Many shipyard workers were not paid a weekly rate but were paid piece rates i.e. they were paid for the work they finished and not for the time they worked.
The riveters were the most important group to be paid piece rates. Riveters took on work in gangs, usually of four - a right-hand riveter a left-hand riveter, a holder-on and a rivet-boy.
The gang was paid for each piece of work according to a price list. The highest prices would be paid for heavy dangerous work or oil or watertight rivets or for single rivets where the gang had to move themselves and their equipment to do only a few rivets.
At the end of the week the total earnings of the gang would be divided up as follows: the rivet boy got £1 and the rest would be divided so that for every 1 s (5p) earned by the right-hand riveter, 9d (4p) was earned by the left-hand riveter and the holder-on.
Average gang earnings in 1900 were £8.18.d(£8.90) - it was a year of very high earnings. In the period 1889 - 1913 it was much more common for gangs to be earning £5 - £6 per week, with many earning as little as £3.
A piecework dispute in 1912
· This is a statement was taken by a solicitor for a court case. James White, a riveter with D.& W. Henderson s shipyard, was suing his employers because he had been fined for claiming payment twice for the same rivets. The records of Glasgow sheriff court show 'no decree' against this case. This means that White was unsuccessful.
Thomas Campbell (Aged 24)
9 White Street, Partick.
I am one of the two piecework clerks for the riveters' work employed by D.W.Henderson. I have been so for about three years and have been employed by them for nine and a half years.
The riveters work in squads of four - two riveters, a 'holder up' and a 'heater'. Each squad is paid so much per hundred rivets. The exact sum for 100 rivets depends on the nature of the job. The squads' earnings are paid in one lump sum, and we pay the whole to either of the two riveters in the squad who gives a receipt.
My duties are to check the number of rivets put in by each squad. I put the number into books which are passed over to pay clerks each week. They make up the pay from the information in the books.
In counting the number of rivets I go round the job - while the squads are at work - together with one or more paint boys. As each rivet is counted the boy paints the hammered end of the rivet with red paint.
I go round about twice a week. A 'tally up' is made on the Wednesday and the pay made on the following Saturday is made up from that tally up. The pay is supposed to include the work done down to the Tuesday night but some work done on the Wednesday morning may be included.
White's squad consisted of himself and McCafferty as riveters, [ ], the holder-up, and [ ], the heater. White is an apprentice and McCafferty a journeyman.
On 27th September (Friday) I was on my rounds and I counted the rivets put in by White's squad. The number of fresh rivets I counted was 309.
As usual each of these was painted red. The paint boy was George Allan.
On Tuesday 1st October I again went round White's squad's work and counted 261 fresh rivets. On this Tuesday I saw that four rivets in two of the casing foundation bars of S.S. 480 (two in each bar) had the tops blackleaded. It was quite obvious. When the points had been painted red, some of the paint had got on to the bars, and although the paint on the rivet point had been covered with blacklead the paint on the bars was of course still visible. White was coming round the jobs with me and I counted the fresh rivets without including these four. I told White I made the total 261 to which he agreed. He made no claim for these four rivets, nor did anyone else.
I pointed out two of the blackleaded rivets to the boy Allan and asked if he remembered painting them the previous week, and he said he did.
I did not touch the four rivets that day.
On 2nd October - the following day - I again went over the work of White's squad. White came round again. I counted 485 fresh rivets, of course excluding these four. After I had counted these 485 White asked me to include these four. I asked him when they had been put in. He stated that his mate (McCafferty) had put them in that morning (i.e. Wednesday) when he was not there. I said that was not the case and that the rivets were blackleaded and drew my finger over the point. The blacklead came away on my finger. I also said I had noticed them the day before. White looked pretty sheepish but said nothing. I did not say anything else to White. I did not say he had blackleaded the points. In fact I don't know yet who blackleaded them.
I reported the matter to the foreman on '480' (Mr Milliken) and to the head foreman (Mr Wilson) the same day. I left the matter to Mr Wilson to deal with. We had had trouble of that kind before, and I thought something should be done.
The same day I found some rivets belonging to another squad with paint rubbed off. I spoke to one of the squad - Cameron - about it. He explained that it had been done accidentally by his 'knee bag' and I accepted his story.
Mr Wilson forgot about the matter till I spoke to him again on Saturday 5th October. We then agreed to fine White 5/- (25p). It was too late to take the fine off the pay made on the 5th and in any event that pay was for the week ending Tuesday 1st October although the work included was tallied on the Wednesday.
The four rivets were not included. White's squad accepted the pay without remark.
The amount payable to the squad for the rivets in question would be 3d (1p) each.
I gave instructions to the time-keeper (John Matthews) to keep 5/- (25p) off the next pay, and that I believe was done. I had nothing further to do with the matter.
I produce a print of the rules. These are posted all through the yard. I refer to article 18, which reads:
'OFFENCES:- Any person guilty of any act of dishonesty will subject himself to instant dismissal, and will, in the option of the employer, forfeit the whole wages then due to him, or be fined.'
And to article 19 which reads:
'FINES:- The fines or penalty incurred for any or every breach of the foregoing Rules and Regulations (where no specified penalty is named) shall be 2/6 (121/2p) and shall be deducted from the first pay. All fines shall be paid over to the Infirmaries.'
The fines are all paid into the funds of a yard Infirmary Committee, run by the men, and they pay them over to the Infirmary.
Records of Bannatyne Kirkwood and France, solicitors, 1912