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Monday, 11 June 1928

Mr SEABROOK (Franklin) (2:58 AM) . - I support the amendment. The introduction of piece-work into industry would beneficially affect the nation. The adoption of the principle of the basicwage has brought the good tradesman down to the level of the indifferent worker, and only, payment by results will restore him to the position he deserves. I should like to quote some remarks by Mr. Justice Powers on this subject. They refer to the workers in the hat industry, and read as follows : -

In 1914 the felt hatters obtained an award on piece-work rates, and none of their employers would now dare to try to enforce wage rates on them. At piece-work rates they increased their rates by 50 per cent, in many cases, and by at least 25 per cent, in others. To get the higher incomes - in special cases f 12 a week - they did not work anything like 48 hours. The -hours were reduced to 38 a week generally, and the men found it unnecessary to work on Saturdays at all. No one would induce the shearers - members of a big Australian union - to work at a weekly wage after having been for years at piece-work rates. The position summed up was: - The employers were quite willing to pay members according to the quantity of work produced and the value of the work done, but the union refused to agree to do the work in the only fair way that it could be done on that basis, namely, at piece-work rates.

That shows what a man can earn when he is on piece-work. He does a good day's work, knowing that he will be paid accordingly. When two men are on similar work, one unskilled and the other a skilled worker, both receiving the same wage, the skilled man is naturally brought to the level of the unskilled worker. Industry is not now receiving a proper equivalent for the money paid in wages, and it is absolutely impossible for it to carry on under those conditions. I have previously stated that bricklayers used to lay 1,000 bricks a day of eight hours, but now they are forbidden by their unions to lay more than 400 bricks a day, which is scandalous. Sworn evidence taken before the Public Works Committee discloses that bricklayers in the Federal Territory lay only from 250 to 300 bricks a day.

Mr C RILEY (COOK, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Nonsense! That is not correct.

Mr SEABROOK - The honorable member should read the evidence. The system of day labour is absolutely absurd. Plasterers should be able to plaster 100 yards a day, yet in this Territory they are doing only 30 yards a day, according to sworn evidence* tendered to the Public Works Committee. It is but fair that men should be paid for what they do. Industry cannot pay for more than it receives. I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment, and I hope that the Attorney-General will include the provision in the bill.

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