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Book Title:

The Good Old Days: Then and Now


The Good Old Days: Then and Now by S. Box

Published by: S. Box, The Firs, Marden, Hereford

Printed by: Reliance Printing Works, Halesowen, Worcs.

Chapter 7.



To be an effective organiser in any industry a person must understand the work of it in a practical way. Theories may assist, but that is not enough. Again, he must be impartial and just by advocating policies protecting the interests of the industry and all engaged therein, and work as a team for its benefit. This brings us to the question of safeguarding the interests of the workers, for which this is written, after an experience of many years; the old ideas and practices were: The employer tried to get his work done as cheaply as possible and the workers to do as little as possible; both were wrong. To-day, through the efforts and sacrifices of the Trade Unionists of the past, machinery for the control of wages, hours of labour and conditions are now practically safeguarded by Trades Boards, Wage Boards, Whitley Councils, etc. The snag is that the selfish non-unionist accepts the benefits won for him by his union fellow workers. Usually this type is not only selfish but of little use to his employer; they lack the essential good qualities of a British independent workman, and is a dangerous person both to employer and employee.


It is a fundamental error to think that any Trade Unionist is out to destroy the industry in which he obtained his livelihood. When we commenced in Herefordshire, it was stated that was our object. What folly! Our object was to obtain a fair distribution of profits made out of agriculture and to demand the God-given rights to all for a full and a free life. One of the great benefits pressed for by the Labour movements!—for many years the Compensation Acts, which gave the workers the right to be compensated for any injuries received whilst employed in any capacity. Some employers wisely safeguarded themselves and their employees by insuring the workers against accidents. 

This meant that the Insurance conducted the settlement of claims; in these matters unless the injured person was in a Trade Union, he had to fight the wealthy insurance companies, who engaged solicitors to conduct their case. May I give concrete examples of cases I dealt with myself, a few out of many scores of such whilst an organiser and Secretary of Trade Unions.

A workman in an accident at work lost a thumb on his right hand. He was offered £200 to settle the claim, but after much correspondence the Insurance Company paid £400 and all expenses.

A young man at Hereford Sawmills lost part of two fingers on his right hand. He was offered £250; we settled for £600. An agricultural machinist injured his right hand, was offered £50; we managed to get £150.

A labourer cut his hand at a Hereford cider works, was offered £20, and we obtained £120.

A farm labourer was injured by falling off a load of hay. His farmer employer, a kind-hearted gentleman, continued to pay him full wages after returning to work. This destroyed any claim, although the man was badly injured. On putting the matter before his employer he agreed the man after the accident was not worth more than £1 a week, but insisted on paying the balance of his wages from a charitable point of view. We obtained £420 for this workman.

Bicycle advert.

A young man lost the index finger of his right hand (a farm worker). We settled for £350. In this last case, as with all cases of minors, the Judges have the right to have the money invested until the person reached 21 years of age, but may grant certain amounts to the injured person upon application to him.

This young man made an application for £30; the Judge questioned him as to what he wanted the money for. The lad replied: So that I can give £10 to my mother. The Judge said he was a good lad, and asked what was he going to do' with the remainder. Buy a good rig-out of clothes, the lad said. The Judge said there would still be a lot of the money left: what are you going to do with that? The lad hesitated, and the Judge smiled and said: Oh, I know, you want to buy a bicycle. Yes, sir, replied the lad, with a smile, and the Judge said: And so you shall for being so thoughtful for your mother. This lad is now in Birmingham with a business of his own. What an object lesson for the young persons of to-day to be kind to their parents.



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