The Case of Mr Emson
The following extract is taken from the minutes of William Mitchell (Pens) Ltd which often record concerns regarding members of staff, be it poor workmanship, discussion of raise in pay or, as in the following case, the situation that a long-standing member of staff found himself in with regard to his continuing employment:
Mr Emson at the age of 58 had been in their employ for about 24 years. For 15 years he had only had the use of one eye, the left one having a loose retina. From time to time he had had to have leave of absence due to recurring problems with the right eye which was finally diagnosed as having a cataract and until he was able to have an operation he was declared unfit for any work which might cause eye strain. As a clerical worker this posed a problem to the company and they considered how they might help him. "For nine weeks he had received his full rate of wage, viz 39/6 per week, made up of 10/- per week from the Government Insurance and the difference by the Company. .... The problem we have to meet is what help shall be given or means taken to enable him to live. His family consists of wife and four children, none of them wage-earners. Emson left his legitimate wife many years ago; she is still living, with three children all grown up and wage-earning. He has to allow this wife, it is believed, a weekly sum of 5/-. Resolved that it be left to a subcommittee of the Chairman, Managing Director and Secretary to deal with the matter and report to the Board." The result of their deliberation was that they had approached the Blind Institution who had agreed to teach Emson a "blind" trade which the committee had recommended to Emson that he accept. During the twelve months necessary to train him, the company would pay him a certain sum per week, sufficient to bring him in an average wage throughout the year of 25/- or 30/- per week, such payments to be met out of the £24 standing to his credit in the old Superannuation Fund and the balance to be met by the Trust Fund.
Emson declined this offer as he did not want to work among the Blind. An alternative offer was made to him that he take the £24 owing to him and left the company. This he agreed to do but subsequently had written to the company complaining that his case had not received fair consideration. Once again the company replied to him repeating the offer made by the Blind Institution (if it was still open) but if he failed to accept they would approach the Birmingham Citizen's Committee and lay the case before them for consideration, the Board being thus prepared to state what help they would give financially.
It is apparent that Mr Emson was not entirely happy with the manner in which his position had been dealt as it is recorded that the Mayor of Smethwick had received a letter from him, but after visiting the company's office and hearing all the details he (the Mayor) felt it was not a matter in which he would be justified in intervening. Secretary to the Board, Mr Stark, was appointed to discuss this matter again with Mr Emson and he reported back that he had now obtained a post bringing him in between 20/- to 25/- per week and on hearing this the subcommittee offered him some additional financial assistance from the Workpeople's Trust amounting to 6/6d a week which Mr Emson had gratefully accepted. However, even then the matter did not rest there as following further interviews with Mr Emson it had become "increasingly evident that so long as he continued to cling to the belief that he would ultimately recover some degree of sight he would not listen to any suggestion of his future which the Company might be prepared to make." It was decided not to take any further action until Emson realised the impossibility of recovery of his sight which it would appear that he did as he later promised to become a pupil of the Institution for the Blind and the Company endeavoured to arrange terms. As there do not seem to be any further references to Mr Emson in the minutes one might assume that the matter had been concluded satisfactorily, at least as far as the company was concerned.