Page images
PDF
EPUB

that year a measure was introduced by the Gladstone government, which was finally enacted into law, being known as the Employers' Liability Act of 1880. The prime reason for this legislation was said to be that "the common law had ended in giving the workman no compensation at all unless he could trace the accident to personal negligence on the part of his employer."

The bill, as passed, was limited in its operation to seven years, but the time was subsequently extended periodically until the passage of the Workmen's Compensation Act of 1897. By the provisions of the Act of 1880 the doctrine of common employment remained in force with respect to accidents from other causes than those mentioned in the first section of the law. These five causes of injury to a workman concerning which the doctrine of common employment was no longer to apply were as follows:

(1) Defective ways, works, machinery, and plant (if due to the negligence of the employer or of the person to whom has been delegated his duty thereabout).

(2) Negligence of a superintendent (if superintendence was his principal duty and he was not ordinarily engaged in manual labor).

(3) Negligence of persons to whom the employer had delegated his power of giving orders.

(4) Acts or omissions in obedience to rules or by-laws or in obedience to instructions of persons authorized by employers to give them.

(5) In the case of railway companies, the negligent management of trains, points, and signals.

The employers sought to escape responsibility from compli ance with what was doubtless intended as the spirit of the law by making special contracts with their men by which they were freed from the liability imposed by the act, and the courts decided that such contracts were not contrary to public policy. In 1881, therefore, a bill was introduced in Parliament to prevent an employer from making such contracts, but the measure failed as did similar bills in 1882 and 1883 and again in 1886, in which year a special committee was appointed to inquire into the operation of the Act of 1880.

The contracting-out schemes proved to be many and varied, sometimes operating quite advantageously for the workmen.

themselves, so that a progressive legislative agreement upon an equitable arrangement for all parties was slow. In 1893, the Home Secretary, Mr. Asquith, the Liberals being in power, introduced a bill to amend the existing law by providing for the repeal of the Act of 1880, for the complete abolition of the doctrine of common employment and limit of damages recoverable, and for the absolute prohibition of contracting out. This measure, while not taking away the defense of contributory negligence and acquiescence, left the servant in the same position as a stranger. But the bill finally failed. In 1897 another attempt was made to deal with the subject by the government, which stated the situation thus:

The present law is notoriously inadequate; it fails to compensate for accidents if caused by fellow-servants, if contributed to by the injured, and if resulting from the risks of occupation; it causes costly litigation, 35 per cent of the amount recovered being legal expense; it leaves the employer ignorant of what his liability is.

The bill was vigorously attacked as revolutionary and socialistic, and was defended by Mr. Chamberlain on the ground that it dealt, not with absolute rights, but with questions of humanity and expediency. It finally became a law, being limited in its application to employment in the railway service, in factories, mines, quarries, or engineering works, and in the construction. or razing of buildings exceeding 30 feet in height. In 1900 the scope of the Act of 1897 was extended so as to include agricultural occupations.

In November, 1903, a committee was appointed by the home secretary to inquire and report to the home office

(1) What amendments in the law relating to compensation for injuries to workmen are necessary or desirable, and

(2) To what classes of employments not now included in the Workmen's Compensation Acts those acts can properly be extended with or without modification.

This committee consisted of the following gentlemen: Sir Kenelm Digby, K. C. B. (chairman); Sir Benjamin Browne, D. C. L., Memb. Inst. C. E.; His Honor Judge Lumley Smith, K. C.; Capt. A. J. G. Chalmers, of the Board of Trade; Mr.

George N. Barnes, secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers; and Mr. Robert Reid Bannatyne, of the home office (secretary).

The committee obtained a large amount of evidence from employers and workmen in numerous industries, from employers, associations and trade unions, from insurance companies and other sources. Much information was also furnished it by the Labour Department of the Board of Trade and other government departments, by factory and mine inspectors and by the judiciary. An exhaustive report was made in August, 1904, which was accepted as a basis for future legislation. Following is a summary of the committee's findings, taken from a historical discussion of the Compensation Acts by Launcelot Packer, B. L., published by the United States Bureau of Labor in its Bulletin (No. 70) for May, 1907:

As regards workmen, the committee found that the acts had conferred substantial benefits on those included in them; that prior to them practically the whole burden of industrial accident had fallen on the workmen, and it was right and necessary that some systematic provision for relief by law should be provided; that the act gave substantial relief, not complete indemnity, and there was little complaint from workmen of the limitation to one-half wages and other maximum limits in them.

Personal inquiry by the author concerning the practical workings of the act made during 1906 of Government officials, of employers, and of representatives of labor disclosed a unanimity of opinion that the principle of the act was sound, the extent to which it should be carried being the only question. The act was said to have proved a great boon to the workmen covered by it, labor strongly advocating its extension, while employers generally accepted it. In the building trades the secretary of one of the conciliation boards of a large master builders' association said that the principle was accepted by employers; that the burden was transferred to the building owner and not to wages, which had risen; that the act had tended to prevention of accident, as it had stimulated employers to have better plants; that it had reduced litigation, which was largely confined to non-union workmen. In the cotton trade a gentleman who was thoroughly informed as to its effects on that trade said that there had been no risk of injury to the trade through the burden of the act; that it had not, however, fallen on wages, which had increased 10 per cent; that the act had operated strongly as a prevention of accident, the monetary liability for every accident, as well as the trade mutual insurance inspection, conducing

thereto; that it had caused a large reduction in negligence claims; and that litigation on test cases under the act had practically disappeared, so that friction was reduced to a minimum, while the administration cost nothing, as no lawyers were necessary. As regards railways, an influential employee's organization said that the principle was regarded as absolutely just and valuable to the recipients of the benefits and had kept many from the poorhouse; that the burden was generally conceded to have been transferred to the public; that it did not come out of wages, which had increased (only reaching them to the extent of 25 per cent of the compensation paid in unorganized trades); that litigation on questions of law had now practically disappeared, most cases being settled without even arbitration, and that arbitration cost little, generally under £5 ($24.33) a case; that the act had tended to prevent accidents, owing to expense now arising for every accident; moreover, that there had been no case of deliberate self-injury on railroads. A representative of the coal miners corroborated the fact that all labor was in favor of the act and illustrated the almost automatic working of it in the case of the Durham miners. . . . Considering the overwhelming extent to which the energies of this country are directed into mechanical industry and the high ratio of accident to population therefrom, entailing such widespread hardship through the haphazard treatment of each accident on the negligence basis, with its result of serious injustice in so many cases to employer and workmen alike, as well as the enormous waste of energy and money in the ever-increasing volume of personal-injury litigation, which clogs our courts, it is manifest that the subject requires the earnest and careful consideration of serious people. Nor is it unlikely that the principle of a wise and practical step toward the solution of this difficult, but most important, subject may be found in the British workmen's compensation acts.

The Act of 1897 has now been still further amended by an enactment of law which bears date of December 21, 1906, entitled "An Act to consolidate and amend the law with respect to compensation to workmen for injuries suffered in the course of their employment." The new law extends the principles of the former enactments to practically every public relationship of master and servant, and further provides for compensation for certain specified trade diseases. The Board of Trade Labour Gazette for January, 1907, in its review of legislation in 1906 affecting labor summarizes the act as follows:

Several new laws of the greatest importance to labour were passed in the year 1906. Of these the Act which affects the greatest number of

-

persons is undoubtedly the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1906, which is said to bring 6,000,000 additional persons within the scope of the law giving compensation for injury by accident. It repeals the existing Acts and consolidates and amends the laws. The first great point to notice is that the Act applies practically to all workpeople, including seamen, as well as clerks, shopmen, and domestic servants. Those excluded are: All persons who are employed otherwise than by way of manual labour whose remuneration exceeds £250 a year, outworkers, members of a police force, members of the employer's family who live in the employer's house, and persons casually employed for some purpose not connected with the employer's trade or business. The amount payable in case of death or injury is generally the same as fixed by the Act of 1897; but the minimum period of incapacity entitling to a weekly payment is reduced from a fortnight to one week, and where the incapacity lasts two weeks or more, the weekly payments are to commence from the date of the injury instead of, as heretofore, from a fortnight after that date. Where an injured workman is under 21 years of age, and his earnings are less than 20s. a week, compensation may be awarded to him to a rate of 100 per cent instead of 50 per cent of his weekly earnings, provided that the weekly payment is not to exceed 10s. Another very important feature of the new Act is its extension so as to include the contracting of certain diseases due to the nature of an employment amongst personal injuries by accident arising out of the employment. The diseases referred to are anthrax, poisoning by lead, mercury, phosphorus or arsenic, and ankylostomiasis. The Home Secretary is, however, given power to extend the provisions of the Act, by order, to other diseases. To the list of "dependants" entitled to compensation in case of the death of a workman are added an illegitimate child or grandchild of the deceased, where such child was dependent on his earnings, and the parent or grandparent of the workman where the workman was illegitimate and the parent or grandparent was so dependent. The Act comes into operation on July 1st, 1907, and only applies to accidents happening on or after that day, with the exception of certain provisions as to medical referees. The Acts of 1897 and 1900 continue to apply to all cases where the accident happened before July 1st, 1907.

Below is given the full text of the act which took effect July 1, 1907:1

1 The texts of the Acts of 1897 and 1900 are printed in the U. S. Bureau of Labor Bulletin, No. 70, pp. 631-638.

« EelmineJätka »