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Social - economic situation of the salt workers in earlier times:


The situation of the Salzkammergut workers has always been bad and deplorable. Dependent on the salt works, they were completely in the hands of one company, which also had all the administrative and judicial power.

Employment as a "Kammergutarbeiter" was associated with "certain poverty" because the wages were meager and insufficient. In addition to the low wages, the salt workers were supplied with cheap grain and lard.

Nevertheless, cheap grain and lard and one-off grants were of little help in times of need, since the Hofkammer did not increase wages despite constant inflation.


Salt Rack:

Salt production was reserved for the emperor as a royal rule. Along with taxes, the salt shelf was by far the most important source of income for the state, which was always in financial difficulties.

When the salt industry was at its peak, the salt works in Hallstatt, Ischl, Aussee, Hall in Tirol and Hallein supplied all of southern Central Europe (from Switzerland via Swabia and Bavaria to Bohemia, Moravia, western Hungary and Carniola). The rich profits from the salt mines owned by the sovereign covered up to a third of the state budget.

If the emperor didn't know what to do because the state coffers were almost always empty, he simply had the price of salt increased. Complaints about the plight of the population, about the damage to cattle breeding, about outbreaks of cattle disease as a result of the increase in the price of salt were not able to prevent the price increases.

As the financial capabilities of the salt rack were pushed to the extreme, any link between the cost of production and the price of salt ceased. At the beginning of the 19th century, the production costs for a salt barrel were between 24 and 30 kr, depending on the location of the salt works. However, the Hofkammer was able to sell a salt barrel for 11 fl 40 kr, which corresponded to 700 kr. Thus, the sales price was more than 25 times higher than the manufacturing costs!!!

The increasing need for the financial exploitation of the salt monopoly was not limited to increasing prices and reducing the cost of transporting and selling salt, but also worked towards reducing production costs with ever more intensified methods. Since wage costs were the main part of production costs, wages were practically not increased over long periods of time, despite constant inflation.


Privileges of chamber estate workers:

In addition to their wages, the salt workers also had important benefits that were unknown outside of the Kammergut. They were exempt from military service and from military billeting, paid no taxes or levies unless they were homeowners, they had free medical treatment in the event of illness and constant care in old age.

The Kammergutarbeiter needed to not worry about the future of their sons. As late as the first half of the 18th century, every able-bodied man from the Kammergütler found a suitable job at the Salzamt.

In order not to raise wages, which Vienna stubbornly resisted, attempts were made to reduce the cost of living for the working population as much as possible, to keep food prices down in every way and to prevent their rise as far as possible in times of rising prices.


Hofkorn and Hofschmalz:

For this purpose, the Salzamt supplied the residents of the Kammergut with grain and lard. The bread grain was brought cheaply to the Kammergut as return freight on the emptied Salzzillen, because as imperial goods it was exempt from all taxes during transport. The sale of grain was strictly regulated, no official was allowed to trade in it, the selling price was strictly regulated for the grain traders, mostly citizens of Gmunden, Ischl, Laufen and Hallstatt. The Salt Office had to ensure that there was always a sufficient supply of grain stored in the official storerooms, the "grain boxes".

The beneficiaries always received the grain below the market price and the cost price, which not only strengthened the bond between the crew and the imperial work, but also freed the government from the otherwise indispensable wage increase.

As coveted as the meat was, it never became the staple food for the people of the Kammergut because of its unaffordable price. The farm grain had accustomed them to the flour diet, to which they could not do without lard as an added fat. This was more important to them than the meat. The inner Salzkammergut sourced most of its lard from the Abtenau region, whose inhabitants traded it vigorously in exchange for salt, grain and wine.

The meat prices were also fixed by the authorities and the butchers were supported with subsidies so that they were able to keep prices low even in difficult times.

The civil servants, master craftsmen and workers employed in salt boiling have always received as much salt as they needed in the household, free of charge. The miners and woodcutters and then all the other inhabitants of the chamber estate who were in the service of the sovereign joined the boilers to obtain the free salt.

The allocation was generous and fully sufficient for the needs of a small farm. According to an approximate calculation, a Kammergut resident in the 17th century received 30 pounds (16.8 kg) of “mandatory salt” per year for one head of his family, i.e. more than double the actual requirement.

Those entitled to “mandatory salt”, who numbered in the thousands, usually had no better use of what was left over in the household than to sell it. The Gmundner weekly market, among other things, offered a good opportunity for this. For the longest time, the Salt Office watched this trade, which noticeably affected its own consumption of salt, without doing anything. It was not until 1706 that the Hofkammer took up the matter and, much to the opposition of those concerned, restricted the "must salt purchase" to 12 pounds (6.72 kg) for each family member per year.


First uprising 1392:

In 1392, the citizens of Lauffen and Hallstatt "revolted" together with the cooper, shipmen and hermits. They wrote a petition to the sovereign and complained about the officials, especially the salt official, because their wages were too low or wages were withheld. The uprising was crushed bloodily, the "rebels" were severely punished, the ringleaders, if they had not escaped, imprisoned, blinded or even hanged. The penalties corresponded to the legal practice of the time.

In the document of Duke Albrecht III. of September 5, 1392, with which he gave Ischl the trading rights, he expressly emphasized that the people of Ischl had not participated in the uprising.


Wages of chamber farm workers:

According to the 1st Reformation Dragonfly of 1524, the Salt Office was obliged to provide the workers with a decent salary from which they could subsist.

In the 2nd Reformation Libel of 1563, the wages of the chamber estate workers were set numerically. For example, the wage for a male day laborer was 6 kr. and for a worker 3.5 kr.

100 years later, at the time of the 3rd Reformation Dragonfly of 1656, an ordinary day laborer got 10 kr. and a “female” 5 kr. In addition, the workers, with little increased wages, still had small allowances, which did not make much difference.

A comparison of 1656 with the wages fixed in the second Libellus of 1563 shows that the daily earnings of skilled miners have remained fairly unchanged, while those of day laborers and other unskilled laborers have increased by about 50%. Under the pressure of economic hardship, the government had to at least improve the wages of the lower classes in order to keep them viable and able to work. The wages of the salt workers were still meager.

Employment conditions in the rest of Upper Austria were significantly more favorable. A journeyman and a day laborer earned a good 50% more than a salt worker.

For the imperial authorities, it was an irrefutable maxim that nothing could be changed in wages. In times of hardship and high prices, people preferred to resort to all sorts of temporary help and support than to raise wages. Temporary help was temporary, but wage increases were very difficult to get rid of.

It is also interesting that the miners in Ischl were paid much better than those in Hallstatt, so their economic situation was more favourable. Unfortunately, the historical sources do not reveal the reasons for the unequal treatment of the two companies. The difference is all the more striking as the other provisions of the Reformation dragonfly are almost identical for both salt mountains.


Pledging of the chamber property:

In 1622 the Kammergut and all of Upper Austria was pledged to the Electors in Bavaria, where it remained until 1628. In 1623 there was a great famine in the Kammergut, as prices rose enormously. Grain became so expensive that people were forced to grind grummet and straw and bake it under the bread.

Under the impression of great hardship and high prices, the electoral officials, ignorant of or disregarding the old imperial rule, granted the salt workers a wage increase.

After returning to the imperial administration, the consequences of this new way of thinking were hastened to be undone, and on May 23, 1633 all wage increases were canceled and the old wages were reintroduced.

The situation of the workers did not correspond to what one would have expected from a social, state administration. The supreme and sole concern of the imperial court chamber was to keep wages unchanged for more than a century, after the increase introduced by the Bavarian administration, unfamiliar with Austrian tradition, had been abolished. Everything went up in price, only wages remained low, unchanged. And all because they had calculated that even the slightest increase in wages would be more expensive than the support given when the workers were starving.


Poverty in the Kammergut:

In the 17th century, a worker needed around 100 Kreuzer per week for grain, meat, lard, eggs, milk, beets, turnips, cabbage and candles for himself and his family.

A miner's wage of an average of 50 - 60 Kreuzer per week was just enough for the essential food needs of a household. The salt workers had no other choice when it came to buying clothes, linen and shoes, so they were forced and usually able to earn an additional income from woodwork or from the finishers.

At the end of the 17th century, the state finances were particularly bad because of the "War of the Spanish Succession", and going into debt became the norm. Neither the income from the salt regime nor the tax revenue was sufficient to satisfy the empire's financial needs. All available means were necessary to maintain the empire and the army. Even for the operation of the salt works in the Kammergut, the necessary cash was sometimes still lacking. Going into debt had become the norm in Austria in order to get over the current shortage of money. The year 1696 was one of the saddest in the eventful history of the Salzamt. The Imperial War Pay Office claimed all of his receipts immediately. The Salzamt treasury was temporarily completely empty. In some cases, the Salt Office could not pay wages to workers and officials. They feared national bankruptcy and the loss of good faith among the people. The emperor himself urged the salt office to send money to Gmunden so that the Gmunden office could pay the interest and pay the workers.

In 1693 the Kammergutarbeiter sent an emergency cry to the Court Chamber for grain; In Ebensee, Ischl and Hallstatt there was hunger and dysentery, the pans could no longer be operated, the deteriorating coinage had devalued the money. The buyers, shipwrights and Stadlinger who worked in the manufacturing sector suffered even more than the imperial workers. In a petition written in Ischl, they complained that they had nothing left on their bodies and nothing to eat, in Lauffen some had already died of hunger and the rest were about to emigrate with their wives and children and go begging. The manufacturers were also impoverished and could no longer pay their workers wages.

In 1714, the Salt Office refused to take responsibility for the imperial authorities in Vienna if the workers were to “crepe out of famine”. In 1715 the Salzamt wrote to Vienna again that the need was increasing and that people had to “crepe”. The workers could not buy clothes and were so exhausted that they could no longer do difficult work. There was fear that the people in the Kammergut could no longer be held back.

But as is well known, help did not come so quickly from Vienna. On March 27, 1715, the Gmundner Salzamt reported to Vienna that the workers, who had been driven to despair, wanted to go to Vienna themselves in large numbers to ask for help there. The desperate salt workers only allowed themselves to be deterred from this plan by being granted an extra grain advance.

In 1717 scurvy broke out among the Aussee workers, and only then was the danger recognized in Vienna. This time, orders were immediately given to give the sick workers free medical treatment and medicines.

In 1718 it was reported from Aussee that the wives and children of the workers were already going out to beg.

The misery in the Salzkammergut was an almost regular occurrence. The officials were helpless, their hands were tied by the Vienna Hofkammer. The workers' petitions often found support from the Gmundner Salzamt, but none from the Hofkammer. And with the misery and overpopulation of the Salzkammergut came the workers' unrest.

As long as people trembled for every worker, as long as every worker was valuable for securing the imperial work, as long as everything was used for salt works, the Salzkammergut was not without poverty and hunger, but without workers' unrest.

In 1731, the Viennese Court Chamber issued a sharp reprimand to the salt offices. A survey of the age structure of the employees showed that among the 2,156 workers from Hallstatt, Ischl and Ebensee, 1,134 were under the age of 18, of whom 355 were even between 7 and 12 years old, were accepted into the imperial service.

According to the opinion of the Hofkammer, the young lads marry as soon as they earn a piece of bread, and so the Kammergut becomes "too populess", and that's not all, the young lads are clumsy and careless at work, are often "damaged", and it costs the treasury only doctor's salaries and commissions. Such young people are therefore no longer allowed to work.

The Salt Office was strictly instructed to encourage young people to do anything other than salt work, to remove immigrant foreigners from the country, to restrict marriages, and to hand over "stubborn elements" to the militia as recruits.  

The rationalization measures that began in the 18th century, combined with the reduction in the number of workers, the dismissal of older, weaker workers, cuts in pensions (“commissions”) and doctor’s wages, led to unrest and hard conflicts. The officials in the Salzkammergut were no friends of this new economic trend, but their hands were tied.


Ischl Shrove Tuesday - Revolt 1733:

From 1733 things started to ferment among the workers. On February 23, 1733, the Verwesamt reports on a revolt by the Ischl workers. Since time immemorial, workers in Ischl have been given the day off at 12 noon on Shrove Tuesday and have been paid the whole day. Now that the greatest economy was ordered, they didn't think they had the right to do so, because it would amount to 36 fl. for 470 people, and the workers were not allowed to go home. Despite this, the angry workers left their work earlier, gathered in front of the office building, and "made their complaints with unvoiced and punishable freedom".

In times of the greatest famine, it remained calm in the Kammergut, and now there was a revolt because of 36 fl.

But in the meantime, the much more serious religious unrest was caused in the Salzkammergut, and the situation was so dangerous that Salzamtmann Graf Seeau not only refrained from punishing the ringleaders, but even released Shrove Tuesday afternoon.

This is how the unnecessarily conjured up Shrove Tuesday revolt of the Ischl workers ended. This was the first workers' revolt in the Salzkammergut that had endured 23 years of terrible hardship without the workers daring to do anything more than the most humble begging, and yet they were starving. But at least they saw the good intentions of the officials, and from time to time a small gift of grace came from Vienna. The petty savings, the abolition of old customs irritated, the restrictions on commissions and doctor's wages embittered, and when Sternbach came along with his innovations, a revolt broke out that no longer ended like a carnival joke.


Uprising of the Ebensee woodworkers in 1746:

In May 1746, the news came to Vienna that the woodcutters and shipbuilders in Ebensee, through "punitive defiance and the tumultuous proceedings" had forced the Salzamtmann Sternbach to sign the earlier, now forbidden "excesses and negligence" again. The Ischl servitude desired the same.

After long pleas, the Ebensee woodworkers strictly rejected Sternbach's innovations on May 1, 1746. About 300 of them gathered and impetuously demanded their piece of bread from the salt clerk who was present in the vicarage. They also horribly beat various "wood watchers" employed by the Salzamt. The woodcutters also demanded that the woodruff be dismissed and that several of them should get the farm grain again. They presented all demands loudly and very impetuously.

People were no longer satisfied with verbal promises, "as if they had often been promised something but never kept it". The salt official had to put his promise in writing, threatening to meet again if the promise was not kept.

In Vienna people were extremely upset about this incident. An investigative commissioner with 300 men on foot and 30 on horseback was ordered to the Salzkammergut to ensure law and order. The culprits should be punished and Sternbach's new guidelines should be implemented quickly. Every worker was to submit to the new regulations, every meeting of workers was to be prevented and the "rioters" were to be punished with corporal punishment. Some officials were accused of taking sides with the workers and should be punished without any leniency.

The rebellion of the workers had become dangerous because some of the officials felt that the harsh actions of the Viennese Hofkammer were disadvantageous for them too, which is why the officials openly or secretly sided with the workers and abetted the rebellion.

The criminal investigations in Ischl and Ebensee yielded nothing. All the woodcutters answered in the same voice that only "sheer necessity" had driven them to the unrest. It was impossible to identify the instigators of the riot.

The crime report also gives the causes of the riots. Salzamtmann Sternbach had abolished the previous system for supplying wood by eliminating the woodworkers and creating lumberjacks as "imperial lumberjack parties" who were supposed to work on piecework wages. He wanted to eliminate the numerous fraudulent machinations in the timber industry. But the woodcutters and master woodworkers did not put up with this.

The investigating commissioner reported that as early as August 1746, most of the workers had returned to work repentant. When the military finally withdrew in April 1749, this was done with an explicit warning to the workers to continue to behave docilely and to follow the orders of the salt official at all costs.

Sternbach had found employment in Hallein in Salzburg, in Hungary and in Lower Austria for the superfluous people who were able to work, but the workers did not want this. Nobody wanted to go there, they didn't even want to go to work from one detention center in the Kammergut to another.

The Salzkammergut workers were used to having their own way, and they didn't like the stricter discipline that was in use today. They were tied to the Salzkammergut for centuries, they were artificially brought up to the point that they shouldn't even think of moving away, and now, against their will, they are to be dragged onto the foreign market as work goods.  


weekly rate:

Until 1753, the salt workers were regularly paid their wages on Saturdays after the “weekly rait”. Files report that in Ischl it was customary not to work on Saturdays or Sundays in the imperial salt mines. Instead of the miners using Saturday for their domestic work in order to rest on the following Sunday to strengthen themselves for the exertions of the coming week, on Saturday evenings they exhaust their last strength and usually their hard-earned maternity pay in the inns. On Monday, exhausted and usually without money, they began their arduous day's work all over again.

The Kammergut in general, but Hallstatt in particular, was always considered the most expensive part of the country before it was opened up for traffic. In addition, the cost of living had risen steadily since the mid-eighteenth century, but wages had risen only imperceptibly, if at all. For example, in Hallstatt around 1788, a pound of smoked meat cost 19 kr. At that time a bricklayer earned only 19 kr, an ordinary worker only 17 kr. during the day.


Paper money or “bank note”:

Four wars lost within a decade (Peace of Campo Formio 1797, of Luneville 1801, of Preßburg 1805 and of Vienna 1809) had not only costs, but also losses on land and thus tax revenues, and finally also the loss of maritime trade , and the "Continental Blockade" imposed by Napoleon on Europe severely damaged the Austrian economy.

Nevertheless, the state had to continue to arm and to manage the proceeds from its salt business as one of its last secure incomes as stingily as possible.

The tense economic situation led to a shortage of money and devaluation. As a countermeasure, paper coupons were put into circulation as a substitute for coins as early as 1761. From the beginning, the population did not enjoy it because it was constantly declining in value and the misery of the workers increased again.

In the years 1808 and 1809 the imperial printing press produced more and more paper money. By 1810 this had almost entirely replaced cash. As a result, the paper currency fell so badly that the Austrian financial system almost collapsed.

On December 11, 1810, Austria stopped cash payments entirely, the bank notes were confiscated and replaced by new "redemption slips" with a fifth of the previous nominal value. The money suddenly lost 80% of its value!

It was not until 1816, with the establishment of the National Bank, that the Austrian monetary economy began to rebuild. From now on, only the National Bank was authorized to issue banknotes and obliged to redeem the current bills. This quickly led to a stabilization of the monetary value.


French occupation in the Kammergut:

Austria's struggle against Napoleon required the utmost exertion of all forces and suppressed all other considerations. The imperial patent of October 25, 1804 granted exemption from military service only to the most important management bodies and the most distinguished workers in the mines.

With the strict application of this regulation, the Salt Office would have had to stop all operations that were not allowed to be interrupted because of the salt supply of the Reich. The salt office and the administration offices made constant efforts to get their people free from conscription, but the recruitment commission instructed by the court war council made no exception for the chamber estate and called up 183 men from the chamber estate in July 1805. After the Salt Office objected, the recruiting commission from the Kammergut only held back 41 men.

The long period of war, with its insatiable demands on men fit for arms, had eliminated the old privilege of the salt workers, who had also become conscripts and were subject to military laws.

Naturally, the Salzamt was concerned with freeing people from military service who were indispensable for the company or who were difficult to replace.

A joint commission consisting of representatives of the district office, the salt office and the military district command was to determine the categories desired for military liberation. The deliberations revealed that out of a total of 5,530 employees, only 1,385 men were suitable for temporary exemption. Continuing operations was such an almost impossible task for the Salzamt.

The period of French rule from 1809 onwards was downright catastrophic for the salt industry. The income from the sale of salt in the country flowed into the coffers of the occupying power, so the Salt Office could neither pay the wages of the salt workers nor procure the food they needed to feed themselves.

During the summer months of 1809, Hallstatt workers waited seven weeks for their wages. Hundreds of them marched in front of the office building in Lahn and threatened to make money with the salt from the magazines if help didn't come soon.


Revolution 1848:

The winter of 1847 increased the misery of the workers unbearably again. The people sold their livestock, got into debt, couldn't get flour from the millers in advance, lost their strength and didn't have enough to clothe themselves.

At the beginning of 1848, the Ischl workers ganged up to take violent action against the bakers and millers and to force a reduction in the price of flour and semolina.

As a result, in January 1848 the Court Chamber set about working out a new wage system that was intended to bring the workers a substantial improvement in their income. The new wage regulation that came into force at the end of 1848 contained notable concessions to the workers, who were agitated in the year of the revolution and suffering from inflation. In addition to a general wage increase for all service classes, the court grain and lard purchases were increased and their prices reduced at the same time. In addition, all restrictions on the purchase of farm grain have been lifted.

In 1848, the Court Chamber set the 48-hour week for all miners equally and wanted to break it down into six eight-hour shifts. However, she only found the approval of the Ausseer miners, while those in Hallstatt and Ischl insisted on the six-hour pit shift that had been granted to them in 1771. Mining lasted from Monday to Friday, leaving Saturday to take care of the household chores. The low-wage miners preferred to work short shifts because it gave them the opportunity to earn extra income.

There was no real uprising movement in the Kammergut, but fears of such a movement prompted the authorities to take some precautionary measures. The Saline Ebensee had set up a fire station for a short time. A section of the National Guard had taken up position in Ischl.

In October 1848, due to a shortage of firearms, the Board of Directors of the National Guard requested that the Salt Oberamt make 120 pikes (polearm or spear) and contribute to the uniforming of the poor guards from the working class. The Salzoberamt had no objection to the production of pikes in the Ebensee court smithy, the saltworks actually supplied the National Guard with 60 pikes. But she refused the uniform expenses, the workers should draw on the brother shop's assets.                                                                                                                                                                            


Limit provisions:

The salt workers in the Kammergut also received a "limito provision", a certain amount of lard and grain, which could be obtained at reduced prices. On the other hand, the basic wage of the salt workers in the 19th century was always below that of the skilled factory workers. The system of “safe poverty” thus continued into the 19th century. Working as a stable miner or salt worker was secure employment even in times of crisis, but cuts in pay had to be accepted.

If an enemy invasion was to be feared, the administrative offices were not only allowed to give the workers their wages and farm grain, but also limito lard for a quarter of a year in advance.

From 1789 onwards, the purchase of Hofkorn was extended to all family members. Annually the following was given out: for men 350 kg, for women 200 kg and for each child under 12 years 100 kg. The delivery of the farm grain to the workers entitled to receive it took place monthly at first, then every six weeks. The limit value of the grain received was then deducted from the wages when the next payment was made. In 1815, almost 3,200 tons of grain were imported into the Kammergut from the Salzoberamt and made available to the workers at a limit price, which was usually even below the cost price. Grain gathering took place alternately every six and seven weeks eight times a year.

The year 1848 brought the staff a notable improvement in the purchase of lard. A full worker weighed 20.2 and 33.9 kg annually, depending on his wage grade and category. The distribution in the era's lard cellars took place at the same time as that of the Hofkorn, the limit price was deducted from the wages of the workers. Workers with their own farms, which enabled them to keep three cows, were excluded from purchasing lard. It was almost always clarified butter that was handed out, only in exceptional cases, and only as emergency help, were the workers also given pork bacon.

The wage deduction for these groceries was 48 Kr. for 1 Metzen Korn and 10 Kr. for 1 Pound of Lard, ie for the former a third and for the latter half of the usual market price. In certain cases, however, discounts were still made on these wage deductions, which were introduced in place of the monetary allowances that had been customary in times of inflation.

In 1873, the supply of food was finally stopped and wages increased accordingly. Only the deputat salt and a preferential purchase of firewood remained in kind. The purchase of wood was only intended for personal use, selling it to third parties was strictly forbidden. Officials and those workers who were unable to get the wood in the forest could get it at the Aufsatzplatz or from the drift. A fee had to be paid for the deputate wood.

After the Law on Associations passed in 1867, it was possible to set up workers' support associations. The miners and smelters of the Aussee, Altaussee, Hallstatt and Ebensee saltworks founded their own consumer associations to improve the food situation.


Social situation of the miners around 1868:

In 1868, the annual need for money for a family of workers (man, woman, two children) in Upper Austria was around 250 guilders. This roughly corresponded to the annual earnings of a hewer in a salt mine.

Of this amount, around 20-40 guilders went to rent for small apartments. Those workers who were not themselves smallholders mostly lived in rented accommodation in villages close to the factory. The family apartment often consisted of a single, low room. Since this was also used for cooking and washing, and for reasons of economy it was often not aired for weeks in winter, the rooms were damp and moldy. The often numerous family members lived here in a small room huddled together without separating the sexes, sometimes even unmarried workers were sublet.

About 13 - 15 guilders had to be spent on heating the small apartments, despite the preferential purchase of firewood.

Besides his work clothes, the worker usually has better clothes for Sunday. The average annual outlay for clothing was between 20 and 30 guilders, depending on the size of the family.

In general, the mining families subsisted on pastries prepared with lard, vegetables and legumes, and meat was very rarely on the table. In 1868 a family spent 150 - 180 guilders on food in Upper Austria.


Housing situation of the salt workers:

Around 1870 there were 22 company-owned workers' living quarters or dormitories at the saltworks in the Kammergut. The latter, which were in the immediate vicinity of the workplace, were used as accommodation during the working days by the workers living away from the mine, who could only return to their families once a week.

Only at the end of the 19th century, small apartments were newly built for the salt workers, which brought a big improvement. The typical worker's apartment consisted of an almost 10 m² kitchen, an approximately 20 m² heated room and an almost 10 m² cabinet without heating. Only 10% of wages were retained as rent.



A regular system of privileges and disciplining shaped the everyday work and life of the salt workers. In return for social security, the state expected a special loyalty and the preservation of the honor of the group of salt workers even outside of working hours. When you were hired, you not only had to provide birth certificates and certificates of origin, but also a “certificate of morality”.

Service regulations from 1899 not only regulated behavior during working hours. Avoiding "violence and bickering", "appearing at the work place at the appointed time" or the prohibition on leaving the work place without permission can still be understood as regulations that were necessary for a functioning workflow. The ban on "smoking tobacco" outdoors, on the other hand, points to an almost patriarchal control, as do the reasons for dismissal in the case of "reasonable suspicion of poaching", in the case of secret or open "incitement against official orders" or "essential breaches of duty in relation to loyalty, diligence and due respect and obedience to superiors”.

The system of privileges and disciplining, in which workers and employers entered into a close symbiosis, should not lead to a glorified picture of exclusive harmony. There have always been conflicts between the salt workers and the state as the employer. In the 19th century, however, the forms of protest changed. Until then, the close ties between the salt workers and the state had favored cooperative conflict resolution mechanisms. The strike as a form of protest only came into use in the early 20th century; before that, the salt workers tried to present their requests and claims in the form of petitions. As an employer, the state usually reacted very willingly to these “gentle” demands with concessions.

After the turn of the century, the forms of protest changed. Spontaneous actions were replaced by more organized, longer-term protest movements. In the large demonstrations to obtain universal, equal and direct suffrage in 1907, the salt workers took part together with other groups of workers and marched under the red flags of social democracy, but without being clearly organized as social democrats.

For the miners and smelters, there was still a long way to go, full of protests, before the hard and dangerous nature of their work was fully recognized in terms of wages and social benefits. Only during the construction period after the Second World War did the miners receive the financial compensation they were entitled to.



Sources used:

Gustav Brachmann "Three contributions to the history of our salt industry", Upper Austria Heimatblatt, 18th year, issue 3-4, Linz 1964

Franz Hufnagl "The toll to Gmunden", Böhlau Verlag, Vienna 2008

August Huysen "Salt Mining and Saline Operation in Austria, Styria and Salzburg", Berlin 1854

Ischl home club "Bad Ischl home book 2004", Bad Ischl 2004

Karel Kramar "The state wage policy and the situation of the workers in the salt pans of the Salzkammergut up to 1748", yearbook for national economy, Vienna 1896

Ewald Hiebl "Safe work and state protection" in: "Mining - everyday life and identity of the Dürrnberg miners and Halleiner salt works", Salzburg contributions to folklore, Volume 10, Salzburg, 1998

Anton Schauenstein "Denkbuch des austrian mining and metallurgy", Vienna 1873

Carl Schraml "The Upper Austrian salt works from the beginning of the 16th to the middle of the 18th century", Vienna 1932

Carl Schraml "The Upper Austrian Salt Works from 1750 to the time after the French Wars", Vienna 1934

Carl Schraml "The Upper Austrian Salt Works from 1818 to the end of the Salt Office in 1850", Vienna 1936

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