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Saturday 16 February 1918 - Prisoners' pay

Category World War I: Prisoners of War in Evesham
The Evesham Journal
Transcription of article


An interesting correspondence has recently taken place between Mr W Masters, the secretary of the Evesham Branch of the National Union of General Workers and Mr Will Thorne. MP, the general secretary of the Union, on the subject of the rate of wages paid to German prisoners. Writing on January 24, Mr Masters said: “On January 14, in the House of Commons, Sir Auckland Geddes, in his statement on the Man-Power Bill, stated it was the intention of the Government to use more extensively German prisoner labour on the land. At present there are nearly 300 German prisoners working on the gardens in Evesham and district. Their employers pay 4d per hour each prisoner, of which the man retains one penny, and they work a 48-hour week. May we ask you to do all  in your power to impress upon the Government the necessity of making employers of German prisoner labour pay them the same rates of minimum rates, fixed by the Wages Board of the district, or until such rate is fixed, at least the same rate fixed by the Corn Production Act by the Wages Board of the district. Our members consider it very unfair that the Government should fix a rate for the county, and then release German prisoners at least a penny per hour cheaper. The result is that employers prefer to employ prisoners because they are cheaper, although very often they could get residents in the district. It also means that the man power of the nation is not being made the best use of.”


Mr Will Thorne immediately went into the matter, and writing to Mr Masters on February 11, he enclosed the following letter from Mr Ian Macpherson, Under Secretary for War: “ I have received your letter of January 26th, in reference to the payment of prisoners of war. The general policy of the Department concerned has always been that employers should pay the prisoners of war at the current local rates for the same class of labour. Owing to the difficulties attendant upon the employment of prisoners upon agriculture it was not immediately possible to enforce the full flat minimum rate when that rate was fixed, though there is no reason to suppose that the omission to do so has led to any displacement of British labour. The matter has, however, recently been further considered by this Department and the Board of Agriculture. It has been decided that from Monday, February 18th. All employers of prisoners will be called upon to pay the minimum wage for agricultural workers, ie, 5d per hour. I may add that all applications for prisoners of war to work on the land have to be made to the local War Agricultural Committee, and sufficient safeguard is thus provided against the employment of prisoners in cases where their employment would mean that British labourers were out of work.”