Extract from 1871 Truck Report
The Gartcosh ironworks are in the Coatbridge district. About 140 men and boys are employed, and the pays are fortnightly. Mr. Blackhurst, the managing partner, stated, at the beginning of his examination, that there was no store attached to the works, no charge for poundage, and that the men were allowed to do what they like with their advances. This statement is not an adequate account of the system at Gartcosh.
Advances were given here on Saturdays in cash, and on Wednesdays in lines. It appears that when the works commenced advances were given in cash on Wednesdays also, but the men got drunk, and cash advances, except on Saturdays, were discontinued. A store exists near the works, though Mr. Blackhurst at first said that the company had no connexion with it. But it seems that the land on which this store is built belongs to the company, while the storeman pays £12 a year for the use of the store, in addition to a sum for "goodwill of the store," amounting at present to £138 a year. We found that the Wednesday's advances, since April 1870, have been given exclusively in line's upon this store, and that the only way since that date in which the men could get advances except on Saturdays was by means of such lines. They were not the regular printed lines, which were common in other works, but "mere scraps of paper with Mr. Munro [storekeeper], cash 10s. or 5s. or whatever the amount may be, and Mr. Millar [cashier] puts his initials to it." The storekeeper sends the lines into the office, and they are deducted from the pay, at least Mr. Blackhurst "believes they are."
The whole transactions connected with the store are on a comparatively small scale. The wages for the period from November 1869 to August 1870 amounted only to £4,972 of which £3,155 was paid in advance, and £298 in notes, the system of lines having commenced only in April 1870. Mr. Blackhurst told us that "we" - he and his partner "are averse to giving lines, but the men will have them," and the cashier informed us that "we prefer the men not to go to the store, and that we only grant these lines to them under compulsion of the men themselves." At the same time, however, that the system of lines was introduced, the sum to be paid for goodwill to the company by the storeman was raised, and though the storeman informed us that the men are not expected to deal with him, yet he "tried all he could to get them to purchase from him."
We are unable, in view of the above facts, to acquiesce in the opinion of Mr. Blackhurst, that at Gartcosh, although there is a store, the company have " no connexion " with it.
Abstract of Evidence
I am managing partner at Gartcosh. We employ about 140 hands. It is an ironwork. We pay fortnightly and cash weekly. I never knew any stores in North Staffordshire. I cannot speak as to South Staffordshire. At Gartcosh we have no store and no poundage. I think weekly pays might be introduced without much expense or inconvenience. We are willing to do it, but we find that,with advances, when the men cash on Saturday, they absent themselves from their work. I think there would be no difficulty in giving weekly pays. There is a store, but we have no connexion with it. Our advance men go there, but there is no compulsion. About the first week we began we gave the men cash on the Wednesday, and we found that they got drink at the store and absented themselves from their work. We preferred after that to give them cash on Saturdays only. The store is built on our land. We get £12 a year rent from it. We give our men lines on the store on Wednesdays for cash. The lines are given them instead of cash, and they take the lines to the store, and change them for goods. The store proprietor sends in the amount of the lines from time to time, and the amount is deducted from the men's wages. We are averse to giving lines, but the men will have them. The lines are the only mode by which a man can get advances except on Saturday. I get all my own goods at the store at the same price as the men, because I cannot get them anywhere else. We are four miles (to) Coatbridge. We get, besides the rent, £63 for the goodwill of the store. We got £63 for the goodwill from October to May. We get no other consideration whatever. From May till the present time (September) it is £138. It is to be £138 in future. We raised it from £63 to £138 because we enlarged the works. I cannot say how the figure £138 was hit upon. The figure bore no relation to the past profits of the store, not to the sum spent upon the works.
I am advance clerk at Gartcosh. From November 1869 to August 1870 our wages were £4972. Out of that £3153 was advanced between pay days. Between the 9th of April and the 27th of August £298 was given in in the way of lines. We did not commence to give lines till the 9th of April. I suppose the store proprietor looked to the men patronising his store, and that that was what he paid the money for. I never received a commission. Before April the men used to go down to the store. I deduct from the men's pay the amount of the lines which the store proprietor sends me in. As a proof that the men would insist upon getting those line advances, I may mention that we gave notice that the lines would be stopped, and one or two of the men have given notice that they will leave us at the first pay. They prefer getting the lines to getting nothing at all.
I keep the store at Gartcosh. I used to pay £63 a year just for the trade of the place. They used to come with cash. The lines began in April, without any arrangement at first. My rent is £12 a year and in consideration of goodwill and because they were letting me the store and the trade of the place I was to give them also £138. I calculated the amount. At first I offered £125 they fixed the price at £150, which was £138 after deducting the rent. I considered the custom of the men to be worth £150 to me. I have seen several cases of men getting drunk on my premises, always on beer or ale. I did not sell spirits.