In April 1912, the effects of the coal strike were felt in the coaling of Titanic prior to her departure from Southampton. In order for Titanic to have sufficient supplies of coal for the voyage, Oceanic was laid up in the Port to facilitate this.
The average working man’s week in 1912 would consist of 56 hours. A skilled workingman in a full year would earn around £100 a year being just enough to raise a family. By contrast a crewman on Titanic would hope, with good health and regular work to earn about £60 a year enabling him to survive. It is also interesting that in 1900, 40% of recruits to the armed services were rejected on grounds of ill health.
The Poor Law introduced in 1834 was a last desperate means of assistance and in 1912, 780,000 in England & Wales were receiving relief. Over half were inmates in residential institutions as in hospital, asylum or workhouse where they were clothed and fed. Children would receive some schooling and in return for this care, all workhouse paupers would have to work for several hours each day. The poor themselves hated and feared the threat of the workhouse so much that there were riots in northern towns.
The growth of Trade Union membership accelerated between 1900 and 1913 from two million to just over four million. In 1912 over 40 million days were lost through strikes. The coal strike of the hard winter of 1912 that lasted from February to April impacted on thousands who died from hypothermia, and resulted in over one million to be out of work. Merchant seamen were affected too as a consequence of ships being laid up.
Dockworkers and seafarers in this period were casually employed, and had to routinely queue at the Dock gates each morning for work. Despite the poverty and unfairness in 1912, employment opportunities in the service sector and new industries were expanding, offering more reliable sources of employment leading up to the outbreak of WW1.