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Jute workers

Jute is a plant which can, once converted into a weavable fibre, be made into a cheap, tough fabric used to produce packaging materials such as sacks and bags. During the 19th century the jute industry had two main centres - Bengal, where the raw materials were grown, and Dundee ('Juteopolis'), where the fibres were woven into cloth and made up into finished products. The Jute Trade Board was set up in 1919 in an attempt to combat the low wages and poor living conditions for workers in industrial Dundee. By this date the city had lost its virtual monopoly on production and the jute industry was in decline.

The series of trade board papers in the Trades Union Congress archive includes five files of documentsLink opens in a new window relating to the Jute Trade Board. As part of the Modern Records Centre's 'Sweated trades' digitisation project, we have made a selection of these documentsLink opens in a new window available online, including the items highlighted below.

Illustration: Combined automatic spreader and hackling machine. Image included in H.R. Carter, 'Jute and its manufacture'Link opens in a new window (John Bale, Sons & Danielsson Ltd., 1921).

 

Working conditions and pay:

General wages and working conditions:

General minimum time-rates fixed for male and female workers, 1920Link opens in a new window

Summary of the Trade Board rates.

Proposal to vary and fix certain minimum rates of wages for certain classes of female workers in the County Borough of Bootle, 1920Link opens in a new window

Summary of the Trade Board rates.

Proposal to vary general minimum time-rates and overtime rates for male and female workers, 1922Link opens in a new window

Summary of the Trade Board rates.

Report from the Hessian Weavers Piece-Rates Committee, 1922Link opens in a new window

Short report on the scope of the piece rates and proposed changes.

Report from the One Thread in a Split Committee, 1922Link opens in a new window

Short report on relative earnings on cloth woven one thread in a split.

Proposals to fix rates of wages for female weavers, 1922:

In the areas of Dundee, Carnoustie and TayportLink opens in a new window

Outside the areas of Aberdeen, Barrow in Furness, Carnoustie, Dundee and TayportLink opens in a new window

Piece-work basis time-rate and overtime rates for all female weavers employed on piece-work in the area of Carnoustie, 1923Link opens in a new window

Summary of the Trade Board rates.

Order confirming variation of rates of pay for male and female workers, 1925Link opens in a new window

Summary of the Trade Board rates.

Report of an enquiry into the wages and working conditions of beamers and dressers in the jute trade, 1926Link opens in a new window

The report includes statistical data relating to the ages, experience and earnings of workers employed by 20 firms.

Objections to rates of pay:

Objections to proposed reduction in minimum wage rates, 1921Link opens in a new window

50 objections, including letters from named jute workers and employers.

Objections to proposed alteration to minimum wage rates, 1921Link opens in a new window

Objections from: Hardie & Smith Ltd., Dundee; Forfar & Kirriemuir Manufacturers Association; James Smieton & Sons, Carnoustie; Jeanie Spence, Dundee (hessian weaver?); and Bank Mills Spinning Co., Dundee.

Objections to proposed alteration to minimum wage rates, 1923Link opens in a new window

Objections from: J.F. Sime, Dundee and District Union of Jute and Flax Workers; and J. Smieton & Sons, Carnoustie.

Objections to proposed alteration to minimum wage rates, 1924Link opens in a new window

Objections from: J.F. Sime, Dundee and District Union of Jute and Flax Workers; 9 named employees of W. Halley & Sons, Ltd., Dundee; a section of weavers at the Camperdown Jute Works, Lochee; and Helen Easson, weaver, Lochee.

Objections to proposed introduction of piece work basis time rate for women, 1924Link opens in a new window

Objections from: Gilroy Sons & Co. Ltd., Dundee; J.H.F. Henderson Ltd., Dundee; Caird (Dundee) Ltd.; J.C Duffus & Nephew Ltd., Dundee; Aberdeen Jute Company Ltd.; and 45 named firms in Dundee and district.

Objection to proposed increase in rates of wages, 1925Link opens in a new window

Objection from: John Sharp & Sons, Ltd., Dundee.

Objections to proposed increase in rates of wages, 1925Link opens in a new window

39 objections, mostly from Dundee and district employers.

Objection to proposed increase in rates of wages, 1925Link opens in a new window

Objection from: David Smith & Sons, Ltd., Alyth.

Objections to proposed increase in rates of wages, 1925Link opens in a new window

Objections from: the Association of Jute Spinners and Manufacturers; and the Aberdeen Jute Company Ltd.

Objections to proposed reduction in minimum wage rates, 1926Link opens in a new window

Objections from: John C. Hendry, Brechin, Chairman of Workers' Side; Alexander Beaton, Dundee and District Mill and Factory Operatives Union; James Taylor, Forfar Factory Workers' Union; and J.F. Sime, Dundee and District Union of Jute and Flax Workers.

Scope of the Trade Board:

Question of scope: Hart & Son of Crewkerne, Somerset, 1923Link opens in a new window

The firm manufactured webbing from flax, hemp, jute, cotton and worsted, for furniture, saddlery, motor bodies and other products.

Question of scope: canvas weavers employed by Michael Nairn & Co. Ltd., 1924Link opens in a new window

The Kirkcaldy firm manufactured floor cloth and linoleum and employed workers to weave canvas from jute.

Question of scope: spinning shifting mistresses, 1925Link opens in a new window

Question relating to the appropriate pay for women whose main responsibilities were "to see that the spinning frames supervised by her are adequately supplied with bobbins and that the bobbins are shifted at the proper time".

The position of packers under the Jute Trade Board, 1925Link opens in a new window

Memorandum submitted by John C. Hendry, on behalf of the Workers' Side of the Trade Board. It argues that packers should come within the scope of the Trade Board and so be able to claim the minimum wage. Some background information about the jute industry and the work of the packers is also included. A response to this proposalLink opens in a new window from C.W. Walker of Jute Industries Ltd., Dundee, is also available.

Question of scope and interpretation: beaming, 1927Link opens in a new window

Question relating to the case of a firm engaged in the manufacture of carpets from flax and jute, and whether they come within the scope of the Trade Board.

 

Unemployment and state of trade:

Statement to be submitted to the Cave Committee, [1921?]Link opens in a new window

Evidence submitted by John C. Hendry, Secretary of the Scottish Council of Textile Trade Unions, Chairman of the Workers’ side of the Flax and Hemp Trade Board (Great Britain) and a member of the Jute Trade Board. He includes information about arguments around the establishment of trade boards in the jute and flax industries, pre-Board wage rates, and charges that the minimum wage was causing unemployment.

Summaries of the evidence of J. Cunningham, Secretary of the Calender Workers' UnionLink opens in a new window, and Councillor T. LowdenLink opens in a new window are also available. Cunningham's evidence includes biographical information about his experience in the jute trade.

'Trade Boards. Socialistic interference with industry', 1921

Article by the Political Correspondence of the Morning Post newspaper. It uses the example of the jute and flax boards to criticise the Trade Board system for interfering with the employers' ability to reduce wage rates quickly in response to changing trade conditions.

Report from Learnership and Apprenticeship Committee, 1921Link opens in a new window

Short report relating to co-operation with Juvenile Employment Committees and prospects for employment.

'Discharge of boys from jute mills', 1924Link opens in a new window

Copy letter from representatives of the Dundee Advisory Committee for Juvenile Employment relating to the routine dismissal of boys as soon as they reached the age of 18 (and became eligible for higher rates of pay) and their replacement with younger workers.

"Employment of Juveniles" Committee, 1924Link opens in a new window

Report of a Trade Board committee formed to suggest policies to improve the employment prospects of young men after the age of 18. Recommendations included the introduction of "male labour into weaving and spinning".

'Discharge of boys from jute mills', 1925Link opens in a new window

Copy letter from representatives of the Dundee Advisory Committee for Juvenile Employment, including reference to reduced opportunities for "intelligent young men" in India. Information about the Trade Board's recommendations to improve the situation are also included.

Numbers and percentages of insured people in the jute industry who were recorded as unemployed at 25 May 1925Link opens in a new window

Statistical data providing information about the number of insured people in the jute industry who were recorded as unemployed on 25th May 1925. The statistics are divided into 'Dundee', 'Rest of Scotland' and 'England and Wales'.

Statistics regarding exports and imports of jute goods, 1925Link opens in a new window

The information was sent by John C. Hendry, Chairman of the Workers' Side, and covers the period between 1913-1924.

 

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, 1921-1926Link opens in a new window

Summarised information about permits granted.

Summaries of applications for permits of exemption, 1924-1925Link opens in a new window

Summarised information about permits granted. These can be slightly more detailed than the statements mentioned above.

Statement of number of permits of exemption current in the jute trade on 31 December 1926Link opens in a new window

Numbers of workers with permits, arranged by name of company.

 

Inspection and enforcement:

Report of proceedings against J. & D. Wilkie Ltd., Kirriemuir and Craigo, 1926Link opens in a new window

Summary report of legal procedings against an employer accused of underpaying.