19Th Century Working Conditions In England Essay — страница 3

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were passed in England aimed at protecting women and children from abusive working conditions; these acts though proved ineffectual. Most of these acts were spurred not by the working class but by concerned members of the English elite. 22 These acts although well intentioned did little to change the status of the working poor. They relied on enforcement mechanisms such as the courts, or factory inspectors which were either overwhelmed or unequipped to deal with the plight of the urban poor. The workers lacking organization in these early years were unable to take advantage of any of the limited rights these acts afforded them. For example the Factory Act of 1833 limited the hours of children in textile factories to nine hours a day but the act only provided four inspectors for

its implementation thus deeming it ineffectual. 23 The new position of unions after 1840 gave them the power to help alleviate the suffering of workers in England. The unions attempted to ease the abject working conditions using a two pronged approach. First they lobbied for legislative acts that would give protections to the working class. Starting in the 1840’s the unions pressed for shorter working hours for both male and female workers through ordinances. The efforts of the unions lead to the securing of a ten hour work week for women and children in the factory Act of 1853. 24 By 1878 a ten hour work week was finally extended to all laborers. In the subsequent years the unions were able to help lobby for such significant legislative reforms as the Trade Union Act in 1871

which formally legalized unions, and the Factory Acts of 1864, 1867, 1874, 1878, and 1891 which steadily expanded the rights of workers. 25 The acts passed during this period stood in sharp contrast to the acts passed in the first part of the century. The differences were chiefly due to the political power of unions. These acts regulated not only the working conditions and hours of woman and children but also the working conditions of men. For example the 1878 Factory Act regulated the conditions of all factories inside the textile and clothing industries 26 . The acts passed due to the lobbying efforts of the unions also contained enforcement mechanisms that helped ensure they would be followed such as more factory inspectors and over seeing boards. One of the most significant

achievements of the political activism of unions during this period was the passage of the Reform Act of 1867 which allowed certain members of the house of commons to be elected by popular vote which helped give the working class a political voice. 27 Although this act did not institute parliamentary democracy it gave the working class a say in their government and paved the way for the eventual introduction of parliamentary democracy. The Act also lead to a variety of subsequent legislation that gave workers increasing rights and in 1874 lead to the election of two miners as M.P.’s in parliament. 28 The second policy unions pursued to better the conditions of the working class was forcing companies to take part in collective bargaining. In 1861, the Cotton Workers Union was

able to secure collective bargaining rights for their workers and in the 1860’s the mining union was able to press successfully for higher wages in mines throughout England. 29 As London and many other cities continued to expand in size and more and more jobs emerged in the manufacturing sector the size of unions continued to expand. From 1866 to 1890 union membership grew by more than ten times. 30 By 1889 a London dock workers strike won an unanticipated triumph when they successful demonstrated for higher pay. Because of the higher wages secured by unions for workers the wages of workers in the second half of the 19th century nearly doubled and consumption of consumer good such as sugar, tobacco, and tea swelled. By the close of the 1800’s workers were making more money

and enjoying more legal protections than they had ever before. 31 Although many lived in appalling conditions in urban areas; compared to fifty years before the working class in England was predominantly better off. A union banner published at the turn of the century is indicative of the promise that unions brought to the English working class. 32 The banner for the National Union of General Workers pictures a woman representing the union draped in a gown that has on it scrawled: light, education, industrial organization, and political action. The woman motions for the workers to join her in a better world where workers as the banner reads, “have your share of the world.” The unions of the post 1850’s period had helped to secure some of these goals for the working class,