1960's Electricians Payroll

In 1968 we became involved with a company called H F Marshall which we bought . It was a small electrical contractor operating out of a shop in Walsall. To the rear of the shop was a large shed where the vans were housed. 

We still have the wages book for the period from 1961 onward. It is interesting to compare and contrast the situation that electricians found themselves in by the 1960’s compared to the 1920’s.  The JIB or Joint Industry Board was set up in 1968 to form a partnership between the electrical unions and the employers organisation the ECA. The JIB down the years provided an element of stability that was lacking in many other industries agreeing an overall pay structure and wages rates. This structure is still ongoing but is under severe strain with 8 of the biggest UK contractors walking out.

In week ending June 6 1964 – the Animals made number 1 with House of The Rising Sun, the Beatles released Aint She Sweet and The Rolling Stones visited LA. Alec Douglas Home was Prime Minister and was about to be succeeded by Harold Wilson in October. This then really was when the 60’s started to swing. But not in Walsall and definitely not in Leamore.

In this week our highest paid electrician made £19-16s-5d or in modern money £19.82 Income tax and tax codes were well established and he had a tax code of 68F which mean that he could earn about £680 pounds a year before paying tax – that is about £13.00 a week.  The calculation then required him to pay £2 -15s-0d or £2.75 tax. On top of this he had to pay a national insurance stamp.  To earn this sum he  worked 42 hours at 7s 6.5d, 4 hours at 10s .5d and 3.5 hours at 11s 3d. Having done all of the calculations he took home in his pay packet £16-2s-1d or in modern money £16.10. In rough terms I always calculate that an electrician these days gets to keep about 2/3rds of what he/she earns which would mean that from £19.82 the result would be £13.08. So the tax/NI take was lower in 1964.

In real terms then the £19.82 was worth £327 inflation corrected. The pound is now worth 16.5 times less than in 1964 – or to be a millionaire in 1964 terms today you must be worth £16.5m. In 1920 the payrate for an electrician in 2011 terms was 93p which  by 1964, in 2011, terms that had risen to £6.18 per hour in real terms. Today the rate is something around £13 an hour. 

To put this another way the price of an electrician in real terms has rocketed over the past hundred years. Of course this is in no way unusual – all real wages have shot up over that period as wealth has multiplied many fold. The other notable trend is in complexity – in the 1920’s there was no income tax, by the 1960’s it was well established and now we have so many allowances and tax bands that no person could sensibly work out a complex payroll in their heads.

I have attached a selection of extracts from the payroll here. Because 1964 is so relatively recent – (well I remember it)- some of the staff are still around and I wouldn’t wish to compromise their privacy so I have blanked the names.  To download 1961-1964 payroll excerpts.pdf click here.