Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Waratah - Mr. Skailes' meagre wage.

The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW) Tuesday 6 December, 1910
LONDON, Dec. 4.
The owners of the missing steamerWaratah have appealed against the awardof 300 pounds damages to the widow of the purser of the vessel.
The Appeal Court has directed the caseto be reheard.
The point in this case is whether Skailesthe purser of the Waratah, whose widow is theplaintiff,  the Blue Anchor Line Limited theowners of the Waratah being the defendants,earned more than £250 a year. If he did so,then Mrs Skailes has no claim under theWorkmen's Compensation Act. Skailes received £5 a month while on board, commission, which brought him £70 a year, and a bonus of £2 a month. As he received meals on board the defendants reckoned that this meant 3s 6d a day to him. Plaintiff put the amount at 2s a day. There were also other items in dispute The judge at the City of London Court awarded plaintiff and her children £300.

According to:
...the annual average salary earned in Great Britain was 70.33 pounds. Mr Skailes, it appears, earned an average wage with a bonus of 24 pounds per year. In modern terms (2010) this equates to 5729 pounds per year. The average wage in the UK, 2010, 23 504 pounds. The average annual wage for a first purser on a cruise ship in 2010 was 48 000 dollars or  32 000 pounds. This suggests that Mr. Skailes earned almost 6 times less than the modern equivalent.
Clearly, the standard of living has improved in wage terms, but what is almost shocking is that Mr. Skailes earned 6 times less than his modern contemporaries. The Blue Anchor Line were not in the business of paying their crew top wages by all account. It is almost heartbreaking that the Lunds would contribute to Mrs. Skailes' misery by forcing her to apply for compensation through the Courts. Hats off to the judge who awarded her the 300 pounds. I suspect the wage gap in 1909 between the wealthy and average man in the street was far more glaring than it is today. 

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