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Agricultural, Engineering And Building Workers (Pay)

Volume 529: debated on Thursday 8 July 1954

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asked the Minister of Labour the basic wage rates and the approximate average weekly earnings in 1939 of agricultural workers, skilled engineers and building operatives, respectively; and the corresponding figures today.

As the answer is long and includes detailed information, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Without having seen the figures, could I ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether the increases in wages in these three industries have been greater than the increases in productivity? Is there no relation between the productivity of the labour and the increase in wages?

I think it would be more convenient to my hon. Friend if he postponed that question until he has seen these figures.

Does the Minister agree that productivity and wages are not always synonymous terms in regard to responsibility for the final product?

Wages and productivity cannot be compared at all as a matter of arithmetic.

Following is the answer:

In agriculture the average minimum rate of wages for ordinary adult male workers at 1st September, '1939, was 34s. 9d. a week in England and Wales and 33s. 4d. a week in Scotland. The corresponding rates today are 120s. throughout England and Wales and 116s. throughout Scotland. For engineering fitters the average of the time rates in the principal districts of the United Kingdom was 69s. 2½d. at 1st September, 1939, and is now 146s. For bricklayers the corresponding figures are 73s. 4d. in 1939, and 168s. today; for building trade labourers they are 55s. 1d. and 147s. 4d., respectively.

Figures of actual earnings are only available for broader industry groups, the latest pre-war figures relating to October, 1938, and the latest post-war figures to October, 1953. For all categories of adult male wage-earners in the metals, engineering and shipbuilding industries the average weekly earnings at these two dates were 75s. and 202s. 10d. For all adult male wage-earners in building and contracting they were 66s. and 183s. 8d.

Average earnings in agriculture are not avail- able for 1938 or 1939. During the year, April, 1952, to March, 1953, the average weekly earnings of hired regular adult male workers in agriculture in Great Britain amounted to 133s. 2d.


1. Agriculture. For agriculture the figures of both rates and earnings include the value of certain allowances in kind.

2. Engineering. The rates given for engineering fitters are the averages of the recognised district time rates of fitters in 16 principal centres in the United Kingdom.

3. Building. In the building industry the agreements specify only hourly rates. The weekly rates have been computed by multiplying the hourly rates (the average of recognised rates in 39 large towns in the United Kingdom) by the average number of hours in a full ordinary week, summer and winter hours being taken into account for this purpose.