Bedford Corporation dustcart c.1932 [BP63/5/6/17]
Wednesday 19th April 1916: A meeting of workmen employed in the Bedford Borough Surveyor’s Department was been called by the National Union of Corporation Workers to consider taking action following the Council’s refusal to grant an increase of wages or war bonus. The Union General Secretary declared himself astonished at the low level of wages in the town – sweepers, for example, were receiving 4 pence per hour for a 55 hour week, and dustmen about 4½ pence per hour. Despite the increase in the cost of living since the beginning of the war no general wage increase had been given for three years, although at the end of 1914 the Council increased the wages for those earning under £1 by one shilling a week and war bonuses were being paid. In other towns men were receiving much higher wages for the same work. Arguments were made for the introduction of a minimum wage for all workers. Against this, one of the Councillors, Mr. Farrer, pointed out that while he did not want to speak disparagingly of the sweepers, in many cases they were men who could not get work elsewhere, including a number taken from the Workhouse; in the circumstances he did not see how the Council could pay a flat rate. He expressed surprise that there were many men earning less than £1, and said he would never vote for it.