The Trade Boards Act created boards to set minimum wages in four industries: ready-made and bespoke tailoring, paper and cardboard box making, chain making, and the finishing of machine-made lace. Altogether, about 400,000 people worked in these industries, the vast bulk of whom were women.2
Administratively, the boards were placed under the Board of Trade, which Winston Churchill headed at the time. According to the act, each board was to be composed of representatives of both employers and employees in the industry, some “independent members,” and two officials from the Board of Trade, one of whom would be the chair and one the secretary. The size of the Boards ranged between 17 and 41, and a system of tripartite District Committees was also authorized.3 In the chain-making industry (largely because of its small geographical spread), employee members of the board were elected directly; in all the others, the Board of Trade solicited names and chose the members from those lists. Employer organizations selected their members. Initially, the same government official was appointed to chair all four boards.
1 I am omitting consideration of the Agricultural Wages Boards.
2 Fred Bayliss, British Wages Councils (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962), 10.
3 Detailed information on the administrative operations of the boards is given in Constance Smith, ‘The Working of the Trade Boards Act in Great Britain and Ireland,” Journal of Political Economy 22 (1914), 605-629.