July 18

Addressing the Editor of The Printer’s Register, a Dublin printer on this day in wrote about the effect of the Factory Acts Extension Act of 1867, relative to the employment of young people and women:

“None of us can object to the general principles of the Act, or their application to our trade; but I believe that many of its provisions, as they now stand, are quite in-applicable to Letter-press Printers; and I cannot well see how they can be properly carried out.

“Although nominally only ‘children, young persons and females’ come under it, it really affects every one in employment, as it would be impossible to keep a separate set of hours for the different classes; and machinery could not run without the attendance of those under the age specified.

“The provisions forbidding the employment of children under 13, unless with a portion of the day devoted to school, are admirable, and I am sure will meet the approval of the trade generally.

“It appears to me that the rule allowing persons above 16 to be employed in printing offices as if they were above 18, might be made general, and that it should not require a special permission. Printing is not a very laborious occupation, and it appears to me that at 16 a boy’s constitution is sufficiently formed to enable him to bear any of the labors to which he is likely to be placed.

“It is difficult to imagine how printers can be expected to keep the same hard and fast rules as to hours of labor as do other trades. Ours essentially is a ‘hand-to-mouth’ business. We cannot store up work to prepare for a hurry. Everything must be done offhand, or it cannot be done at all; and if a double demy poster, in solid Double Pica, comes in to us at 5 in the afternoon, 700 copies to be delivered that evening, our customer would scarcely understand the Factory Act standing in the way of our working a few hours overtime, and if we refused to take the job he would very soon find someone else to do it. Imagine our keeping to exact hours in the coming election! But suppose we keep to the legal hours, from 6 to 6, or obtain permission to work from 7 to 7, or from 8 to 7, with only one meal hour, which has been our custom here, and we find much the best plan, causing only one break in the day, I still cannot see how we can get our old 60 hours per week and break off on Saturday with 7½ hours work.

“I believe that every purpose of the Act would be attained, as far as printers are concerned, and much complication avoided, by simply enacting that no young person or female should ordinarily work more than 60 hours a week—on any hours between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. on five days in the week, and 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays—no interval greater than 5½ hours between each meal. This would leave each employer at liberty to select the hours that would best suit him.”

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