Remedies for Sweating.
Sec. 1. Factory Legislation. What it can do.—Having now set forth the three aspects of the industrial disease of “Sweating”—the excessive supply of unskilled labour, the multiplication of small employers, the irresponsibility of capital—we have next to ask, What is the nature of the proposed remedies? Since any full discussion of the different remedies is here impossible, it must suffice if we briefly indicate the application of the chief proposed remedies to the different aspects of the disease. These remedies will fairly fall into three classes.
The first class aim at attacking by legislative means, the small workshop system, and the evils of long hours and unsanitary conditions from which the “sweated” workers suffer. Briefly, it may be said that they seek to increase and to enforce the legal responsibility of employers, and indirectly to crush the small workshop system by turning upon it the wholesome light of publicity, and imposing certain irksome and expensive conditions which will make its survival in its worst and ugliest shapes impossible. The most practical recommendation of the Report of the Lords’ Committee is an extension of the sanitary clauses of the Factory Act, so as to reach all workshops.
We have seen that the unrestricted use of cheap labour is the essence of “sweating.” If the wholesome restrictions of our Factory Legislation were in fact extended so as to cover all forms of employment, they would so increase the expenses of the sweating houses, that they would fall before the competition of the large factory system. Karl Marx writing a generation ago saw this most clearly. “But as regards labour in the so-called domestic industries, and the intermediate forms between this and manufacture, so soon as limits are put to the working day and to the employment of children, these industries go to the wall. Unlimited exploitation of cheap labour power is the sole foundation of their power to compete."
The effectiveness of the existing Factory Act, so far as relates to small workshops, is impaired by the following considerations—
1. The difficulty in finding small workshops. There is no effectual registration of workshops, and the number of inspectors is inadequate to the elaborate and tedious method of search imposed by the present system.