Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Prevention of Unemployment

Letter to the editor in the Glasgow Herald, 3 September 1914. 

172 Buchanan Street. Glasgow,
September 1. 
Sir,—As a women's trade union, we heartily agree with the letter from Mrs Billington-Greig on "Prevention of Unemployment" in to-day’s "Herald."  We are already feeling the burden of unemployment and short time among our members, who comprise shirtmakers, hosiery workers, blousemakers, confectionery workers, etc.  We feel that voluntary workers in their patriotic enthusiasm and desire to help are in danger of missing the real idea of relief in this crisis—to prevent rather than to remedy distress.

With Mrs Billington-Greig, we do not condemn voluntary garment-making; but we must protest against this network of sewing parties which is being so rapidly spread over the country.  Our objection to these is not entirely from the point of view of their competition with paid labour; we do not think that many voluntary workers will keep up to the standard of producing one dozen well-fitting shirts in one day—the output of a good shirt-maker.  We urge rather that for the amount of money contributed for materials, etc., better supply of garments for our soldiers could be obtained; these, being made by skilled workers, would reach a higher standard of perfection, and a number of women now partially or wholly unemployed might be kept on in their paid jobs.  We must repeat that we have all sympathy with the enthusiasm and good-will of the voluntary workers, but surely the money given is not being spent in the way most profitable to the nation as a whole.  We must not augment the ranks of the unemployed by women for whose work there could be a demand were the funds necessarily involved in these voluntary schemes organised.  To prevent distress by keeping up the volume of employment is as much the purpose of the national scheme in this crisis as the relief of distress.
The formation of a committee on the lines proposed by Mrs Billington-Greig would have our hearty support and co-operation.—I am,
LOIS C. P. YOUNG. Scottish Secretary,
National Federation of Women Workers.

[This letter was in response to Teresa Billington-Greig's letter in yesterday's post. Again, it makes a very good case.  Presumably most of the volunteer needleworkers had no experience of making man's shirts - possibly little experience of making garments at all.  I used to make a lot of my own clothes, including shirts, but I would have found it hard work to finish a shirt in a day - a dozen would be out of the question.  You might reach that speed if you made shirts all day and every day, but the volunteer ladies were never going to do that. ]  

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