...The provision for fair and reasonable remuneration is obviously designed for the benefit of the employees in the industry; and it must be meant to secure to them something which they cannot get by the ordinary system of individual bargaining with employers. If Parliament meant that the conditions shall be such as they can get by individual bargaining - if it meant that those conditions are to be fair and reasonable, which employees will accept and employers will give,in contracts of service - there would have been no need for this provision. The remuneration could safely have been left to the usual, but unequal contest, the 'higgling of the market' for labour, with the pressure for bread on one side, and the pressure for profits on the other. The standard of 'fair and reasonable' must, therefore, be something else; and I cannot think of any other standard appropriate than the normal needs of the average employee, regarded as a human living in a civilized community. I have invited counsel and all concerned to suggest any other standard; and they have been unable to do so. If instead of individual bargaining, one can conceive of a collective agreement - an agreement between all the employers in a given trade on the one side, and all the employees on the other - it seems to me that the framers of the agreement would have to take, as the first and dominant factor, the cost of living as a civilized being. If A lets B have the use of his horses, on the terms that he give them fair and reasonable treatment, I have no doubt that it is B's duty to give them proper food and water, and such shelter and rest as they need; and as wages are the means of obtaining commodities, surely the State, in stipulating for fair and reasonable remuneration for the employees, means that the wages shall be sufficient to provide these things, and clothing, and a condition of frugal comfort estimated by the current human standards. This, then, is the primary test, the test which I shall apply in ascertaining the minimum wages that can be treated as 'fair and reasonable' in the case of unskilled labourers.
Ex Parte H V McKay CAR, Vol. 2 pp 218 8 November 1907
Edited 25th July 2001