London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of the Scurf Trade among the Rubbish- Carters.
Before proceeding to treat of the cheap or "scurf" labourers among the rubbish-carters, I shall do as I have done in connection with the casual labourers of the same trade, say a few words on that kind of labour in general, both as to the means by which it is usually obtained and as to the distinctive qualities of the scurf or lowpriced labourers; for experience teaches me that the mode by which labour is cheapened is more or less similar in all trades, and it will therefore save much time and space if I here—as with the casual labourers—give the general facts in connection with this part of my subject.
In the place, then, there are but direct modes of cheapening labour, viz.:—
. By making the workmen do work for the pay.
. By making them do the work for pay.
The of these modes is what is technically termed "," especially when effected by compulsory "overwork;" and it is called the "economy of labour" when brought about by more elaborate and refined processes, such as the division of labour, the large system of production, the invention
|of machinery, and the , as contradistinguished from the , mode of hiring.|
Each of these modes of making workmen do work for the pay, can but have the same depressing effect on the labour market, for not only is the of remuneration (or ratio of the work to the pay) reduced when the operative is made to do a greater quantity of work for the same amount of money, but, unless the means of disposing of the extra products be proportionately increased, it is evident that just as many workmen must be displaced thereby as the increased term or rate of working exceeds the extension of the markets; that is to say, if workpeople be made to produce each twice as much as formerly (either by extending the hours of labour or increasing their rate of labouring), then if the markets or means of disposing of the extra products be increased only -half, hands must, according to Cocker, be deprived of their ordinary employment; and these competing with those who are in work will immediately tend to reduce the wages of the trade generally, so that not only will the of wages be decreased, since each will have more work to do, but the actual earnings of the workmen will be diminished likewise.
Of the economy of labour itself, as a means of cheapening work, there is no necessity for me to speak here. It is, indeed, generally admitted, that to economize labour without proportionally extending the markets for the products of such labour, is to deprive a certain number of workmen of their ordinary means of living; and under the head of casual labour so many instances have been given of this principle that it would be wearisome to the reader were I to do other than allude to the matter at present. There are, however, several other means of causing a workman to do more than his ordinary quantity of work. These are:—
. By extra supervision when the workmen are paid by the day. Of this mode of increased production an instance has already been cited in the account of the strapping-shops given at p. , vol. ii.
. By increasing the workman's interest in his work; as in piece-work, where the payment of the operative is made proportional to the quantity of work done by him. Of this mode examples have already been given at p. , vol. ii.
. By large quantities of work given out at time; as in "lump-work" and "contract work."
. By the domestic system of work, or giving out materials to be made up at the homes of the workpeople.
. By the middleman system of labour.
. By the prevalence of small masters.
. By a reduced rate of pay, as forcing operatives to labour both longer and quicker, in order to make up the same amount of income.
Of several of these modes of work I have already spoken, citing facts as to their perniclous influence upon the greater portion of those trades where they are found to prevail. I have already shown how, by extra supervision—by increased interest in the work—as well as by decreased pay, operatives can be made to do more work than they otherwise would, and so be the cause, unless the market be proportionately extended, of depriving some of their fellow-labourers of their fair share of employment. It now only remains for me to set forth the effect of those modes of employment which have not yet been described, viz., the domestic system, the middleman system, and the contract and lump system, as well as the smallmaster system of work.
Let me begin with the of the lastmen- tioned modes of cheapening labour, viz.,
I find, by investigation, that in trades where the system of working on the master's premises has been departed from, and a man is allowed to take his work home, there is invariably a tendency to cheapen labour. These home workers, whenever opportunity offers, will use other men's ill-paid labour, or else employ the members of their family to enhance their own profits.
The domestic system, moreover, naturally induces When the work is executed off the master's premises, of course there are neither definite hours nor days for labour; and the consequence is, the generality of home workers labour early and late, Sundays as well as week-days, availing themselves at the same time of the co-operation of their wives and children; thus the trade becomes overstocked with workpeople by the introduction of a vast number of new hands into it, as well as by the overwork of the men themselves who thus obtain employment. When I was among the tailors, I received from a journeyman to whom I was referred by the Trades' Society as the best able to explain the causes of the decline of that trade, the following lucid account of the evils of this system of labour:—
The is so much akin to the domestic system, of which, indeed, it is but a necessary result, that it forms a natural addendum to the above. Of this indirect mode of employing workmen, I said, in the , when treating of the timber-porters at the docks:—
The "contract system" or "lump work," as it is called, is but a corollary, as it were, of the foregoing; for it is an essential part of the middleman system, that the work should be obtained by the trading operative in large quantities, so that those upon whose labour he lives should be kept continually occupied, and the more, of course, that he can obtain work for, the greater his profit. When a quantity of work, usually paid for by the piece, is given out at time, the natural tendency is for the piece-work to pass into lump-work; that is to say, if there be in a trade a number of distinct parts, each requiring, perhaps, from the division of labour, a distinct hand for the execution of it, or if each of these parts bear a different price, it is frequently the case that the master will contract with some workman for the execution of the whole, agreeing to give a certain price for the job "in the lump," and allowing the workman to get whom he pleases to execute it. This is the case with the piece-working masters in the coachbuild- ing trade; but it is not essential to the contract or
|lump system of work, that other hands should be employed; the main distinction between it and piece-work being that the work is given out in large quantities, and a certain allowance or reduction of price effected from that cause alone.|
It is this contract or lump work which constitutes the great evil of the carpenter's, as well as of many other trades; and as in those crafts, so in this, we find that the lower the wages are reduced the greater becomes the number of trading operatives or middlemen. For it is when workmen find the difficulty of living by their labour increased that they take to scheming and trading upon the labour of their fellows. In the slop trade, where the pay is the worst, these creatures abound the most; and so in the carpenter's trade, where the wages are the lowest—as among the speculative builders—there the system of contracting and sub-contracting is found in full force.
Of this contract or lump work, I received the following account from the foreman to a large speculating builder, when I was inquiring into the condition of the London carpenters:—
A tradesman, or a speculator, will contract, for a certain sum, to complete the skeleton of a house, and render it fit for habitation. He will sublet the flooring to some working joiner, who will, in very many cases, take it on such terms as to allow himself, by working early and late, the regular journeymen's wages of a week, or perhaps rather more. Now this sub-contractor cannot complete the work within the requisite time by his own unaided industry, and he employs men to assist him, often subletting again, and such assistant men will earn perhaps but a day. It is the same with the doors, the staircases, the balustrades, the window-frames, the roomskirt- ings, the closets; in short, all parts of the building.
The subletting is accomplished without difficulty. Old men are sometimes employed in such work, and will be glad of any remuneration to escape the workhouse; while stronger workmen are usually sanguine that by extra exertion, "though the figure is low, they may make a tidy thing out of it after all." In this way labour is cheapened. "Lump" work, "piece" work, work by "the job," are all portions of the contract system. The principle is the same. "Here is this work to be done, what will you undertake to do it for?"
In number after number of the will be found statements headed "Blind Builders." firm, responding to an advertisement for "estimates" of the building of a church, sends in an offer to execute the work in the best style for Another firm may offer to do it for somewhere about The -mentioned firm would do the work well, paying the "honourable" rate of wages. The under-working firm resort to the scamping and subletting system I have alluded to. It appears that the building of churches and chapels, of all denominations, is of the greatest encouragement to slop, or scamp, or under-paid work. The same system prevails in many trades with equally pernicious effects.
Of the ruinous effects of the contract system in connection with the army clothing, Mr. Pearse, the army clothier, gave the following evidence before the Select Committee on Army and Navy Appointments.
Mr. Shaw, another army clothier, and a gentleman with whose friendship, I am proud to say, I have been honoured since the commencement of my inquiries—a gentleman actuated by the most kindly and Christian impulses, and of whom the workpeople speak in terms of the highest admiration and regard; this gentleman, impressed with a deep sense of the evils of the contract system to the under-paid and over-worked operatives of his trade, addressed a letter to the Chairman of the Committee on Army, Navy, and Ordnance Estimates, from which the following are extracts:—
In another place the same excellent gentleman says:—
The last mentioned of the several modes of cheapening labour is the "" of work, that is to say, the operatives taking to make up materials on their own account rather than for capitalist employers. In every trade where there are masters, trades into which it requires but little capital to embark, there is certain to be a cheapening of labour. Such a man works himself, and to get work, to meet the exigences of the rent and the demands of the collectors of the parliamentary and parochial taxes, he will often underwork the very journeymen whom he occasionally employs, doing "the job" in such
|cases with the assistance of his family and apprentices, at a less rate of profit than the amount of journeymen's wages.|
Concerning these garret masters I said, when treating of the Cabinet trade, in the , "The cause of the extraordinary decline of wages in the Cabinet trade (even though the hands decreased and the work increased to an unprecedented extent) will be found to consist in the increase that has taken place within the last years of what are called 'garret masters' in the cabinet trade. These garret masters are a class of small 'trade-working masters,' the same as the 'chamber masters' in the shoe trade, supplying both capital and labour. They are in manufacture what 'the peasant proprietors' are in agriculture—their own employers and their own workmen. There is, however, this ed distinction between the classes—the garret master cannot, like the peasant proprietor, what he produces; the consequence is, that he is obliged to convert each article into food immediately he manufactures it—no matter what the state of the market may be. The capital of the garret master being generally sufficient to find him in materials for the manufacture of only article at a time, and his savings being but barely enough for his subsistence while he is engaged in putting those materials together, he is compelled, the moment the work is completed, to part with it for whatever he can get. He cannot afford to keep it even a day, for to do so is generally to remain a day unfed. Hence, if the market be at all slack, he has to force a sale by offering his goods at the lowest possible price. What wonder, then, that the necessities of such a class of individuals should have created a special race of employers, known by the significant name of 'slaughter-house men'—or that these, being aware of the inability of the 'garret masters' to hold out against any offer, no matter how slight a remuneration it affords for their labour, should continually lower and lower their prices, until the entire body of the competitive portion of the cabinet trade is sunk in utter destitution and misery? Moreover, it is well known how strong is the stimulus among peasant proprietors, or, indeed, any class working for themselves, to extra production. So it is, indeed, with the garret masters; their industry is almost incessant, and hence a greater quantity of work is turned out by them, and continually forced into the market, than there would otherwise be. What though there be a brisk and a slack season in the cabinet-maker's trade as in the majority of others?—slack or brisk, the garret masters' must produce the same excessive quantity of goods. In the hope of extricating himself from his overwhelming poverty, he toils on, producing more and more—and yet the more he produces the more hopeless does his position become; for the greater the stock that he thrusts into the market, the lower does the price of his labour fall, until at last, he and his whole family work for less than half what he himself could earn a few years back by his own unaided labour."
The small-master system of work leads, like the domestic system, with which, indeed, it is inti- mately connected, to the employment of wives, children, and apprentices, as a means of assistance and extra production—for as the prices decline so do the small masters strive by further labour to compensate for their loss of income.
Such, then, are the several modes of work by which labour is cheapened. There are, as we have seen, but ways of effecting this, viz., by making men do more work for the same pay, and secondly, by making them do the same work for less pay. The way in which men are made to do more, it has been pointed out, is, by causing them either to work longer or quicker, or else by employing fewer hands in proportion to the work; or engaging them only for such time as their services are required, and discharging them immediately afterwards. These constitute the several modes of economizing labour, which lowers the rate of remuneration (the ratio of the pay to the work) rather than the pay itself. The several means by which this result is attained are termed "systems of work, production, or engagement," and such are those above detailed.
Now it is a necessity of these several systems, though the actual amount of remuneration is not directly reduced by them, that a cheaper labour should be obtained for carrying them out. Thus, in contract or lump work, perhaps, the price may not be immediately lowered; the saving to the employer consisting chiefly in supervision, he having in such a case only man to look to instead of perhaps a . The contractor, or lumper, however, is differently situated; he, in order to reap any benefit from the contract, must, since he cannot do the whole work himself, employ others to help him, and to reap any benefit from the contract, this of course must be done at a lower price than he himself receives; so it is with the middleman system, where a profit is derived from the labour of other operatives; so, again, with the domestic system of work, where the several members of the family, or cheaper labourers, are generally employed as assistants; and even so is it with the small-master system, where the labour of apprentices and wives and children is the principal means of help. Hence the operatives adopting these several systems of work are rather the instruments by which cheap labour is obtained than the cheap labourers themselves. It is true that a sweater, a chamber master, or garret master, a lumper or contractor, or a home worker, generally works cheaper than the ordinary operatives, but this he does chiefly by the cheap labourers he employs, and then, finding that he is able to underwork the rest of the trade, and that the more hands he employs the greater becomes his profit, he offers to do work at less than the usual rate. It is not a necessity of the system that the middleman operative, the domestic worker, the lumper, or garret master should be himself underpaid, but simply that he should employ others who are so, and it is thus that such systems of work tend to cheapen the labour of those trades in which they are found to prevail. Who, then, are the cheap labourers?—who the individuals, by means of
|whose services the sweater, the smaller master, the lumper, and others, is enabled to underwork the rest of his trade?—what the general characteristics of those who, in the majority of handicrafts, are found ready to do the same work for less pay, and how are these usually distinguished from such as obtain the higher rate of remuneration?|
in all trades, I find, are divisible into classes:—
. The unskilful.
. The untrustworthy.
. The inexpensive.
, as regards the Long ago it has been noticed how frequently boys were put to trades to which their tastes and temperaments were antagonistic. Gay, who in his quiet, unpretending style often elicited a truth, tells how a century and a half ago the generality of parents never considered for what business a boy was best adapted—
A boy thus brought up to a craft for which he entertains a dislike can hardly become a proficient in it. At the present time thousands of parents are glad to have their sons reared to business which their means or opportunities place within their reach, even though the lad be altogether unsuited to the craft. The consequence is, that these boys often grow up to be unskilful workmen. There are technical terms for them in different trades, but perhaps the generic appellation is "muffs." Such workmen, however well conducted, can rarely obtain employment in a good shop at good wages, and are compelled, therefore, to accept , , and rate wages, and are often driven to slop work.
Other causes may be cited as tending to form unskilful workmen: the neglect of masters or foremen, or their incapacity to teach apprentices; irregular habits in the learner; and insufficient practice during a master's paucity of employment. I am assured, moreover, that hundreds of mechanics yearly come to London , whose skill is altogether inadequate to the demands of the "honourable trade." Of course, during the finishing of their education they can only work for inferior shops at inferior wages; hence another cause of cheap labour. Of this I will cite an instance: a bootmaker, who for years had worked for -rate West end shops, told me that when he came to London from a country town he was sanguine of success, because he knew that he was a man (a quick workman.) He very soon found out, however, he said, that as he aspired to do the best work, he "had his business to learn all over again;" and until he attained the requisite skill, he worked for "just what he could get:" he was a cheap, because then an unskilful, labourer.
There is, moreover, the cheaper labour of , the great prop of many a slop-trader; for as such traders disregard all the niceties of work, as they disregard also the solidity and perfect finish of any work (finishing it, as it was once described to me, "just to the eye"), a lad is soon made useful, and his labour remunerative to his master, as far as slop remuneration goes, which, though small in a small business, is wealth in a "monster business."
There are, again, the "" These are the most frequent in the dress-making and millinery business, as young women find it impossible to form a good connection among a wealthier class of ladies in any country town, unless the "patronesses" are satisfied that their skill and taste have been perfected in London. In my inquiry (in the course of letters in the ) into the condition of the workwomen in this calling, I was told by a retired dressmaker, who had for upwards of years carried on business in the neighbourhood of , that she had sometimes met with "improvers" so tasteful and quick, from a good provincial tuition, that they had really little or nothing to learn in London. And yet their services were secured for , and oftener for years, merely for board and lodging, while others employed in the same establishment had not only board and lodging, but handsome salaries. The improver's, then, is generally a cheap labour, and often a very cheap labour too. The same form of cheap labour prevails in the carpenter's trade.
There is, moreover, the labour of A tailor, for instance, who may have executed the most skilled work of his craft, in his old age, or before the period of old age, finds his eyesight fail him,—finds his tremulous fingers have not a full and rapid mastery of the needle, and he then lahours, at greatly reduced rates of payment, on the making of soldiers' clothing—"sanc-work," as it is called—or on any ill-paid and therefore illwrought labour.
The inferior, as regards the quality of the work, and under-paid class of , in tailoring, for example, again, cheapen labour. It is cheapened, also, by the employment of (in, perhaps, all branches of skilled or unskilled labour), and of , more especially of Poles, who are inferior workmen to the English, and who will work cheap, thus supplying a low-price labour to those who seek it.
I may remark further, that if a -rate workman be driven to slop work, he soon loses his skill; he can only work slop; this has been shown over and over again, and so labour becomes cheap in the mart.
. Of (as a cause of cheap labour) I need not say much, It is obvious that a drunken, idle, or dishonest workman or workwoman, when pressed by want, will and must labour, not for the recompense the labour merits, but for whatever pittance an employer will accord. There is no reliance to be placed in him. Such a man cannot "hold out" for terms, for he is perhaps starving, and it is known that "he cannot be depended upon." In the sweep's trade many of those who work at a lower rate than the rest of
|the trade are men who have lost their regular work by dishonesty.|
. The of workpeople are very numerous. They consist of sub-divisions:—
() Those who have been accustomed to a coarser kind of diet, and who, consequently, requiring less, can afford to work for less.
() Those who derive their subsistence from other sources, and who, consequently, do not live by their labour.
() Those who are in receipt of certain "aids to their wages," or who have other means of living beside their work.
Of course these causes can alone have influence where the wages are or reduced to the lowest ebb of subsistence, in which case they become so many means of driving down the price of labour still lower.
Those who, being what is designated hardreared that is to say, accustomed to a scantier or coarser diet, and who, therefore, "can do" with a less quantity or less expensive quality of food than the average run of labourers, can of course live at a lower cost, and so to work at a lower rate. Among such (unskilled) labourers are the peasants from many of the counties, who seek to amend their condition by obtaining employment in the towns. I will instance the agricultural labourers of Dorsetshire.
With many poor Irishmen the rearing has been still harder. I had some conversation with an Irish rubbish-carter, who had been thrown out of work (and was entitled to no allowance from any trade society) in consequence of a strike by Mr. Myers's men. On my asking him how he subsisted in Ireland, "Will, thin, sir," he said, "and it's God's truth, I once lived for days on green things I picked up by the road side, and the turnips, and that sort of mate I stole from the fields. It was called staling, but it was the hunger, 'deed was it. That was in the county Limerick, sir, in the famine and 'viction times; and, glory be to God, I 'scaped when others didn't."
I may observe that the chief local paper, the , published twice a week, gave, twice a week, at the period of "the famine and evictions," statements similar to that of my informant.
Now, would not a poor man, reared as the Limerick peasant I have spoken of, who was actually driven to eat the grass, which biblical history shows was once a signal punishment to a great offender—would not such a man work for the veriest dole, rather than again be subjected to the pangs of hunger? In my inquiries among the costermongers, of them said of the Irish in his trade, and without any bitterness, "they'll work for nothing, and live on less." The meaning is obvious enough, although the assertion is, of course, a contradiction in itself.
Those who derive their subsistence from other sources can, of course, afford to work cheaper than those who have to live by their labour. To this class belongs the labour of wives and children, who, being supposed to be maintained by the toil of the husband, are never paid "living wages" for what they do; and hence the misery of the great mass of needlewomen, widows, unmarried and friendless females, and the like, who, having none to assist them, are forced to starve upon the pittance they receive for their work. The labour of those who are in prisons, workhouses, and asylums, and who consequently have their subsistence found them in such places, as well as the work of prostitutes, who obtain their living by other means than work, all come under the category of those who can afford to labour at a lower rate than such as are condemned to toil for an honest living. It is the same with apprentices and "improvers," for whose labour the instruction received is generally considered to be either a sufficient or partial recompense, and who consequently look to other means for their support. Under the same head, too, may be cited the labour of amateurs, that is to say, of persons who either are not, or who are too proud to acknowledge themselves, regular members of the trade at which they work. Such is the case with very many of the daughters of tradesmen, and of many who are considered people. These young women, residing with their parents, and often in comfortable homes, at no cost to themselves, will, and do, undersell the regular needlewomen; the works merely for pocket-money (often to possess herself of some article of finery), while the other works for what is called "the bare life."
The last-mentioned class, or those who are in possession of what may be called "aids to wages," are differently circumstanced. Such are the men who have other employment besides
|that for which they accept less than the ordinary pay, as is the case with those who attend at gentlemen's houses for or hours every morning, cleaning boots, brushing clothes, &c., and who, having the remainder of the day at their own disposal, can afford to work at any calling cheaper than others, because not solely dependent upon it for their living.|
The army and navy pensioners (noncommis- sioned officers and privates) were, at period, on the disbanding of the militia and other forces, a very numerous body, but it was chiefly the military pensioners whose position had an effect upon the labour of the country. The naval pensioners found employment as fishermen, or in some avocation connected with the sea. The military pensioners, however, were men who, after a career of soldiership, were not generally disposed to settle down into the drudgery of regular work, even if it were in their power to do so; and so, as they always had their pensions to depend upon, they were a sort of universal jobbers, and jobbed cheaply. At the present time, however, this means of cheap labour is greatly restricted, compared with what was the case, the number of the pensioners being considerably diminished. Many of the army pensioners turn the wheels for turners at present.
The allotment of gardens, which yield a partial support to the allottee, are another means of cheap labour. The allotment demands a certain portion of time, but is by no means a thorough employment, but merely an "aid," and consequently a , to low wages. Such a man has the advantage of obtaining his potatoes and vegetables at the cheapest rate, and so can afford to work cheaper than other men of his class. It was the same formerly with those who received "relief" under the old Poor-Law.
And even under the present system it has been found that the same practice is attended with the same result. In the Annual Report of the Poor-Law Commissioners, , at p. , there are the following remarks on the subject:—
Such, then, is the character of the cheap workers in all trades; go where we will, we shall find the low-priced labour of the trade to consist of either or other of the classes above-mentioned; while the by which this labour is brought into operation will be generally by of the "systems of work" before specified.
The cheap labour of the rubbish-carters' trade appears to be a consequence of distinct antecedents, viz., casual labour and the prevalence of the contract system among builder's work. The small-master system also appears to have some influence upon it.
as regards the influence of casual labour in reducing the ordinary rate of wages.
The tables given at p. , vol. ii., showing the wages paid to the rubbish-carters, present what appears, and indeed is, a strange discrepancy of payment to the labourers in rubbish-carting. About -fourths of the rubbish-carters throughout Londonreceive weekly, when in work; in Hampstead, however, the rate of their wages is (uniformly) a week; in (but less uniformly), it is ; in Wandsworth, ; in , ; and in Greenwich, and The character of the work, whether executed for or weekly, is the same; why, then, can a rubbish-carter, who works at Hampstead, earn a week more than who works at Greenwich? An employer of rubbish-carters, and of similar labourers, on a large scale, a gentleman thoroughly conversant with the subject in all its industrial bearings, accounts for the discrepancy in this manner:—
After the corn and the hop-harvests have terminated, there is always an influx of unskilled labourers into Gravesend, Woolwich, and Greenwich. These are the men who, from the natural bent of their dispositions, or from the necessity of their circumstances, resort to the casual labour afforded by the revolution of the seasons, when to gather the crops before the weather may render the harvest precarious and its produce unsound, is a matter of paramount necessity, and the increase of hands employed during this season is, as a consequence, proportionately great. The chief scene of such labour in the neighbourhood of the metropolis, is in the county of Kent; and on the cessation of this work, of course there is a large amount of labour "turned adrift," to seek, the next few days, for any casual employment that may "turn up." In this way, I am assured,
|a large amount of cheap and unskilled labour is being constantly placed at the command of those masters who, so to speak, occupy the line of march to London, and are, therefore, applied to for employment by casual labourers; who, when engaged, are employed as inferior, or unskilful, workmen, at an inferior rate of remuneration. Greenwich may be looked upon as the stage or halt for casual labourers, on their way to London.|
My informant assured me, as the result of his own observations, that an English labourer would, as a general rule, execute more work by -, in a week, than an Irish labourer (a large proportion of the casual hands are Irish); that is, the extent of work which would occupy the Irishman , would occupy the Englishman but days, were it so calculated. The Englishman was, however, usually more skilled and persevering, and far more to be depended upon. So different was the amount of work, even in rubbish-carting, between an able and experienced hand and unused to the toil, or inadequate from want of alertness or bodily strength, or any other cause, to its full and quick execution, that "good" men in a week have done as much work as indifferent hands. Thus men at weekly each are as cheap (only employers cannot always see it), when they are thorough masters of their business, as unready hands at a week each. The misfortune, however, is, that the a week men have a tendency to reduce the to their level.
With regard to the difference between the wages of Hampstead and Greenwich, I am informed that stationary working rubbish-carters are not too numerous in Hampstead, which is considered as rather "out of the way;" and as that metropolitan suburb is surrounded in every direction by pasture-land and wood-land, it is not in the line of resort of the class of men who seek the casual labour in harvesting, &c., of which I have spoken; it is rarely visited by them, and consequently, the regular hands are less interfered with than elsewhere, and wages have not been deteriorated.
The mode of work among the scurf labourers differs somewhat from that of the honourable part of the trade; the work executed by the scurf masters being for the most part on a more limited scale than that of the others. To meet the demands of builders or of employers generally, when "time" is an object, demands the use of relays of men, and of strong horses. This demand the smaller or scurf master cannot always meet. He may find men, but not always horses and carts, and he will often enough undertake work beyond his means and endeavour to aggrandise his profits by screwing his labourers. The are nominally the same as the regular trade, but as an Irish carter said, "it's ralely the hours the masther plases, and they're often as long as it's light." The , with "a day's hire, and no notice beyond." I am informed that scurf labourers generally work an hour a day, without extra remuneration, longer than those in the honourable trade.
The rubbish-carters employed by the scurf masters are not, as a body, I am assured, so badly paid as they were a few years back. It is rarely that labouring men can advance any feasible reason for the changes in their trade.
of the rubbish-carters is the system of contracting and subletting. This, however, is but a branch of the ramified system of subletting in the construction of the "scamped" houses of the speculative builders. The building of such houses is sublet, literally from cellar to chimney. The rubbish-carting may be contracted for at a certain sum. The contractor may sublet it to men who will do it for - less perhaps, and who may sublet the labour in their turn. For instance, the calculation may be founded on the working men's receiving weekly. A contractor, a man possessing a horse, perhaps, and a couple of carts, and hiring another horse, will undertake it on the knowledge of his being able to engage men at or weekly, and so obtain a profit; indeed the reduction of price in such cases must all come out of the labour.
This subletting, I say, is but a small part of a gigantic system, and it is an unquestionable cause of the grinding down of the rubbish-carters' wages, and that by a class who have generally been working men themselves, and risen to be the owners of or carts and horses.
From of these men, now a working carter, I had the following account, which further illustrates the mode of labour as well as of employment.
These small men are among the scurf and petty rubbish-carters, and are often the means of depressing the class to which they have belonged.
The employment in the honourable trade at rubbish-carting would be of the best among unskilled labourers, were it continuous. But it is not continuous, and -fourths of those engaged in it have only months' work at it in the year. In the scurf-masters' employ, the work is really "casual," or, as I heard it quite as often described, "chance." In both departments of this trade, the men out of work look for a job in scavagery, and very generally in night-work, or, indeed, in any labour that offers. The Irish rubbish-carters will readily became hawkers of apples, oranges, walnuts, and even nuts, when out of employ, so working in concert with their wives. I heard of only instances of a similar resource by the English rubbish-carters.
What I have said of the education, religion, politics, concubinage, &c., &c., of the better-paid rubbish-carters would have but to be repeated, if I described those of the under-paid. The latter may be more reckless when they have the means of enjoyment, but their diet, amusements, and expenditure would be the same, were their means commensurate. As it is, they sometimes live very barely and have hardly any amusements at their command. Their dinners, when single men, are often bread and a saveloy; when married, sometimes tea and bread and butter, and occasionally some "block ornaments;" the Irish being the principal consumers of cheap fish.
The labour of the wives of the rubbish-carters is far more frequently that of char-women than of needle-women, for the great majority of these women before their marriage were servant-maids. All the information I received was concurrent in that respect. The wife of a carman who keeps a chandler's shop near the Edgeware-road, greatly resorted to by the class to which her husband belonged, told me that out of somewhere about wives of rubbish-carters or similar workmen, whom she knew, had been domestic servants; what the others had been she did not know.
woman (before mentioned) earned not less than weekly in superior shirt-making, as it was described to me, which was evidently looked upon as a handsome remuneration for such toil. Another earned ; another ; and others, with uncertain employ, , , and in some weeks nothing. Needle-work, however, is, I am informed, not the work of onetenth of the rubbish-carters' wives, whatever the earnings of the husband. From all I could learn, too, the wives of the under-paid rubbish-carters earned more, by from to per cent., than those of the better-paid. The earnings of a charwoman in average employ, as regards the wives of the rubbish-carters, is about weekly, without the exhausting toil of the needle-woman, and with the advantage of sometimes receiving broken meat, dripping, fat, &c., &c. The wives of the Irish labourers in this trade are often all the year street-sellers, some of wash-leathers, some of cabbage-nets, and some of fruit, clearing perhaps from to a day, if used to streettrading, as the majority of them are.
The under-paid labourers in this trade are chiefly poor Irishmen. The Irish workmen in this branch of the trade have generally been brought up "on the land," as they call it, in their own country, and after the sufferings of many of them during the famine, a week is regarded as "a rise in the world."
From of this class I learned the following particulars. He seemed a man of or :—
I inquired of an English rubbish-carter as to these fair fights. He knew nothing of the in question, but had seen such fights. They were usually among the Irish themselves, but sometimes Englishmen were "drawn into them." "Fair fights! sir," he said, "why the Irishes don't stand up to you like men. They don't fight like Christians, sir; not a bit of it. They kick, and scratch, and bite, and tear, like devils, or cats, or women. They're soon settled if you can get an honest knock at them, but it isn't easy."
"I sarved my month," continued my Irish informant, "and it ain't a bad place at all, the prison. I tould the gintleman that had charge of us, that I was a Roman Catholic, God be praised, and couldn't go to his prayers. 'O very well, Pat,' says he. And next day the praste came, and we were shown in to him, and very angry he was, and said our conduc' was a disgrace to religion, and to our counthry, and to him. Do I think he was right, sir? God knows he was, or he wouldn't have said so.
This statement, then, as regards the Irish labourers, shows the quality of the class employed. The English labourers, working on the same terms, are of the usual class of men so working,—broken-down men, unable, or accounting themselves unable, to "do better," and so accepting any offer affording the means of their daily bread.
 The term sanc in "sanc-work" is the Norman word for blood (Latin, sanguis; French, sang), so that "sanc-work" means, literally, bloody work, this called either from the sanguinary trade of the soldier, or from the blood-red colour of the cloth.