract from " Silverpen" as to the Wives and Families of Omnibus Servants.
The amount of labour which the drivers and conductors of omnibuses have to perform is most truly such in itself, that it needs no Sabbath addition. It is thus powerfully described by a female writer, who assumes the name of Silverpen () in the "" of .
" Of the 6,000 drivers and conductors, numbers work on an average rather more than sixteen hours a-day; namely, from before eight o'clock in the morning till after twelve o'clock at night. The labour connected with railway omnibuses is still severer than this, being twenty hours each third day, and fourteen on alternate ones. Nor does the seventh day bring rest, as in most laborious occupations; work goes on in precisely the same manner: and, as on some lines of road, the traffic is greater on Sundays than on other days, the work is so far heavier. During the number of hours the men are employed they have no rest. The driver never leaves his box, except during a few occasional minutes whilst his horses are changed; and he has, therefore, to take his meals during those periods, and sometimes upon the coach-box, as, where the men have wives and families, some member of them may be often seen handing up the tea or dinner in a can or basket. As the married portion of
|these men universally say, they 'never see their children except as they look at them in bed;' and as for home, in its commonly-received sense, or any of the moral duties con- nected with it, the one is unknown, and the other is impos- sible. The case of the conductors is precisely the same, neither having a day's rest for months together, for if they take one they have to pay a substitute; and in many cases the proprietors object to a day's relaxation, and will not hire men who need, or may ask for it, such indulgence being against the laws of their particular Association. For a loss of time they are fined 2s. 6d., and for a second or third offence, suspended from a week's employment, or else dismissed. Against stringent rules of this kind we should take no objection, were the hours of labour in any degree of reasonable length; in that case, stringency would be doubly effective, both as regarded the interest of the proprietary and public convenience."|
What is this but English bondage ?
The same graphic writer, in the succeeding number of the same periodical, thus draws a picture, if not taken from actual fact, yet embodying the experience of not a few of the wives of omnibus men.
' ' Men there are, Sir, who have never seen their children run, or laugh, or talk, or eat; all they perhaps recollect, if these children die, is their sleep, and their last rest in the coffin ! Oh! Sir, hard things must come when men never rest- neither Sabbath-day nor working-day; nor have no time for their little ones, or their wives, or to make home-as it really may be made, though a poor one-a cheerful place, when a good and sober husband is there.'
"'And what is worser, Sir,' weeps a half-clad woman, with a baby at her breast, ' is the drinking that comes out of this weariness. It ain't to be wondered at, and the sin on it God must half forgive, seeing such a reason. But 0 the
|homes it makes, of misery, and dirt, and want o' bread, and the sort o' wives it makes! And then the children. Eh! that is worser still. Ignorant, dirty, and often no other way to go, but one o' wickedness. Oh! the drink, the drink!' and the miserable woman bends down her face upon her baby, and weeps tears that tell a story in themselves."|
The same omnibus servant, whose striking evidence was just quoted on the Sunday work of omnibuses, thus des- cribes the every-day work of omnibus men:-
" Some omnibus servants work 14, some 16, and some nearly 20 hours. Those who work nearly 20 hours are railway omnibus drivers and conductors. They commence at four in the morning, and continue, with the exception of' about an hour and a-half, until twelve o'clock at night. But the average is about 15 hours, out of which, on some roads, they have only about seven minutes to dinner, and no more time scarce all day. On some roads they have about twenty minutesbetween each journey, but are only allowed ten minutes out of the twenty for meals. The other ten minutes are spent in the conductor standing at the door of his omnibus, and the coachman standing at his horses' heads, or sitting on the box, in the wet and cold. . In fact, the treatment the poor creatures receive is shocking, and I think a disgrace to a Christian land. I have known men's wives to be dying, their children to be dying, or relatives dying, and time refused them to visit the afflicted, or to pay the last tribute of respect to a departed friend or relative. The man who earns most money is the most cared for, regardless of his general behaviour or character."
Every expression in this last extract, cannot be vindicated as what a servant should employ towards his master, but great allowance may nevertheless be made for it.
So unremitting is the toil of these poor fellows that the Meetings of a Society recently formed by themselves to
|improve their moral and social condition, have to be held after midnight, as the only time which they can command to attend.|