Railway Workers and Eight Hours System

Argus, 7 October 1859.

Sir, On looking over Friday's issue of your journal, my attention was directed to a letter under the signature of " Justice," instituting a comparison between railway porters, gatekeepers. &c., and tradesmen and mechanics in general. Although holding neither a Government nor other appointment in connection with the railway, I have been a resident in the neighbour-hood of a principal station for the last nine months, during which period I have had ample opportunities of becoming acquainted, not only with the duties of every member of the establishment, but the manner in which those duties are performed, and the number of hours per day during which each man is actually engaged.

In the first place, Sir, at the station to which I allude—namely, the Diggers' Rest—there are three porters, whose hours of labour vary from 14 to 16 nor day, rising at half-past 4 a.m., and, with the exception of the time spent over breakfast and dinner, continuing steadily at work up to half-past 6 p.m., and often till 8 or 9 p.m. Many persons imagining the duties of a porter to consist simply in opening and shutting carriages, receiving tickets, dusting and cleaning waiting-rooms. &c., will smile at my using the word labour ; but to those I would say, that on an average of 10 hours per day these men work as hard as any class of mechanics in the country.

When I tell them that, day after day and week after week, they are engaged carrying sacks of corn and flour, bags of potatoes, bales of goods, heavy bars of iron, and, in short, every species of mer- chandise, and that, owing to the daily increase of traffic, the duties are becoming more arduous, and the labour more severe, I think they must admit that this class of Government servants are far from being over-paid, and that it would be well for Messrs. Don, Hunter, Loader, Sinclair, and Saxton, while advocating the necessity of reducing Government salaries, and supporting an eight hour system, to pause and ask themselves the question, is it right, is it just, or anything approaching to fair play, that this class should not be permitted to enjoy the same privileges as other members of the community ?

I fear I have trespassed too far on your valuable space, and shall conclude by mentioning another body of railway officials, labouring under Iike disadvantages, namely, gatekeepers, their hours of labour being quite as long, and though not requiring so much physical exertion, yet the responsibility being much greater, entails an amount of watchfulness and anxiety more harassing than mere bodily exertion, and yet in the greater number of instances the pay does not exceed £120 a year, or a little over 6s. per day. Surely the advocates for retrenchment will not have the hardihood to assort that these men are overpaid, or that the man in charge of such a gate as that situated at the crossing of the Mount Alexander road, is not entitled to as much remuneration as an ordinary day-labourer.
I have the honour to be, Sir,

                             Your obedient servant,
                                            FAIR PLAY.
                                                  Diggers' Rest, October 3.

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