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Forum Home > Living and Working Conditions. > Black Country Strike. 1913.

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Smethwick, Darlaston, and Halesowen.


If you have viewed the recent triple attempts, to explain the sinking of a large bath tub, or a couple of period drama's set in grand houses, you may have come to believe, that the time before the Great War was an idealic and romantic era. Far from it. Why do you think so many people, spent every penny they had, to escape to foreign parts. Why do you think there were weekly sailings, from Liverpool and Southampton, with every ticket sold. In truth, the problems had started in 1910, and as the years rolled by, the working conditions in the UK got progressively worse. In 1912, that floating lump of Iron that so captures the imagination, was lucky to sail at all. There were Miners strikes, Railway strikes, and Dockyard workers strikes. The wages were so low, and people so starved, it's a wonder anyone stayed at all. In 1913, discussions having broken down, it was the Black Country that came out in protest, and demanded a living wage. What, you may ask were they asking for. The answer was a minimum wage of 23 shillings a week, for the thousands of men slaving in the factories of the region. First to come out were the men from Tangyes, Smethwick, who were then followed by the Birmingham Carriage Works, and the London Screw Company.( later GKN )  The strike quickly spread. The Atlas Nut and Bolt Works, Darlaston, Stewarts and Lloyds Tube Works, Halesowen, and by June, almost every Iron and Allied Trade Works were at a standstill. Over 30,000 men were out on strike, and families struggled to put food on the table and stay alive. Marches had been undertaken, to raise funds, one group completing a round trip of 280 miles to Manchester and Liverpool, in just 16 days. Distress funds popped up everywhere, and food parcels were delivered to destitute and hungry families. After much discussion, the strikers were offered 22 shillings a week, as a starting wage, rising to 23 shillings after 6 months satisfactory work. On 16 July,1913, the strike was called off. Everyone was happy it was all over, but little did they know, that a greater horror than a shortage of money was just around the corner. This time the stakes would be far higher.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 25, 2012 at 4:05 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

West Bromwich and Sandwell.


Now if you delve back to the time of the strike, you will find that the average working man had to work 55 hours a week for around £1 a week. Inflation had eaten into his spending power, and food had increased by 10% since 1907. The wages though, had, in many case's, actually gone down, during a slump in trade. Housing conditions were appalling, and the annual death rate from Tuberculosis, mainly caused by the conditions, exceeded 53,000. This picture, taken in the playground of Saint James School, West Bromwich, shows the children, gathered for a daily meal, provided by voluntary donations.



The fathers were mainly workers in the Iron maunfacturing trade, and would have been away marching or protesting. It was largely a peaceful strike, although the Police did have to escort a few miners to work at the Jubilee and Sandwell Park Collieries. One local company, The Birmingham Carriage Works, Smethwick, had so many men on strike they had to close the works, the first time this had happened in over 40 years. In modern day currency, what they were demanding, would have equated to about £1.20p a week. Many, when war broke out, began to earn more than this, but then again, they were being shot at.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

February 16, 2013 at 3:16 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Recently, the 1913 Strike in the Black Country, appears to have high-jacked, and re-named the Wednesbury Strike. This is a gross distortion, and so far from the truth as to be laughable. The period between 1910, and 1914, is rightly named, " The Great Unrest ," and was the time the Unions began to excert their power, in defence of the working populations right to decent wages. There were strikes everywhere during this period, two strikers being shot dead by the Army in the struggle. Dock Workers, Railwaymen, Iron Workers, indeed any industry that paid low wages were affected. The Black Country Strike was just a small part of this epic struggle, and if you read the Topic, and consult the History of the period, you will find that it didn't start in Wednesbury, nor was this Town the worst affected by the Strike, it was spread over the entire region. The main aim of the Unions was to secure a minimun wage that families could servive on, and in that respect, they succeeded. It was a hard three months for the strikers and their families across the whole region, not just in one place. There were walkouts at many places, long before Wednesbury joined in, and no, I havn't got a down on the place, it's that to select one place from many, and lay claim to what was a Union inspired and worker backed movement, is a bit disrespectful. To also suggest that the sacrifice made has largely been forgotten is also false, as there are many articles availiable, for the browser to look at, if you take the time and trouble. We all know Newspapers have to sell, and it's an increasingly tough world out there, but at least they should report the whole picture, and not try and distort the History of the events. The first post above is taken from contemporary reports of the time, which is an accurate account of the spread of the strike, as it happened, not as some have already claimed. Not only in this Country I should add either, the unrest was felt in America, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, particulary in the ports and mining areas. So uneasy were the Government of the time, that they stationed a Warship, in the Mersey, the port of Liverpool having completely shut down. Some Miners, ( those that chose not to join in ) in those areas that still had mine's working, like West Bromwich, sought police protection when going to and from their shifts. In the end, there just were not enough of them and they were laid off anyway. By comparison, the Chainmakers strike in 1910 was a flea bite, achieving very little, in what was a dying cottage industry. In 1914, the exploitation of labour by the greedy Employers finally came to an end, but as I have already written, a more terrible time was just around the corner.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 16, 2013 at 11:31 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Would David Webb, from Worcester, from whom I recieved several bits of information, please adjust his e-mail settings, as it seems to be set for family and friends only, and I cannot reply.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

January 15, 2014 at 10:53 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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