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Report of the Commissioners on the employment of children in Factories (1833) p. 1418

This section of the Report concerns parental collusion in the employment of children for long hours in the textile workshops of the north of England. The 1833 Factory Act sought to restrict the working hours of children and young persons.

From the causes already assigned, namely the irregularity with which the operative is supplied with material for his work, irregularity of the power by which the machinery is driven, and the dissipated habits of the workers, favoured, if not induced, by the occasional idleness growing out of the two first causes, it appears that in the carpet factories it is the constant practice, and in the clothing district the frequent practice, to work extra hours:

"It is very much the case with some sort of men to go idle part of the week and to work extra hours the rest. In such cases I have known men to work from three o'clock in the morning till ten o'clock at night; the drawers must work the same hours; they must always go together; they can't do without one another."

"It is the practice for the weavers to be idle and dissipated part of the week and to work extra hours the rest. We abound with that evil; we witness it every week round; even the regular workmen must often be idle part of the week, from the irregularity of the work coming in. It is very oppressive indeed to the children."

"I have known instances, in the depth of winter, of drawers being called up to work by four o'clock in the morning, and earlier. I believe it is the common practice for the idle weavers to place their draw-boys in the looms, and to employ younger boys or girls as drawers, to make up for their own laziness or dissipation. The weavers are in general idle the early part of the week and they afterwards work from eighteen to twenty hours to make up their lost time, during which the draw-boy or draw-girl must attend them. I have known frequent instances of their commencing work at two or three o'clock in the morning."

In the clothing district both workmen and masters agree in stating that if extra work for extra pay were refused when a press of business comes, the workmen so refusing would lose their situations; both also concur in the statement, that it is the constant practice for parents, and even for children themselves, to apply to the masters for extra work for additional wages, and cases have been detailed in which children have worked upwards of fourteen hours.

It appears that parents encourage their children to make the extraordinary efforts, of which we have given some examples, by leading them to consider the wages which they thus earn as peculiarly their own, although a cheat is often practised upon them even with regard to these extra wages. While all the witnesses agree in the statement, that whatever the child earns by its regular hours of labour is uniformly appropriated by the parent, it appears that a large portion of the additional wages earned by extra hours is also taken by the latter.

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