Treatment of Workers

article submitted by J Malone.

It isn’t obvious until you start looking for it, but treatment of working people down the ages has always been demeaning and degrading, but usually unintentionally.

The bosses, or ‘tories’, have always considered those who work for them to be sub-human, not worthy of the respect and affection that they show to their horses and dogs, but it has not been done with malicious intent, it simply hasn’t occurred to them to behave in any other way.

While the workers have always tended to dress in scruffy and dirty clothes, due to lack of funds to buy better, but also as a result of the nature of the work they were doing, design of industrial equipment also contributed to this marking of people as not worthy of consideration as human beings, as will be shown by the following examples.

transport01This is a photograph of a canal boat being pulled by a horse.

The horse is led by the bargee, on foot and the barge is steered by, presumably, a member of the bargee’s family. Both are outside, exposed to the elements, in all weathers and for extremely long working days.

Another thing to notice about this image is that, on British canals, there is only one towpath, a feature designed to keep down the cost of building the canal. Notwithstanding, canals did have two way traffic.



And here is a better shot of the driver of a narrowboat, with no shelter and an improvised seat.



A Hansom Cab in London, 1895.

Notice that the customer will be accommodated inside while the driver sits outside at the back.


This is a Hackney Carriage pictured in 1920, notice the driver is still outside in all weathers.



Once the motor car was introduced it was still not considered necessary to provide the driver with the protection from the weather that his employer enjoyed.

transport09A horse drawn tram, showing the driver in, what should now be the expected position, outside in the weather.

At least half of the customers would also be exposed to the weather and I suspect, though do not know, that they would be in the cheap seats.

transport11With a vehicle such as this, there really is no excuse for treating the driver in this way, but still, there he is, exposed to the weather at the front of the tram.


The driver of this motor bus is high above the road but still exposed to the weather.





This milk float shows the contempt felt by employers for the welfare of their workers, a milkman in this case.


The driver of this monster was fortunate to be given a seat, but what a seat!



Protection for the crews was a long time coming on the railways, and here is an early example of how such protection had not even been considered.


A lot of designs of buses, trams and even railway carriages were based on this. Vehicle designers have always been very conservative.


The question of weather protection becomes a minor consideration when you look at this health & safety nightmare!



And it wasn’t just in Britain. This is a Benz truck.

1 thought on “Treatment of Workers”

  1. Really good article by John Malone. I am reminded of an article I read recently concerning the condition of workers at a food processing plant in the USA. It was reported that workers were forbidden from leaving the production line, even for toilet breaks during the 7 or 8 hour shift.
    Consequently all the production line workers were forced to wear nappies. Unimagineable.

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