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Wages in 1900

Wages in 1900 Clyde Shipbuilding




Yard Managers £400 per annum

Under Managers £182 per annum

Foremen £2 - £5 per week

Caulkers 33s 9d

Labourers 18s

Holders-on 16s 10½d

Smiths Strikers 20s 3d - 22s 6d

Drillers and Hole Cutters 22s 6d

Riggers 23s 7½d - 33s 9d

Riveters 33s 9d

Platers 33s 9d

Angle Iron Smiths 36s

Shipsmiths 34s 10½d

Brass finishers 34s 10½d

Sheet Ironworkers 39s 4½d

Smiths Finishers 36s

Electricians 36s

French Polishers (Male) 34s 10½d

Tinsmiths 37s 1½ d

Shipwrights 37s 1½ d

Boatbuilders 37s 1½ d

Joiners 37s 1½ d

Cabinetmakers 37s 1½ d

Patternmakers 37s 1½ d - 38s 3d

Painters 40s 6d

Plumbers 40s 6d

Counting House


Cashiers £300 per annum

Head Clerk £250 per annum

Book-keepers £200 per annum

Clerks 15s - £2 0s 5d

Assistant Book-keepers 42s 6d

Boys 6s – 10s

Typists 24s

Time-keepers 25s – 45s



Day Gate Man 29s

Night Gate Man 27s

Boys 5s

Drawing Office


Chief Draughtsman £250 per annum

Leading Draughtsman £185 per annum

Draughtsman 25s-55s

Apprentice draughtsman 5s-15s

Tracers 17s




General Storeman 30s

Rivet Storeman 31s

Paint Storeman 6d per hour

Iron Clerk 40s

Housing Conditions in Port Glasgow

Housing: the workers,

This is a description of the Bay area of Port Glasgow. The housing conditions here were probably worse than in any other shipbuilding area on the Clyde. This was the area which was demolished and rebuilt with the help of money provided by W.T. Lithgow (See Document 17, LW8)

After perambulating the area and visiting the different closes and a number of the houses and after listening to the evidence led at the Inquiry, I have no hesitation in affirming that the area is insanitary - insanitary to a degree that could hardly have been imagined as possible nowadays, in a British town.


Except round part of its outskirts there are no streets in the area, and the only access from place to place is through narrow, dark and filthy lanes and closes. The houses are crowded onto the area without any order or arrangement, or any consideration of light, access, or ventilation.


Many of the houses are damp; in more than one I saw water trickling down the walls - the result of the floors being as they are, in many cases, a number of feet below the surrounding earth, and of bad drainage and bad building. The windows are mostly small, and often look into a blind wall at the distance of a foot or two so that in many houses it is necessary to keep a light burning all day. In a number of cases there are small wastes between the houses into which the windows look, and which are too small to be utilised for any purpose, and are simply receptacles for rubbish and filth of every description.


The interior construction of many houses is extremely bad. The stairs are badly constructed, and in some cases it is necessary to crouch in ascending and descending. Much of the woodwork is rotten, and the masonry worn and crumbling. Many of the apartments have no fireplace, being merely corners partitioned off, and very often the second apartment of the house is just a receptacle for rubbish and abominations. Box-beds, unhung windows, and dark narrow passages are other obstacles to proper ventilation.


To a population of upwards of 2000 there are only 13 W.C.s and two objectionable privies. As there are no gardens, woods or waste grounds, in the immediate neighbourhood, this means that the great bulk of this large population have to perform the offices of nature within the precincts of their narrow and crowded dwellings, with consequences to the sanitation and morale of their households which can well be imagined.

The contents of the domestic utensils are often kept in the house until the evening, when they are emptied into one of the gullies, or thrown out at the window, or carried to one of the ashbins, provided by the town. These ashbins, which are emptied every two or three days, are sinks of feculent corruption, standing open in the closes, often beside the doors of the dwelling-houses, and with children playing around them. I noticed one which was leaking and from which a disgusting stream was trickling down the cobble stones of the close. In one house which I visited, and in which I found two men, a woman and four children in a front room about nine feet square, I was at first denied admittance to the back room until the woman of the house had performed some office there, which, as I ascertained from the Medical Officer, was emptying certain utensils out of the window, and the appalling atmosphere of the inner chamber fully confirmed this explanation.


Very many of the houses have no water supply, and the water has to be carried from outside taps, some of which are at a considerable distance from the houses. This is not in itself, of course, sufficient to condemn the area as insanitary, but the carrying of water in this way amidst such insanitary surroundings, and the meagre supply which it encourages, tend to aggravate the general insanitary and filthy conditions of life in the area.


Port Glasgow Improvement Scheme Inquiry, 31 March - 4 April 1903

Pay Dispute over Weekly Wages

An industrial relations dispute: weekly and fortnightly pays

·           These documents are about a longstanding dispute between shipyard employers and employees.



Shipyard workers on the Clyde were traditionally paid fortnightly and this had been considered a grievance by the workers, probably since the middle of the 19th century



The arguments put forward by the workers for the introduction of weekly pays were:


that the workers were due money owing to them and that the employer benefited from the use of the money which they had held back in wages.


that fortnightly pays were not generally paid anywhere except on the Clyde.


that the difficulties of managing a fortnightly pay made many workers dependent on shopkeepers' credit and that this was worth about 1 s (5p) a week to them. They claimed that pressure was put on the employers by the shopkeepers.


that the difficulties were particularly severe for workers who had been laid off and and were starting back. The employee operated three days lying time so that if he started on a Thursday a worker would have to wait 16 days for his first pay. This was very harsh on men who had just suffered a period of unemployment.


that smaller firms were in the habit of actually paying out wages weekly by giving a 'sub' on the 'blind' Saturday (the Saturday on which the men were not paid) and charging 2½ % interest - an annual rate of 65%.


that the drinking habits of some of the men, acknowledged by both sides, would be moderated by having the smaller sum weekly rather than the larger sum which encouraged long drinking parties.

The employers arguments were:


- that time lost in absenteeism each pay day was a serious problem and the problem would simply be doubled by the introduction of weekly pays.


- that it would cost extra in administrative and clerical staff to issue weekly pays.



The issue was a difficult one for the workers to take up as negotiating was done by craft unions for the pay and conditions of their own members, but the Federation of Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades was pressurised to take the issue up in 1896 and in 1898 they threatened the employers with strike action after a ballot of their members. Negotiations resulted in an agreement with the employers for a trial period of one year of weekly pays. The 'trial' was to assess the effect of the new system on absenteeism. The employers reverted to fortnightly pays at the end of the year, claiming that the absenteeism had increased.


It was not until 1905 that the workers were again sufficiently well organised to force the employers to negotiate by threatening with strike action. It was agreed to pay weekly wages from the end of July 1906.


Evidence from the Clyde Shipbuilders' Association shows a decrease in absenteeism for the 3 years after the introduction of weekly pays but an increase after that. It is likely though that absenteeism was, as the unions claimed, due to more complicated factors than the system of payment. Workers on piece rates reacted to fluctuations in the amount of work available and in the pricelist by varying the time they were available for work.

Document WF1

Conference of the Trades' Councils and Trades in the Clyde District
called by Govan Trades Council. May 99


One of the delegates moved as a resolution:


'That in the opinion of that conference the present system of paying wages was detrimental to the interests of the workers and that an effort be make to secure weekly wages'. He claimed the present system of paying wages was detrimental to the workers because of wages being kept back too long. For instance, if a man started work on the Thursday before the pay day he had to wait 16 days before he received any wages. That fell extremely hard upon such men especially if they had been out of work previously.


Where the shoe pinched hardest of all however was the inconvenience caused by not having the money always at hand when wanted. For instance, most of the working classes had to deal on the credit system and had therefore to go to those who would give him credit, whereas if his wife had the money at hand she could take her order to the cheapest market and thereby save some 2s (10p) per week.


It was a pity they had the necessity of dealing with grocers at all, but it was a necessary evil. At present they had that fraternity up in arms against co­operation because the co-operation system was detrimental to the traders. It was not for the benefit of the working classes that that fraternity was up in arms, but they were taking a very high-handed policy and tyrannical method of dealing with co-operation and discharging all persons from their employment who had any share whatever in the co-operative societies. Sir Wm. Pearce paid weekly wages for a time, but the shopkeepers got up petition intimating that so long as he paid weekly wages he would not get their support as their parliamentary representative.


It was perfectly evident that it would be a great boon to the working classes to receive their wages weekly and he was certain the day was not far distant when the employers would be compelled by Act of Parliament to pay weekly wages.


The Govan Press, 16 May 1896

Document WF2


There is no contradiction about the fact that the wives did in the past ask that the fortnightly wages might be reverted to. I am talking in a friendly way without any feeling against the most intemperate of the men, but these wives asked the employers to go back to the fortnightly pays so that they might have one quiet Saturday night in the house. These are things that cannot be gainsaid.


Mr Dunlop, representing the Clyde Shipbuilders' Association.


At one of our meetings when we considered this question of weekly pays, it was stated very distinctly by my colleague - and I think this is bearing upon the lost time - that instead of the wives going to the firm and asking the fortnightly wages to be introduced, one of them said that her experience was that she was getting a fortnightly pay weekly instead of a week's pay fortnightly, and I think that is really the kernel of the question.


Alexander Wilkie, General Secretary of the Associated Shipwrights' Society.

Transcript of negotiations between employers and unions, 1898.

Document WF5


The men were buying during those twelve months what I understand and believe was a jewel of very great price; they were going to get weekly pays and be ever so much better off than they were for the 50 or 60 or 80 years that they had been paid fortnightly wages - that was to be a mighty relief from their serfdom' to get weekly pays. If they had wanted the weekly pays they would have shown by their action and words that they would try and keep them, but the contrary was entirely the case.


Mr David J. Dunlop, representing the Clyde Shipbuilders' Association.



Of course you said that the fortnightly wages had to go away because of bad time-keeping. I believe that was a strong point there, but I think you will remember that we held that as far as the bad time was concerned there were special reasons for it.


The bad time-keeping was very materially affected by one of the worst years we have had; it was one of the wettest years and that compelled the men who were working on the outside to give up work when they would otherwise be working.


Mr Jack, representing the Associated Iron Moulders.



Here more than elsewhere you have the 'boozing Monday'. I believe and we all regret that, but we are inclined to think that it is because the men are paid fortnightly instead of weekly that they have the 'boozing Monday'. They have a lot of money put into their hands once a fortnight - more money than they are accustomed to handle and I believe that if they were paid weekly instead of fortnightly it would put them in a more regular method of living and instead of more time being lost, ultimately there would be less time lost.


Mr George Barnes, representing the Amalgamated Society of Engineers.



There can be nothing worse in my mind that this system of fortnightly pays, because I thing it panders to the shopkeeping class and the pawn brokers. I would always like to see them losing.


Mr Cummings, representing the Boilermakers and Iron Shipbuilders' Society.



Transcript of negotiations between employers and unions, October 1905



Many shipyard workers were not paid a weekly rate but were paid piece rates i.e. they were paid for the work they finished and not for the time they worked.


The riveters were the most important group to be paid piece rates. Riveters took on work in gangs, usually of four - a right-hand riveter a left-hand riveter, a holder-on and a rivet-boy.


The gang was paid for each piece of work according to a price list. The highest prices would be paid for heavy dangerous work or oil or watertight rivets or for single rivets where the gang had to move themselves and their equipment to do only a few rivets.


At the end of the week the total earnings of the gang would be divided up as follows: the rivet boy got £1 and the rest would be divided so that for every 1 s (5p) earned by the right-hand riveter, 9d (4p) was earned by the left-hand riveter and the holder-on.


Average gang earnings in 1900 were £8.18.d(£8.90) - it was a year of very high earnings. In the period 1889 - 1913 it was much more common for gangs to be earning £5 - £6 per week, with many earning as little as £3.

The pay-out to the gang in 1900 would be:­

Old Money

New Money

Right-hand riveter

£ s d

3 3 2½

£ p

3 16

Left-hand riveter

2 7 4¾

2 37


2 7 4 ¾

2 37


1 0 0

1 00




£8 18 0

£8 90



A piecework dispute in 1912

·           This is a statement was taken by a solicitor for a court case. James White, a riveter with D.& W. Henderson s shipyard, was suing his employers because he had been fined for claiming payment twice for the same rivets. The records of Glasgow sheriff court show 'no decree' against this case. This means that White was unsuccessful.

Thomas Campbell (Aged 24)

9 White Street, Partick.


I am one of the two piecework clerks for the riveters' work employed by D.W.Henderson. I have been so for about three years and have been employed by them for nine and a half years.


The riveters work in squads of four - two riveters, a 'holder up' and a 'heater'. Each squad is paid so much per hundred rivets. The exact sum for 100 rivets depends on the nature of the job. The squads' earnings are paid in one lump sum, and we pay the whole to either of the two riveters in the squad who gives a receipt.


My duties are to check the number of rivets put in by each squad. I put the number into books which are passed over to pay clerks each week. They make up the pay from the information in the books.


In counting the number of rivets I go round the job - while the squads are at work - together with one or more paint boys. As each rivet is counted the boy paints the hammered end of the rivet with red paint.


I go round about twice a week. A 'tally up' is made on the Wednesday and the pay made on the following Saturday is made up from that tally up. The pay is supposed to include the work done down to the Tuesday night but some work done on the Wednesday morning may be included.


White's squad consisted of himself and McCafferty as riveters, [ ], the holder-up, and [ ], the heater. White is an apprentice and McCafferty a journeyman.


On 27th September (Friday) I was on my rounds and I counted the rivets put in by White's squad. The number of fresh rivets I counted was 309.


As usual each of these was painted red. The paint boy was George Allan.

On Tuesday 1st October I again went round White's squad's work and counted 261 fresh rivets. On this Tuesday I saw that four rivets in two of the casing foundation bars of S.S. 480 (two in each bar) had the tops blackleaded. It was quite obvious. When the points had been painted red, some of the paint had got on to the bars, and although the paint on the rivet point had been covered with blacklead the paint on the bars was of course still visible. White was coming round the jobs with me and I counted the fresh rivets without including these four. I told White I made the total 261 to which he agreed. He made no claim for these four rivets, nor did anyone else.


I pointed out two of the blackleaded rivets to the boy Allan and asked if he remembered painting them the previous week, and he said he did.


I did not touch the four rivets that day.


On 2nd October - the following day - I again went over the work of White's squad. White came round again. I counted 485 fresh rivets, of course excluding these four. After I had counted these 485 White asked me to include these four. I asked him when they had been put in. He stated that his mate (McCafferty) had put them in that morning (i.e. Wednesday) when he was not there. I said that was not the case and that the rivets were blackleaded and drew my finger over the point. The blacklead came away on my finger. I also said I had noticed them the day before. White looked pretty sheepish but said nothing. I did not say anything else to White. I did not say he had blackleaded the points. In fact I don't know yet who blackleaded them.


I reported the matter to the foreman on '480' (Mr Milliken) and to the head foreman (Mr Wilson) the same day. I left the matter to Mr Wilson to deal with. We had had trouble of that kind before, and I thought something should be done.


The same day I found some rivets belonging to another squad with paint rubbed off. I spoke to one of the squad - Cameron - about it. He explained that it had been done accidentally by his 'knee bag' and I accepted his story.


Mr Wilson forgot about the matter till I spoke to him again on Saturday 5th October. We then agreed to fine White 5/- (25p). It was too late to take the fine off the pay made on the 5th and in any event that pay was for the week ending Tuesday 1st October although the work included was tallied on the Wednesday.


The four rivets were not included. White's squad accepted the pay without remark.


The amount payable to the squad for the rivets in question would be 3d (1p) each.

I gave instructions to the time-keeper (John Matthews) to keep 5/- (25p) off the next pay, and that I believe was done. I had nothing further to do with the matter.

I produce a print of the rules. These are posted all through the yard. I refer to article 18, which reads:­


'OFFENCES:- Any person guilty of any act of dishonesty will subject himself to instant dismissal, and will, in the option of the employer, forfeit the whole wages then due to him, or be fined.'


And to article 19 which reads:­


'FINES:- The fines or penalty incurred for any or every breach of the foregoing Rules and Regulations (where no specified penalty is named) shall be 2/6 (121/2p) and shall be deducted from the first pay. All fines shall be paid over to the Infirmaries.'


The fines are all paid into the funds of a yard Infirmary Committee, run by the men, and they pay them over to the Infirmary.


Records of Bannatyne Kirkwood and France, solicitors, 1912

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