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Boot and shoe repairers

The Boot and Shoe Repairing Trade Board (Great Britain) was set up in 1919 to provide a guaranteed minimum wage in the boot and shoe repairing and bespoke hand-sewn trade. Separate Trade Boards were established for Ireland in 1919 and, after the creation of the Irish Free State, Northern Ireland in 1922.

The series of trade board papers in the Trades Union Congress archive includes six files of documentsLink opens in a new window relating to the Boot and Shoe Repairing Trade Board (Great Britain). As part of the Modern Records Centre's 'Sweated trades' digitisation project, we have made a selection of these documents available online, including the items highlighted below. Some additional items may be found through our digital collectionLink opens in a new window.

Illustration: Boot and shoemakers, early 20th century - photograph from private collection reproduced with permission.

 

The system:

Resolution in support of the Trade Board system, 1921Link opens in a new window

Draft resolution from the Boot and Shoe Repairing Trade Board (Great Britain) Administrative Committee on the first two years of the Board and expressing "great regret [over] the organised attempt now being made in the public press and elsewhere to cast discredit on the Trade Board system".

'Should the Trade Board be Scrapped?', 1921Link opens in a new window

Press cutting from 'The Shoe and Leather Record'. It reports on a debate at the monthly meeting of the London District Council over the benefits or otherwise of Trade Boards.

 

Working conditions and pay:

Scope of the Trade Board:

New definition of the trade, 1923Link opens in a new window

Provides a brief summary of the types of work covered by the Trade Board.

General wages and working conditions:

Minimum rates of wages fixed for male workers, 1919Link opens in a new window

Summary of the Trade Board rates in poster format.

General minimum piece rates and overtime rates as fixed and varied for male and female workers, 1921Link opens in a new window

Summary of the Trade Board rates. Includes information about piece rates paid for different types of footwear.

Order confirming minimum rates of wages for male and female workers, 1921Link opens in a new window

Summary of the Trade Board rates.

Statement regarding conditions in the Orkney and Shetland Islands, 1922Link opens in a new window

Short report on the state of trade, including references to a downturn in trade due to availability of cheaper factory made boots and more members of the public repairing their own footwear.

Further report from the Committee on Surgical Work, 1923Link opens in a new window

The committee had been appointed by the Trade Board to consider the prices at which the Ministry of Pensions were giving out contracts for the supply of surgical boots and the relationship of these prices to the minimum rates fixed by the Trade Board for surgical work. It includes information about piece rates paid for extra types of work required when making different kinds of surgical footwear.

Order confirming general minimum piece rates for male and female workers, 1924Link opens in a new window

Summary of the Trade Board rates.

Enquiry into yield of general minimum piece rates, undatedLink opens in a new window

Report made following a survey into the earnings of 203 workers. It assesses whether workers being paid on piece rates set by the Trade Board (i.e. by the number of items mended or produced, rather than on an hourly rate) were able to earn the equivalent of the recommended minimum rate. It includes information into geographical differences between earnings and class of trade in London, Scotland, Lancashire and Cheshire, and Yorkshire and the Midlands.

Objections to rates of pay:

Objections to proposed changes in the minimum wage, 1922Link opens in a new window

Copies of 3 objections sent in by individual employers.

Objections to proposed increase in minimum wage for apprentices, 1922Link opens in a new window

Copies of objections from J. Findlay, Brechin, and T.M. Verrall, Haywards Heath.

Objections to proposed changes in the minimum wage, 1923Link opens in a new window

Copies of 10 objections sent by individual employers, workers, and secretaries of trade unions and employers' organisations.

Additional objections to proposed changes in the minimum wage, 1923Link opens in a new window

Copies of objections sent by H.O. Judd, Buckingham, and R. White, Secretary of Edinburgh Branch of National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives.

Letter regarding closure of shoe repairing businesses, 1923Link opens in a new window

Copy of a letter from the Ministry of Labour reporting representations by J. Coombes of Harrogate. Coombes stated that since 1914 he had been compelled to close 40 or 50 out of 200 branches in 90 different towns "as a result of the Trade Board rates".

Letter regarding minimum rates for managers, 1923Link opens in a new window

Letter from 12 (unnamed) managers of branches owned by Tainsh & Co., Glasgow, asking to be paid piece rates rather than the minimum rates of wages for managers, so that they didn't lose their jobs. An extract from a covering letter from the company is also included, commenting on the uneconomic nature of the business.

Objections to proposed changes in the minimum wage, 1924Link opens in a new window

Copies of 6 objections sent by individual employers and secretaries of trade unions and employers' organisations to proposed changes to piece rates and rates for apprentices.

Objections to proposed changes in the minimum wage, 1926Link opens in a new window

Copies of 10 objections sent by individual employers, workers, and secretaries of trade unions and employers' organisations, including suggested changes to piece rates.

Objections to proposed increase in minimum wage for apprentices, 1926Link opens in a new window

Copies of 14 objections, some of which "appeared to have been under a misapprehension regarding the Board's Proposals".

Objections to proposed changes in the minimum wage, 1927Link opens in a new window

Copies / summaries of 16 objections sent by individual employers and secretaries of employers' organisations, most from West Hartlepool.

Summary of information relating to the operation of the minimum rates of wages, 1927Link opens in a new window

Short summaries of complaints made to inspectors during Trade Board inspections of workplaces and districts.

 

Training schemes and apprenticeships:

Report on the question of the training of persons in boot making and repairing by public authorities, 1923Link opens in a new window

Report from the Trade Board Administrative Committee. It includes references to the committee's objection "to the use of public money" to fund evening classes in cobbling and boot repair (to train people to repair their own footwear) and information about the training of disabled workers and ex-servicemen.

Vocational Training Scheme for ex-servicemen, 1924Link opens in a new window

Copy of letter from Lieut. W.C. Crabb, Devonport Branch of the National Association for Employment of Regular Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen, regarding employment problems of ex-servicemen trained through the Vocational Training Scheme at Royal Naval Barracks, Devonport.

Memorandum on the subject of the admission of trainees from Vocational Training Centres in the Services into the boot and shoe repairing trade, 1925Link opens in a new window

The memo looks at "questions of the Vocational Training Schemes which are in operation in the Royal Naval, Royal Marine and Army Depots for training in boot repairing Servicemen who are nearing the completion of their terms of Service, and of the difficulties experienced by such men in obtaining employment in the Boot and Shoe repairing trade on their return to civil life."

For the information of trainees in Vocational Training Centres in the Services, 1926Link opens in a new window

Draft of a pamphlet which explains the work of the Trade Board and outlines their approved training scheme intended to help demobilised ex-servicemen find civilian employment. A circularLink opens in a new window for those responsible for vocational training in the Services (which provides more detailed information about the training on offer) is also available.

Apprenticeship by the After-Care Association for Blind, Deaf and Crippled Children, 1926Link opens in a new window

Copy of the standard form of apprenticeship agreement used by the Association, with a letter querying whether not paying apprentices when they were ill would contravene Trade Board regulations.

 

Exempted workers:

Trade Boards could issue permits of exemption which allowed employers to pay less than the minimum wage. Permits were given to workers who were regarded as having a physical or psychological disability which affected their work. Applications (usually submitted without employees' names) include information about the age, gender and medical conditions of the individual workers.

Statements of permits of exemption granted, 1921-1928Link opens in a new window

Summarised information about permits granted.

Analysis of infirmities or physical injuries of 318 holders of permits of exemption, 1925Link opens in a new window

Statistical data relating to permits of exemption issued between 1919-1925. Includes more detailed information about "the nature of infirmity in "mental" cases". A short reportLink opens in a new window outlining the reasons for the collection of this data (to see what proportion were "mentally deficient") is also available.

Minutes of meeting of the Administrative Committee, 10 February 1926Link opens in a new window

The minutes include information relating to enquiries about permits of exemption for two men learning the trade (a former saddler in Dorchester and an ex-serviceman in Bedford).

 

Inspection and enforcement:

Report on inspection and enforcement for the year ended 17 November 1920Link opens in a new window

Summary report containing information about inspections of firms and irregularities identified over the course of the assessment period. Information about a prosecution at Aberavon Police Court is also included.

Report on inspection and enforcement for the year ended 17 November 1921Link opens in a new window

Summary report containing information about inspections of firms and irregularities identified over the course of the assessment period.

Reports of proceedings against employers, 1923-1927Link opens in a new window

Summaries of court cases against individual employers for breach of Trade Board legislation.