From the February 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard
The following is a bare statement of the experiences of a man who, out of work and with a wife and four children to support, applied, with a letter from a local clergyman, to one of the Church Army Depots, for work. The man lives at South Tottenham. He delivered his letter at No. 8a. Hornsey-st., Holloway-rd., at 8 a.m. on December 4th. With five others he was told to apply at 9 a.m. and was then given a cross cut saw and started by a Church Army Officer at cutting a heap of old, damp wood full of nails. The men worked in pairs; the wood was of all shapes and sizes but had to be cut into pieces 5½ inches in length. After working from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. without food (although a dinner time was allowed between 1 and 2) our correspondent and his mate had cut 274 lbs. between them. For this he received 10½d. less than 1½d. per hour! It is not suggested that his mate worked harder or better or had more to shew for his efforts, but his mate received 2/6. Another pair who cut between them in the same time 180 lbs received 2/6 and 6d. respectively. The third pair, who had cut about 175 lbs received 6d. and 5½d.
Thinking himself rather hardly used in the circumstances our correspondent addressed the chief secretary of the Church Army and received a reply from W. W. Jemmett, who said : "We regret to hear that you are dissatisfied, but it should not be necessary for us to explain to every man why some other applicant should be placed on special work under special conditions.” He concludes: “The half-crown a day rate of pay is not the usual scale.”
On the face of it there is here shewn a discrimination which resembles the peace of the God the Church Army are alleged to serve, in that it passeth all understanding. In very special circumstances a man may get 2/6 a day for one day, which is remuneration at the rate of 3½d. per hour. This, to put it mildly, is not munificent. Even in the rare contingency of the recipient receiving it as a regular rate of pay for six days a week, there is not a great chance of exercising thrift, of putting by for a rainy day, after the wants of a wife and four children are attended to—not to mention the unimportant wants of the rent collector. Divide the total by four, however, and it becomes at once apparent that the Church Army holds to the belief that the day when the hunger-cravings of thousands could be satisfied with two small loaves and five small fishes is by no means past. Ten pence, ten whole pence, a day [is] a clear rise of nine pence upon the wage of the biblical labourers who engaged themselves to work in the vineyards. What possibilities of saving are here. Why not accept the letter of holy writ in this connection and reduce the scale of remuneration to the vineyard labourers’ figure? It would then be possible to employ ten men where to-day only one can be employed. The “right to work” would have been conceded. The unemployed problem would be solved!
But what if we dispense with the hypothesis of miraculous properties in Church Army pennies? What if the purchasing power of Church Army money is no more than the filthy lucre of common usage? In that case we can only say that if there is an organisation existing anywhere which has succeeded in “grinding the faces of the poor " to better purpose we have yet to hear of it, and we say this fairly cognisant of the workings of that other religious Army which has so successfully combined the business of the salvation of souls with the damnation of bodies.
We may return to the matter again, but meantime, perhaps the Church Army would like a word.