My Union Right or Wrong.
A history of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union 1900-1932
By Issy Wyner
He who never did eat his bread in tears;
Who never passed a dreary bitter night,
And in his bed of sorrow, the hard fight
Of pending troubles saw, with anxious fears….
( The Eureka Stockade, by Carboni Raffaello)
While, from time to time, the Union was involved in strikes over its own issues and through being drawn into strikes by other unions, it also gave moral and financial support to countless strikes around the country. And although, as pointed out in the chapter on arbitration, the Court was looked to as a means of establishing basic rates of pay and conditions, the Arbitration Act’s use to prevent strikes was far from accepted. Where the Act was used to this end, it had little effect when a proposal to strike was raised. Workers on jobs made it clear that the right to strike was theirs to invoke and while the laws sought to remove this right, the simple fact of going on strike, was an assertion of that right.
The sacrifices that striking entailed were great, for the workers and for their families, and were such as to expose the empty arrogance of those who asserted that workingmen struck for no valid or serious reason and without the deepest consideration of the consequences before taking action. Such accusations only emanated from anti-worker elements among employers, governments, the press, and was believed by some who were indirectly and unintentionally affected by a stoppage. But, what it meant by way of near-starvation and deprivation in other respects, was always prominent in the thinking of those who felt constrained to take action over some wrong or need. In the period here under review, action was taken without consideration of when the strike might end and this, too, weighed heavily on those making the decision.
Soon after the reformation of the Union, a strike occurred at Mort’s Dock over rates of pay:
Mr. Johnston Delegate for Hill gang reported that the men employed by Mr. Hill had come out on strike for nine pence halfpenny per hour while working on chipping on the pontoons of the Atlas Dock as they thought it would not be right for them as union men to do the same work as the Painters at less pay than the Painters…..
Moved by Mr. Lynch & seconded by Mr. Walsh That a deputation wait on Mr. Christie (Dock Master and later Works Manager) re the strike & endeavour to settle the matter to the best advantage. carried. (Minutes, 22/5/1900)
At its meeting on 17th July, the strike continuing until then and a previous meeting having voted three shillings and sixpence per day strike pay,
The deputation reported having waited on Mr. Franki (Works Manager) and stated that Mr. Franki would be willing to pay 9d. per hour to the men who were getting less & that he would pay the Painters time and a quarter for the first two hours and time & half afterwards for overtime & that if they were called in after eight o’clock at night he would pay time & half right through. The overtime rate for the other men to be the same as usual.
This was regarded as unsatisfactory, and the matter was adjourned until the next meeting. The issue was aggravated by the use of non-union men on some of the work, so that weeks dragged by without a settlement. After a number of conferences with Management, including the Dock Master on one occasion, and the Works Manager on another, attending a Union meeting to argue their case, the matter was eventually settled with a rate of 10d. per hour, except "on new work" which became a separate issue when
A letter was received from Mr. Franki re new work asking that the wages be nine pence halfpenny on new work. Proposed and seconded that the letter be not entertained. Carried….Moved by Mr. George & seconded by Mr. Ellis that we do not allow any of our members to work for less than tenpence per hour at painting etc on any s/boat after Saturday Sept 29th. carried. (Minutes, 24/9/1900)
Towards the end of 1900, the Union was embroiled in a strike over the employment of non-union men at Mort’s Dock
The Secretary reported having with the President interviewed Mr.Armstead about employing 2 non-union members & stated that the members of the union could not work with them. Mr. Armstead said that he would knock the men off but that he would see further into the matter. & sent for Mr. Christie & Mr McIntosh who stated that on this occasion he had employed all hands in the paddock before he put these men on. Mr McIntosh explained the position he was in when he wanted to get a ship out of Dock and could not get Union men. The work had to be done & he had to get somebody to do it. But if the Union would assist he would guarantee that he would not put on non-union men while there was a Union man in the Paddock. He asked the delegate to lay the matter before the union at there next meeting. (Minutes, 19/11/1900)
This did not resolve the matter and a Special Meeting had to be called to deal with it.
A Deputation consisting of Mr Montgomery Mr Dulstone & Mr Watters stated that they had waited on Mr McIntosh & Mr Christie this morning and asked him to knock off these non-union men as the Union had an agreement with Mr McIntosh that he must not employ non-union men while there are union men available. Mr Christie stated that he would not knock these men off & the Union could do as they liked in the matter. The Delegates had no other course but to call the men out.
Moved by Mr Creighton & seconded by Mr Mott That all present agree with the course taken by Delegates (that is to call all hands out.) carried.
During the meeting, Mort’s Dock’s Mr.R McIntosh sent in word that he wished to see the Deputation he had spoken to that morning. This was agreed to by the meeting. But then the delegation returned to advise that the Works Manager, Franki, was outside. The meeting then decided that the men be authorised to meet Franki and they once more left the meeting.
The meeting then went into harmony until the return of the Deputation.
The Deputation that waited on Mr Franki reported that he had stated if these non-union men were willing to join the union we should accept them & go to work.
Moved by Mr Hindes & seconded by Mr McKew That we accept Mr Franki’s proposal on being put to the meeting it was lost by an almost unanimous vote there being only two votes for Mr Hindes motion.
Moved & seconded that a Committee be formed to carry out strike. Carried. (Minutes, 11/12/1900)
The strike continued and deputations "waited on" the Minister for Works, Mr. O’Sullivan and Mr Franki (the company’s Works Manager). In itself, it was somewhat remarkable that the Works Manager had "waited on" the Union to put forward a proposal for settlement of the strike.
In a weekly newspaper, entitled The Co-operator, whose Managing Editor was James Howard Catts, a Member of Federal Parliament, a history of the early period of the Union was contained in its issue of Monday, 7th October, 1912, which was a special Eight Hours Day Souvenir Edition. It included a note on the strike
Representations were made to the then Minister of Works, the late Hon. E.W.O’Sullivan, by the employers for the supply of men from the Labour Bureau. Before coming to a decision, the Minister sent for a representative of the Union. After hearing their case, he said in his characteristic style, "Not one damn man shall be sent from the Labour Bureau. I’ll see to that".
The matter therefore resulted in a tussle between the employers and the Union in a clear cut issue. The Domain was searched and forty scabs unearthed and brought up to work on board s.s. "Oak Branch". The Union pickets hearing that blacklegs were on board, set out in a small boat and boarded the vessel. One of the pickets, a lusty young fellow, now in the railway department, went to the group of scabs huddled together on the hatch, and explained the position to them, one rather more nervous than the rest, jumped over the side and got a bath, perhaps the first he had for some time.
The vessel was docked, and as the scabs in question were proceeding to do the painting, a stronger protest came from an unexpected quarter. The women living in the immediate district, congregated round the street at the head of the dock, and showered decayed vegetables, etc., at the would-be strike-breakers. The apprentices then took a hand, and within an hour or so, there was not a scab on the ship. The strike terminated in three and a half days, the point being won by Union and held up to the present.(re E.W.O’Sullivan see Appendix 8 (20).)
Some months after the strike, the Labor Council convened a meeting in the Protestant Hall in support of O’Sullivan when he was attempting to introduce legislation concerning day labour and a minimum wage. When the Labor Council’s action was reported to a meeting of the Union
A discussion ensued in regard to the dilatory manner of Council in getting a reply from the Minister of Works re wages paid by companys using Government Docks….(Minutes, 9/4/1901)
The deputation reported to a meeting on having met the Minister for Works
to explain our side of the case as Mr Franki had explained his side to him this morning the Minister would not give an opinion untill he heard our side. after he had heard the case explained to him he stated that we were quite right in the action we had taken but that if we could see our way clear to come to a settlement we should try & do so as soon as possible & not let these two non-union men stand in the way of keeping over 200 men out of work. Report received.
Deputation that waited on Mr Franki reported that he had made certain proposals in the form of an agreement. Moved and seconded that we do not accept Mr Franki’s agreement. Carried.
Proposed by Mr. O’Toole & seconded by Mr Creighton That this Union is willing to return to work & will pay two non-union men that knocked off & pledge themselves that for the amicable working of both parties they will discuss the necessity of altering Initiation Rule at an early date & for the future working if there are not sufficient Union men available the Company are to have the right to put on whom they please on the hurried jobs. Carried. (Minutes, 14/12/1900)
This about-face was not explained or in any way justified in the Minutes. A conference was arranged with the company for the following morning, at which Christie stated that he could not see any difference between the Union’s decision and the proposal put forward by Franki. Following the Friday night meeting and the conference with the management the next morning, there was an immediate resumption of work, after a strike lasting three and a half days.
The next occasion when the Union was involved in strike action was in May, 1901. The Secretary reported to a meeting in the Royal Oak Hotel that the Ironworkers Assistants had come out on strike for a wage of seven shillings a day and had requested to be heard by the Ship Painters and Dockers Union which was agreed to and
The deputation then entered & explained that the fireman of the Dock Boiler was a member of their union & had been called out & the driver of the slip engine had taken his place & we should try our utmost to get him removed as he was a blackleg.
The Deputation were assured that we would do our utmost to assist them.
Moved & seconded that a hearty vote of thanks be accorded the Deputation. Carried by acclamation to which the deputation responded….A discussion then ensued on the action we should take in reference to the Ironworkers Assistants & it was moved by Mr Jno O’Toole & seconded by Mr J Creighton that the Secretary be instructed to write to Ironworkers Assistants Union expressing our earnest & true sympathy with them in their endeavour to secure a higher wage but at the present time we do not think it necessary to take the decisive step of coming out but should the necessity arise we shall not fail in our duty as unionists. On being put to the meeting the motion was carried. (Minutes, 20/5/1901)
A fortnight later, however, a Special Summons meeting was called in the Union Rooms, Royal Oak Hotel, where the President explained the need for the meeting. A letter had been received from the Ironworkers Assistants Union, officially requesting action against the blackleg. When debated by the meeting, it was finally decided against strike action at that stage, but that financial support be given. During the debate, Tarlington argued that it was contrary to the Union’s Rules to work with the blackleg and O’Toole argued that the Union should not take direct action unless other unions did so. (Minutes, 19/5/1901)
The Ironworkers strike continued and the Union meeting on 5th June was advised that the Labor Council had expressed sympathy with the strike but had taken no other action. The meeting made no decision on this information. But at the Union’s half-yearly meeting on 17th June, a request was received from the Labor Council for financial assistance for the strikers and a vote for £20 was carried.
Three days later, a Special Meeting was called, when fresh developments required the Union to re-think its position.
The Secretary explained the reason this meeting was called was that the Shipwrights decided not to dock or slip any vessels whereby any men were working detrimental to the Ironworkers Assistants Union who are now on strike. He explained that the executive of the Ironworkers & the Secretary of the Shipwrights had officially acquainted him of the fact & that he had called the executive committee together & they had instructed him to immediately wait on the Dock Master & tell him that on account of the action of the Shipwrights Union in refusing to dock or slip any vessel our members could not assist any non-union men to do so. While speaking to the Dock Master, Mr Christie, the Assistant Manager came on the scene & said that if they would not dock the ship to take them out of the works. The men then knocked off & the executive again met & they decided to at once call a special meeting of the union to discuss the situation.
Moved by Mr. Dulstone & seconded by Mr Jas Moore that the President & Secretary be instructed to call all the other members of our Union at work out for the action of the Dock authorities in summarily dismissing the Dockers for refusing to work with non-Union labour.
Moved & seconded that the President & Secretary proceed at once to the Dock & call all our members out. Carried.
The meeting then went into harmony until the return of President & Secretary. They returned at 4 o’clock & reported having done as they were instructed.
Moved & seconded that Mr Rasmussen be appointed to see if there were any members of the Seamen’s Union at work scrubbing ship in Dock. Carried.
Moved & seconded that we appoint a strike committee to work in conjunction with executive committee to carry out the business of this Union. Carried.
The following were elected as the committee: Mr Watters, Mr R Stewart, Mr Rugg, Mr Dulstone, Mr A H Walke, Mr J Lynch, Mr Tarlington, Mr P Huish, Mr Bell, Mr P Woods, Mr J George, Mr Patterson.
Moved & seconded that we hold our committee meetings at Star Hotel, and that members report themselves every morning. carried.
Moved by Mr Mahony & seconded by Mr O’Toole that a letter be sent to the Manager of the Dock explaining our action. Carried.
The Picquets were then appointed for the following morning.
Thus, the Union, after a strong nudge by the Shipwrights Union, went into serious and immediate action.
The Ironworkers’ strike dominated Union meetings. On 1st July, the meeting was advised that the strike committee, set up at an earlier meeting, had decided to send three of its members to a combined unions’ strike committee. As well, the Union’s committee had met with the executive of the Ironworkers Assistants Union and had discussed a distribution of funds from the Strike Fund. However, nothing final had been arrived at and the Union’s committee decided to send out canvassers with collection lists for Painters and Dockers only. The committee also recommended that the union withdraw "the sum of Seventy pounds (£70.0.0) from its Post Office Savings Bank & place the same in the Bank of New South Wales" as the basis for a strike fund for Painters and Dockers, from which each member on strike be paid seven shillings, "if they had not done a days work or more since the commencement of the strike". The committee’s recommendations were adopted.
Another meeting of the Union a week later had a report from the strike committee showing that the combined unions’ strike committee had decided that the Painters and Dockers should share in any moneys collected for the strikers. The combined committee also recommended that the Union withdraw its collection lists and re-issue them as part of the general collection of financial support.
An important aspect of the Mort’s Dock strike was the permission given to those on strike to work for any other employer not involved in the dispute and, in fact, where other work was offering, it was expected that striking members would take it as a means of relieving pressure on the limited Strike Fund. Thus, when a member, V.Bennett, made a claim for strike pay, he was refused on the grounds that he had refused work when sent to it by the union. (Minutes, 8/7/1901)
This meeting also had a report on an approach to the combined committee executive from the Rev. Blair and Mr.McDougal asking
if the men were willing to go to arbitration of a private nature, the men to appoint one arbiter & the employer one, the two arbiters to appoint a third he was to act as Judge & whose decision shall be final & a bond to be drawn up to be signed by the representative of the men and the employer & to be binding for twelve months. Immediately on the signing of such bond the men to go to work & the decision of the arbitration to be retrospective. The Committee had decided to agree to the letter with the following addition that either party’s delegate should have the power to bring in evidence & to forward same to Mr McDougall.
The Secretary reported having attended conference at Trades hall on Thursday July 4th & they had come to an understanding that all moneys that came through the Council from this date should be shared pro rata & that the Council had endorsed the action of the conference & also decided to call a special meeting on the following Thursday to devise some means to raise more funds for the men on strike.
The Secretary was also appointed to wait on the Ironworkers Assistants Executive to make the necessary arrangements for the collecting & distribution of funds. Boxes were also sent to the Gas Works for subscriptions. The committee decided not to pay strike pay on Saturday as they had not sufficient funds to meet it & it was decided to have a conference of both executives, which was held on Monday July 8th at 2 p.m. & they came to the following conclusion that all moneys coming in to strike fund should be pooled & that strike pay be paid to members of both unions out of this fund every man to have the same share …..
It was also agreed that moneys collected be paid in each Friday night. Levies to be also paid in on same night.
The Secretary of the strike committee handed over to our Union the sum of £21.6.0 to be added to the amount we had in hand which would give our members a strike pay of six shillings which was the amount they had been paid this week.
A discussion took place on the amount of` hours a member must work before he should be debarred from strike pay & it was moved by Mr Patterson & seconded Mr Tarlington that any member who has worked sixteen hours or more should not be entitled to strike pay. Carried.
Moved by Mr Woods & seconded by Mr Lynch that when hands are required at Cockatoo the men who had not worked sixteen hours but who had some time in be sent over first & that afterwards the names be taken in rotation & that they be sent there until they had completed their sixteen hours & in the event of them not finishing a job on completion of their hours they remain until such job is finished. Carried. (Minutes, 8/7/1901)
This was the first occasion on which the Union applied a roster principle for employment purposes, without demur from any members and, of course, without any employer intervention. There was, however, little work offering, possibly because employers limited their calls for labour while the strike continued. The same meeting dealt without explanation, with a motion to reduce the number of "picquets" at each post from two to one, but this was rejected by the meeting.
Two members informed the meeting that they had been employed on Saturday
At butchering & that they worked sixteen hours for Ten shillings & wanted to know if they were entitled to strike pay. It was decided to allow them to earn four shillings more before they should be debarred from strike pay, but they must pay the levy on the time they worked. (Minutes, 8/7/1901)
Notable in this strike was a gesture by Bushell & Company to supply a quantity of tea for distribution amongst "the married men belonging to our Union who were on strike". (Minutes, 15/7/1901)
Finally, the strike committee reported that the strike
had terminated on Thursday, July 11th at 3 o’clock and that the men could resume work again as the Arbitration Bond had been signed by both employers & the men. The points to be submitted were the Ironworkers letter of May 2nd 1901 & the employers letter of June 28th 1901. It was also decided that the arbiters should be appointed within six days & that the award should be given within one month & in the event of a difference in wages, the same to be paid within seven days & to be retrospective.
The Union was also advised that the combined strike committee had decided to meet twice a week until all matters in connection with the strike had terminated and
The strike committee of our Union then decided to disband as the business they had been appointed to do had ended. Previous to the breaking up of the committee they carried a unanimous vote of thanks to Mr George Dulstone for the energetic services he had rendered the Committee as strike secretary & also to Messrs Jno O’Toole, D.Watters & E H Tarlington for the able manner in which they conducted the business of this Committee at the Combined Executive Committee meetings. (Minutes, 15/7/1901)
At this meeting, the Secretary also reported on the share of moneys collected and paid to the Union by the Ironworkers, for the week ending July 12th,
which enabled him to pay a strike pay of Thirteen shillings per man & that he had paid strike pay on Saturday & also had a quantity of tea for distribution amongst our members.
It was also decided to pay the Secretary ten shillings per day from Friday July 11th to Wednesday July 27th inclusive "to allow him to fix up all business in connection with the strike". This was occasioned by the fact that the Secretary, Mahony, still had to work at his job while carrying out his secretarial duties. Other payments were made to members for various activities during the strike, such as collecting moneys at factories, attending strike committee meetings, assisting in payment of strike pay, etc. and a motion was carried that
the best thanks of this Union be accorded to the Strike Committee for the manner in which they had conducted the strike & also for the great personal inconvenience they put themselves to to the welfare of the members in general.
…. The matter of payment for the use of Rooms by Committee then came on. The Secretary stated that he had interviewed Mr C Ternen & he said that he did not require any payment for the use of his rooms as he was only too pleased to be able to render us any assistance.
After discussion it was decided to make a present to Mr Ternen for the use of his rooms as he declined to accept any payment & it was moved by Mr Jno Bell seconded by Mr Williams that the Secretary & Treasurer empowered to fix up this matter. (Minutes, 15/7/1901)
Mr C Ternen was the publican who had given the use of one of his rooms in his hotel (the Star Hotel) for use by the strike committee.
Among problems arising from the Union’s involvement in the strike were such matters as two members losing their collection books, a member receiving strike pay while also being employed full-time at the Criterion Theatre and gangers being victimised by not being reinstated in their positions. These matters were referred to the executive committee for attention by the meeting on 15th July, which also decided that no further levies would apply from the termination of the strike.
A week later, the Union meeting agreed to a Shipwrights Union proposal to recognise the services of the Rev. Mr.Blair and Mr.McDougall in bringing about a settlement of the dispute. However, the matter lapsed when, in September, other unions failed to co-operate.
From time to time, the Union had brief stoppages but, for some years, none as serious as its involvement in the 1901 Ironworkers’ strike. At the same time, it gave assistance to other unions involved in strikes, and lodged complaints with the Labor Council when some union did not carry out its traditional obligations, such as when the Professional Painters worked on the s.s. Eden after Painters and Dockers refused to work on her in sympathy with the Waterside Workers strike. The Secretary reported to a meeting
On March 18th, 1908, our members ceased work on s.s.Eden and s.s.Namoi and on March 19th the Coastal Company communicated with Sydney Trades Union of Painters when four men were sent by their Secretary and they accepted work on s.s.Eden. The Secretary of the Union (Mr.Roe) being unaware at the time that members of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union had ceased work. But the Executive regret to report that after the circumstances were made known members of the Sydney Trades Union of Painters continued to work on. (Minutes, 13/4/1908)
In August, the Union considered a request from the Sydney Labor Council for assistance for tramwaymen victimised after their strike. A motion to donate £2.2.0 was put up by Talbot who explained
That the object of the fund was to assist the members of the Tramway Union who had been victimised…. A the present time there were about 160 men whom the Commissioners would not employ and who were thus victimised through the action they had taken in strike.
Mahony put the matter in its proper perspective, when there appeared to be some doubt about complying with the request, stating
that this was an appeal issued by the Sydney Labor Council for the purpose of assisting men who had made a fight for principles which they considered just. The men who had been victimised were the officers of the union and members who had taken an active part in the strike. An appeal had been issued by the newspapers for the purposes regarding the loyalists (or as we know them blacklegs). The Employers Federation was donating £500.0.0 and with other donations the fund reached about £1300.0.0 As a counter blast to this it is necessary for the unions to show that they are equally willing to assist their side and render assistance as requested.
Mr Talbot in reply asked the members to carry the motion and show by our action that our sympathy is with the men.
The motion was ….. carried by 34 votes to 27. (Minutes, 31/8/1908)
Over many years, financial assistance was rendered to many unions involved in stoppages. Among some hundreds of striking groups of workers, who were given financial and other support were the following:
£3 donated 26/10/1908;
who had notified their employers that
They had a dispute at Cockatoo Dock when 4 members of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union were employed on the job but when the case was represented to them they immediately knocked off. They therefore desired to thank the union for the action of the 4 men in question. (Minutes, 25/11/1908);
for whom the largest donation ever voted up to that time by the Union (£10), was passed after the Secretary reported that the union could not afford the £50 first proposed. Two other motions were also carried
That this Union extends its heartfelt support and sympathy to the AMA Broken Hill in their battle against the mine owners and deplore the mean and cowardly action of the police in batoning and jailing honest workers.
That we condemn the action of the so-called labor leader Mr Fisher for his statement that he would send the military to Broken Hill if asked to do so. (Minutes, 18/1/1909)
With regard to this dispute, it appears strange that no Labor historian has found space to mention this anti-union statement by Andrew Fisher, soon to become notorious for his super-patriotic declaration at the outset of World War One that Australia would stand by Britain "to the last man and the last shilling". And W.A.Holman, State Labor leader, made the outrageous assertion that the lockout of the miners after sixteen weeks (it went for much longer) was due to two or three men belonging to the Industrial Workers of the World. W.G.Spence took note of various aspects of the lockout
The Broken Hill Proprietary Company had had about £12,000,000 out of its mine, while many of the others are collecting calls from their shareholders; but Premier Wade, instead of taking action against the rich law-breaking company, sent about 400 fully armed police to browbeat the men into submission. These police almost at once attacked the miners whilst they were relieving pickets in the usual orderly manner, and with rough handling arrested twenty-eight men, including the leader, Tom Mann…. Mr Darling chairman of the directors, asked that the military be sent to help enforce his starvation wage. He said that if the miners would give up gambling and drinking they could live on 7s.6d. per shift. Of the twenty-eight men arrested twenty-three were discharged by Mr. A.N.Barnett, S.M., and five were committed for trial. Of these the jury found no case against the leader, Tom Mann, and disagreed in the case of W.Rosser and Joseph Lyons. W.Stokes and John May were sent up for three years and two years respectively. H.Holland, a Socialist visitor from Sydney, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour for alleged seditious remarks. (Australia’s Awakening, W.G.Spence)
The lockout continued for twenty weeks and after the imprisonment of the five miners, the men returned to work on the BHP’s terms. In March, 1909, Talbot asked at a Union meeting how the Union’s delegates had voted at the Trades Union Congress on a motion moved by Peter Bowling, an official of the northern miners who,
represented more militant, class conscious, socialist tendencies in the labor movement. (In Case of`Oppression, Ray Markey)
Mahony answered that the delegates had voted in support of the motion which read
That this Congress enters its most emphatic protest against the authorities in changing the venue of the trial to Albury of the unionists arrested at Broken Hill, and hereby pledge itself to do all in its power to prevent the maladministration of the law, and to secure justice to those arrested.
The motion was defeated at the Congress, the reason being according to J.T.Sutcliffe, that discussion on it
left no doubt, however, as to the intention of the mover and his supporters. It was an attempt to pledge the Congress to the General Strike if other means failed to secure what they wished. A History of Trades Unionism in Australia, J.T.Sutcliffe)
Having received Mahony’s report on the Congress, Talbot then moved
That this Union is agreeable to cease work at any time in support of the Broken Hill miners.
The Secretary stated that Congress was considering the position and at the present time there was no necessity of carrying the resolution. Mr.Talbot therefore did not press his motion. (Minutes, 24/4/1909)
*At its next meeting, a vote of £3 for the Broken Hill miners was carried and £3 for miners locked out by the Commonwealth Oil Corporation at Newnes.
* The 5th July meeting decided to support the protest sheets sent by the International Socialist group for members to sign for the release of the men who were imprisoned during the Broken Hill strike. Talbot reported having attended a mass meeting in the Sydney Domain which
was very successful, the different resolutions being carried unanimously and he was of the opinion that it would be the means of stirring public opinion and thereby securing the speedy release of the men. (Minutes, 30/8/1909)
* The campaign for the release of the imprisoned miners continued and, in November, while voting £2 to the United Labourers Protective Society which was in financial difficulties, the Secretary also reported that miners throughout the State had taken action
Northern Miners had ceased work on November 6th. The Western and Southern Miners had ceased a day or two after, as a protest against the unfair conditions they were working under….for some considerable time every possible indignity was placed on the union. A systematic scheme had been adopted by the mine owners to smash up the Miners Federation that at last the miners had to take the step they did to protect themselves…. (Minutes, 22/11/1909)
The meeting’s response to this report was to carry a motion declaring that the miners had the fullest sympathy of the Union and "that we would be prepared to act any moment to assist them by ceasing work if necessary". This was followed by a further report from the delegates to the Labor Council, asked for by Talbot, on what had been done for the imprisoned men, who declared that "the unions are not true to themselves if something is not done to secure their release". The delegates reported that
The Executive of the Council had deputed Mr. Griffith to do certain things in reference to getting the men released. The Premier had been questioned about the matter and had stated that the men must do their full time. (Minutes, 22/11/1909)
On 6th December, 1909, the Union meeting was advised that the Combined Unions Committee at Broken Hill had presented the Union with a Certificate as a recognition of financial assistance rendered to the Broken Hill miners.
In September, 1911, a donation of £3 was made to the Lithgow miners and ironworkers and also a motion was carried
that this Union condemn the action of the present Government for jailing men under the Coercion Act.
The motion was moved by Talbot who pointed out that, with regard to the then State Labor Government
The Secretary of the ironworkers at Lithgow had got two months jail. The Government had taken no steps to repeal the Coercion Act.
The Secretary stated that the Government had introduced a measure to wipe out the Coercion Act last May but owing to the state of the parties in the House the Bill was only in its second reading stages.
In reference to the liberation of the Secretary of the Ironworkers he would be out in a day or two. (Minutes 25/9/1911)
This was the period when Labor governed under J.S.T.McGowen with W.Holman as his deputy. The Coercion Act had been introduced by the anti-Labor Wade Government in 1909 and was used to arrest and place in leg-irons the Broken Hill miners’ leader, Peter Bowling.
* On 9th October, 1911, appeals for assistance were complied with for the Glass Bottle Makers Union, the Labor Council on behalf of the Lithgow strikers and the locked out employees of the firm of Hoskins (Lithgow).
* In 1912, a Special Meeting on 19th February, was called to consider financial assistance for waterfront workers on strike in Brisbane. After a great deal of debate, it was a decided to vote the sum of £10 to the Brisbane Branch of the union and to strike a levy of one shilling per week for the striking workers generally. As well, it was decided to refuse to dock the s.s. Cornwall or any other vessel that was usually handled in Brisbane. Five days later, a special meeting of the Union was convened on a Saturday night, to consider issues arising from the strike The Secretary, Bob Mahony, reported to the meeting that
he had waited on Mr.Franki and told him that our men would refuse to work on the Prinz Waldemar and the Mourilyan. Mr. Franki had stated that he would have to dock the vessels. Information was sought as to the vessels on black list but a lamentable lack of communication was met with. A telegram was received from Brisbane asking us to block the Mourilyan. there were also on the list the Maslov, Arrawatta, Innaminka, Warrego. Steps were taken to block all vessels. owing to certain objection, by a large number of members the Committee thought it advisable to call a Special Meeting. Since that decision the docking of the Prinz Waldemar and Mourilyan was cancelled a letter to that effect being received from the dock company…. (Minutes, 24/2/1912)
A debate followed this report on the subject of what should be regarded as a black ship and a motion was put forward
That it is impossible and an injustice to ourselves to discriminate what is termed a black ship as now understood. And for the purpose of a clearer definition a black ship would mean a vessel that would be docked in Brisbane and is sent here and that we refuse to touch such ships.
This attracted an amendment and a further amendment, and finally the meeting decided by 75 votes to 14
That any vessel that is on the black list at Brisbane shall not be touched by members of this Union. (Minutes, 24/2/1912)
In the aftermath of the strike, a question was asked at another meeting as to what action had been taken against the man Turner who had scabbed on the s.s. Mourilyan and
The Secretary stated that he had blocked him from any work all round. Moved by Mr. J B Jenkins and seconded by Mr. E. Talbot that the name of W Turner be erased from the roll of membership. (Minutes, 25/3/1912)
In May 1912, the Union voted financial assistance to the Wonthaggi miners in Victoria and the Lithgow Prisoners Release Committee. At the same time, the meeting carried a motion
That this union of Ship Painters and Dockers consider the proposal of the Lithgow Release Committee the only effective step left as all attempts to secure the liberation of the strike prisoners by reasoning with the supposed Labor Government has failed and therefore we wish the release Committee every success and that such resolution be sent to Daily Papers. (Minutes, 25/5/1912)
The meeting was also advised that the Victorian Dockyard and Ship Labourers Union was on strike for an increase in rates to 1/5d. per hour and requested assistance from the New South Wales Union by stopping all vessels coming from Victoria. The Secretary was instructed to obtain a list of vessels likely to dock in Sydney.
In the case of the Gas Employees Union strike, in 1913, it was reported by the Labor Council delegates that a special meeting of the Council would be convened for a Saturday afternoon if agreement could not be reached and that this special meeting would also consider "the Proclamation by the Government". The Union meeting then decided
that our delegates to Congress be instructed to support a resolution condemning the Government for the issuing of the proclamation calling on the workers to scab on the Gas Workers. (Minutes, 10/3/1913.)
In October, 1913, a donation of £3 was made to the fund inaugurated by the Labor Council for the relief of the Dublin strike. (Minutes, 20/10/1913)
In November, 1913, the Secretary was instructed to find out all black ships coming from New Zealand with a view to these ships being called black here. (Minutes 3/11/1913). The Management Committee met a fortnight later, when the Secretary asked for a definition of a black ship from New Zealand and the Committee decided that any ship that had employed scabs to load or unload or to do any work in connection with Seamen or Coal Lumpers was a black ship. (Minutes, 11/11/1913). And, when reporting to a Union meeting a week later, the Secretary reported that "certain action had been taken" against "the Union Company boats for the purpose of carrying out the resolution of the Union". (Minutes, 1/12/1913)
On 29th December, he reported that the strike had ended.
A strike by Ironworkers was considered in 1914, when it was decided that
In the event of the Ironworkers trouble not being fixed up within one week a special meeting of this Union be held to consider ways and means of assisting them. (Minutes, 9/3/1914)
The outbreak of war in August 1914, did little to reduce the number of strikes, particularly amongst miners throughout New South Wales and donations were made by the Union to various groups of workers who found that the employers’ notion of a "war effort" meant pressing for reductions in wages and working conditions in the name of patriotism. At the outset of the year 1915, a request was received from the Newsboys for members not to purchase theEvening News or The Sun newspapers "as they were trying to increase the charges of papers to the boys". A decision was made for members to refuse to purchase these Papers "while the dispute exists." (Minutes, 11/1/1915). At a later meeting, a donation of £3 was made to the Newsboys in their dispute and
Mr Tarlington stated that the Newsboys strike could have been fixed up long ago if the Typographical Association had refused to print papers unless the boys got proper treatment. (Minutes, 27/1/1915)
The same meeting also received advice from the Labor Council of
Places of amusement which work under union conditions and asking members to assist Musicians Union by only patronising these places
And it was decided to adopt this course.
In October 1915, the Secretary reported to a meeting that he had been sent for to deal with a strike of painters and dockers at Cockatoo Island and
found that the men had held a meeting during the dinner hour when they decided not to start work unless time was allowed them to clean their hands and kerosene provided.
After discussion with Management, it was agreed that the men be granted five minutes for washing and kerosene be provided. (Minutes, 18/10/1915)
Support was given to shearers who were on strike despite lack of support from their union, the AWU, which, apparently considered that the demand for better wages should wait until the Award was altered. About 2000 were on strike in New South Wales and were holding meetings in the IWW rooms because the Labor Council had refused them a room. The IWW had collected £32.4.4 on their behalf. (Minutes, 7/8/1916.)
The Labor Council advised of a strike by Master Engineers employed by the State Trawling Industry and the Union decided that it would refuse to touch any State Trawlers manned by scabs. Another strike by Moulders was the subject of a conference arranged by the Labor Council and the Union elected three delegates to attend. (Minutes 8/1/1917)
On 19th March, 1917, £3 was voted to striking Meat Workers.
On 2nd August, 1917, 1100 men at the tramway workshops at Randwick ceased work against the introduction of the Taylor card system, an American "time and motion" system for checking every minute of a worker’s time. This set the scene for a general strike which soon spread like wildfire to almost every unionist in New South Wales (see Appendix 7). A Special Meeting of the Union convened Monday, 13th August, and received a report from the Secretary "on the latest upheaval " which had already involved wharf labourers and seamen, and decided
that this Union ceases work until the card system be withdrawn from the railways
Two days after this meeting, Mahony called a special meeting of the Management Committee to announce
That all salarys of officials of the Union should cease during the period of the strike. (Minutes, 15/8/1917)
This was endorsed by the Committee and was announced to a Special Meeting that night in the Oddfellows Hall in Balmain. At its next meeting, in a fortnight’s time, it was resolved
That the Management Committee have power to operate on the General Fund to relieve cases of distress amongst members. (Minutes, 27/8/1917)
The Painters and Dockers were among the last to return to work when the strike was called off during September, when the Tramways Union accepted the terms of a humiliating defeat involving loss of` jobs to scabs, victimisation and loss of accumulated credits from service before the strike. A Special Meeting in the Princess Theatre in Darling Street, Balmain, carried a motion from Ostler
That this Union while deploring the failure of the Railway and Tramway Union to continue to stand solid, agree to stand by the Tramways Federation and recommend to that body that no work be resumed until the Government withdraw the Court case against the five men who have been arrested. (Minutes, 11/9/1917)
Eventually, a meeting in the Oddfellows Hall, in Balmain, decided
That we return to work on Wednesday, October 3rd, providing this action is endorsed by the Transport Group. (Minutes, 26/9/1917)
In the aftermath of the strike, the Auditors reported that the Union’s Strike Fund had an income of £894.1.6 from which £701.7.6 had been disbursed, leaving a balance of £123 which was returned to the General Fund, which then stood at £170.17.0½. (Minutes, 7/1/1918).
One aspect of the strike appeared in a report to a January meeting concerning the Loyalist Wharf Labourers wearing medals with a crescent shaped hook which appeared similar to the Painters and Dockers medal. To avoid any inference that the Union was associated with what had been branded a scab union in the 1917 strike, members were advised to change their white medals for brass ones as soon as possible. (see Appendix 11(d))
In the period 1900-1931, the Union gave moral and financial support to over 150 strikes within and outside Australia. Among these many disputes were: A donation of £3 was made to the striking Sydney Coal Lumpers at the meeting on 21st January, 1918. Expressions of support and donations were also made to the striking miners at Broken Hill and Small Arms Employees (15/4/1918); Tobacco Workers, Seamen and Milk Carters (10/6/1919); Broken Hill miners (8/12/1919); Resch’s Brewery workers (5/1/1920); Broken Hill miners and Firemen and Deckhands (16/2/1920); striking Walleroo and Moonta miners (13/3/1922); Timberworkers in Hobart (20/5/1922).
At the Union meeting on 14th August, 1922, it was decided to adopt the call by the Labor Council
to notify their members to refrain from purchasing goods at Murdoch’s in Park Street who are the prime movers for the reduction in wages in the retail trade. This firm also employs non-union labour in their clothing factory.
As well, the meeting gave support to striking Moulders.
At the next meeting, a donation was made to the cause of the A.W.U. whose officials had been bound over by the Court
not to advise or direct the members of the union against the terms of the award during the present dispute of pastoral workers. (Minutes, 28/8/1922).
Support was expressed for bakers fighting against attempts to force them to return to night baking. This was a continuing fight by Bakers and their employers. (Minutes, 9/10/1922.) In 1924, it developed as a full strike and donations were made towards their dispute (Minutes, 28/1/1924 and 25/2/1924.))
On 23rd October, 1922, support was expressed for the strike by tailoresses in South Australia.
The Labor Council made a combined appeal "to the trade union movement of Australia" for the wives and children of striking Stovermakers, Sheetmetal Workers, Ironworkers and Boilermakers, and the Union responded with a donation (Minutes, 18/12/1922)
In 1923, the Labor Council sent out a call for assistance to the Coopers, on strike against a 48 hour week, and the Union agreed to make its donation (Minutes, 12/2/1923)
Towards the end of 1923, came the Labor Council’s advice of a dispute by the Police in Melbourne and an appeal for funds brought a decision to hear "Mr. Tucker" on the dispute at the next summons meeting.
On Wednesday, 31st October, 1923, a number of Melbourne policemen refused to carry out their duties under a new roster which placed them under constant surveillance by police inspectors. Their suspension from duty lead to a general stoppage of Victorian police and by Saturday much of Melbourne was without police. There was widespread rioting and looting before special constables restored order on the day. The Victorian Government acted with great severity towards the strikers and none of those dismissed was ever reinstated in the Victoria police force. Initially, there was sympathy for the police, whose wages and conditions were seen to be poor; when rioting developed, however, conservative opinion was soon marshalled against them. (from A Documentary History of the Australian labor Movement, 1850-1975, Brian McKinley; (see also Appendix 12(c).)
In 1924, a meeting of the union received a letter from the Labor Council concerning the Hairdressers "who have been trying for years to abolish Saturday afternoon work". And the meeting decided
That we pledge ourselves to assist the Hairdressers to get Saturday afternoon off by not visiting the saloons after 1 p.m. (Minutes, 22/9/1924)
Stovemakers on strike were given a donation at the meeting on 15th December, 1924.
A call came from the Labor Council for financial assistance for the crew of the s.s. Volumnia
who had been sent to gaol for 24 days and on completion of their sentence another batch of summonses were taken out by the master of the vessel. The men were on the second occasion sent to gaol for eight weeks, for refusing to be a party to a scheme of the Commonwealth Line to evade the Award of the Commonwealth Court. These men were on English Articles and would have been working against the interest of the members of the Australian Seamen’s Union. A donation of £3 was made. (Minutes, 9/5/1925).
This dispute, involving the Volumnia and the Eromanga, and the separate dispute with the Hunter River and Newcastle Company ships, became a serious issue for the Union, in that its application for a new Award was held up by the Judge, Sir John Quick, until a resumption of work in each case (see Appendix 12(e))
The Communist Party’s paper, The Workers Weekly, noted the position of the Union
The Ship Painters and Dockers Union is at present before the Federal Arbitration Court. The officials, under instructions of the Court, have ordered the men back to work. But the men have disobeyed instructions, and have refused to go back to work.
Mr. Justice Quick has clearly demonstrated which side of the fence he is on. He says that "the Volumnia trouble is a disgrace to a civilised community….It is worse than bushranging."
….The Labor Council at its last meeting carried a resolution congratulating the waterfront unions on their splendid, unanimous stand and appealing to all unions to contribute to the appeal made on behalf of the crew of the "Volumnia" who had refused to be used to lower the conditions of the seamen on the Australian coast. (The Workers Weekly, 27/3/1925)
A donation was made to the Liquor Trades Employees Union "who are putting up a strenuous fight for preference to unionists". (Minutes, 1/6/1925) The meeting also agreed to pay its quota of the cost of a handbill put out by the Labor Council during trouble with the Newcastle Shipping Company, entitled Unionists Don’t Scab!
The Union was caught up in the Marine Cooks’ strike in 1928. On 11th June, Standing Orders were suspended and the Secretary reported to the meeting that the Labor Council had instructed its Transport Group to meet on the Sunday morning to deal with "the trouble on the waterfront". However, the Group could not meet until Monday morning at 9.30 a.m., when the Secretary attended. The Group carried a motion of support for the claim by the Marine Cooks for increased staff on the s.s. Ulimara Eventually, after a protracted strike, they had offered to return to work without their demand being met. The decision of the Transport Group was
This Marine Transport Group expresses its condemnation of the Bruce Government in complicating the situation by intervening in the dispute by utilising the Crimes Act, instead of using the machinery at its disposal for compulsory negotiations between both bodies involved.
Realising the seriousness of the position now prevailing, and understanding what will probably happen, this Group calls upon the Federal Government to intervene, not by creating more trouble, but by immediately calling a conference of the representatives of the shipowners and the Trade Union movement. This Group has agreed upon the following policy:
After reviewing the whole situation, this Group supports the Marine Cooks in their dispute, and points out to the working class and the general public that the Marine Cooks are still standing to their original terms, i.e., that two extra men be employed on the Ulimara, but in order to relieve the deadlock in the shipping industry, the Transport Group has advised the Cooks and the Cooks are now willing to man the ships immediately, on the terms of the suspended award, leaving the matter which was in dispute, i.e. the extra manning of the Ulimara, to be the subject of discussion, if required, after the manning of all the vessels.
This Group therefore calls on the shipowners to end the deadlock immediately by at once manning all ships on the terms of the suspended award.
Failing Mr. Bruce assisting in a settlement of the dispute on the terms now submitted, this group in full accord with the whole of the Labor Council of New South Wales states without equivocation that, notwithstanding the threat of the Bruce Government to gaol working class representatives, it will carry on.
Now that the Marine Cooks have agreed to go back to work on terms outside of their original dispute, thus obviating any longer a deadlock on the waterfront, the onus is now upon the shipowners and the Government to end the deadlock.
The dispute can now be settled in one hour.
Copy of the resolution was given to the press, including The Sun, which published it together with an interview with the shipowners
….Shipowners’ representatives to whom the resolution was referred, said that it was a mere "red herring across the trail". The question of extra men for the Ulimara had faded into insignificance long ago. A far bigger issue had arisen --- the roster system. The shipowners were determined that the system must go. It was ridiculous to think for a moment that the Cooks, after holding up trade for months, could, with a mere wave of the hand, return to work with all their old privileges simply by withdrawing their claim for an increased staff on the Ulimara….. (The Sun, 11/6/1928)
1929, the year when the Great Depression officially began, saw a number of major industrial disputes, of which undoubtedly the Timberworkers strike was the broadest and most ravaging. Nevertheless, the lockout of the miners at the northern mines in New South Wales, in March, 1929, had widespread repercussions over the months that it continued. Since the Union relied to a great extent on the Labor Council for knowledge of strikes and calls for assistance, and since the Labor Council gave predominance to the Timberworkers strike over other disputes, the Union also gave predominant support to the Timberworkers.
Basis of the major 1929 strike was Judge Lukin’s award for timberworkers which provided for a return to a 44-hour week which those workers had continued to enjoy even after it was lost to other workers when anti-Labor State Governments destroyed the shorter working week introduced by the Lang Labor Government during 1925-1927. The Timberworkers struck in January, soon after Lukin handed down his award and a Special Meeting of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union was convened in February to consider a Labor Council recommendation on the extended working hours and reduced wages in that award. A motion was adopted
That the Timber Workers be notified that they have our moral support in their fight against the Lukin Award. (see Appendix 13(g).)
A second motion was then moved
That the request of the ACTU for financial assistance be adopted and that the Labor Council’s recommendation of striking a levy of 1/-d. per week be also adopted.
This attracted an amendment
That £50 be handed over to the Labor Council as a first instalment to alleviate the distress in the dispute and that a levy of 1/-d. per member be struck to reimburse the Union.
A Further Amendment then proposed
That the full Industrial Fund be set aside for the purpose of supporting the Timber Workers. The first instalment of £50 be paid in a fortnight’s time, same to continue until the whole fund is used up. Each successive £50 to be passed by the fortnightly meeting.
Voting on the two propositions resulted in the Further Amendment being carried, after which it was also decided that volunteers be called for, to take fund-raising coupon books around the jobs "to further assist the above". (Minutes, 18/2/1929).
Payments were made from the levy each fortnight until a Special Stop Work Meeting in April dealt with a notice of motion tendered at the previous meeting by J.Hagen, to donate a further £50 to the Timber workers. While there was a minimum of opposition to this, Bob Mahony supported it, and it was soon put to a vote and carried. However, a further consideration was opened up with a motion from Bill Swadling, which was carried
That a voluntary levy of 2/-d. per week be struck and that we support the wives and families of the Timber Workers that might be sent to gaol in the near future. (Minutes, 29/4/1929)
In May, further debate was opened up when E. ("Ted") Hill moved a motion of which he had given notice, to donate a further £50 to the strikers. In the ensuing argument, Brennan, one of the Union’s Trustees, belatedly, expressed his opposition on the grounds
That it is illegal to support any Organisation on strike and further stated that he had received legal advice on the matter and in view of that he did not feel inclined to sign any more cheques which would be drawn for the purpose of donating funds to the Timber Workers.
This was somewhat in keeping with the attitude taken by the ACTU and the Sydney Labor Council’s Disputes Committee, both of which bodies were concerned with the possibility of union officials being charged under Section 56D of the Amended Arbitration Act and the Crimes Act. The meeting completely disregarded this attitude and carried Hill’s motion. (Minutes, 27/5/1929)
Amongst the tactics applied by the Disputes Committee was the "mass picket", whereby as many as 1000 unionists were organised to picket a timber yard, George Hudson and Sons, being manned by scabs. This resulted in clashes with police and "non-unionists" and, in July, seven union leaders were arrested and charged with conspiracy involving the unlawful molesting and intimidation of the scabs. This action was brought before a meeting of the Union in early August when E.("Ted") Hill moved a motion, seconded by J.Hagen and carried unanimously
That this meeting of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union enters its emphatic protest against the arrest of the seven members of the Disputes Committee in connection with the Timber Workers Dispute on the framed-up charges of conspiracy. We fear that unless the workingclass of Australia wish to witness another frame-up as proved in the IWW trial, we enjoin them to resist by all possible means the railroading of workingclass leaders to gaol on baseless charges. This resolution to be conveyed to Labor Daily and Labor Council. (Minutes, 5/8/1929)
The same meeting also decided to make a further donation of £50 to the strikers and to donate £3 to the Labor Council’s appeal for them.
A month later, J.J.O’Reilly was given 10 minutes to address the Union meeting on the Labor Daily and its problems. He spoke of the fines inflicted on the paper for comments made in support of the strike and of the action taken against it by a "volunteer worker" (a scab) in the timber industry, named Jackson, V.C. O’Reilly was given "a hearty vote of thanks for the very able manner in which he put the case" and a donation of £3 towards the paper’s defence fund was voted. A motion to call a Special Meeting to consider voting a further £25 to the paper was withdrawn in favour of an amendment from Swadling and Slater for the matter to be referred to the Labor Council with a request that it strike a quota payment per union on all affiliated unions. The same meeting also received a letter from the Labor Daily expressing its thanks for the resolution of protest and to express regret because "they were prevented from publishing same as by doing so they would be aggravating their ‘contempt of Court’ offence" (Minutes, 2/9/1929).
On 16th September, the meeting made a further donation of £50 to the Timber Workers; on 30th September - £3 to the Labor Council’s appeal for funds for the strikers; on 28th October - £50.
At a Special Stop Work Meeting in November, the first business was a report from the Secretary on a meeting of union officials called to consider the trial of the seven men on conspiracy charges. That meeting was pleased to receive a report that a jury had thrown out all of the charges. (Minutes, 11/11/1929.)
On 9th December, the Secretary read to the meeting a letter from the State Labor leader, J.T.Lang, acknowledging receipt of the Union’s resolution expressing indignation at the anti-Labor Government’s attempt to railroad union leaders to gaol in the "interests of the Timber Combine". Apparently the letter made no comment on the resolution.
It is interesting to note from Miriam Dixson’s brief history of the strike
In New South Wales and Victoria, Disputes Committees of the Trades and Labor Councils took immediate charge of the timber dispute. As was the custom, officials were added from the unions most directly involved. The leading figures in New South Wales were amongst the most important trade union adherents of J.T.Lang, then Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly. They were: J.S.Garden, H.Denford and E.Voigt. The Timber Workers Union officials, J.Culbert, MLC and W.Terry, were numbered amongst Lang’s most faithful trade union followers. Other members of the Disputes Committee not associated with Lang were C.Reeves, M.P.Ryan and J.Kavanagh; although the latter was a prominent Communist and differed substantially on political issues from Lang’s followers, in essence he accepted the strategy for this dispute, as did Reeves and Ryan… (The Timber Strike of 1929, Miriam Dixson, A.N.U.)
It is worthy of note that the Crimes Act, the Arbitration Act and other Federal and State legislation aimed at shackling the unions, especially by making all forms of stoppage of work illegal, have continued in existence throughout the history of unionism. While Labor in Opposition has generally declared that it would get rid of the stultifying enactments of various State and Federal governments, the legislation remains, being amended from time to time to make it more draconian. Despite the wide-ranging statutes, however, strikes, though watered down in many ways (one-day stoppages, overtime bans etc.), still occur and thus teach the essential lesson: that the right to strike exists and is generally asserted at the moment when work ceases and remains a right until the strike ceases. No laws can eliminate the right of individuals or groups of individuals to stop work on some grievance or other cause. Elimination only occurs when workers themselves refuse to strike when the situation demands a cessation of work. Those who condemn strike action are more than likely to found in the ranks of those who refuse to buy commodities at outrageous prices or reject some form of service because there is no guarantee of safety or health matters.
Concurrently with the Timberworkers’ strike, ran the coalfields lockout for some nine months, during which police shot and killed one young miner. At its meeting on 18th December 1929, E.Murphy and the Branch Secretary, Jack McDonald moved successfully
That we the members of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union, New South Wales Branch, protest against the action of the Bavin Government in employing the police to shoot down miners and murdering Norman Brown at Rothbury Coal Mine and we herewith pledge ourselves to both morally and financially support the miners to the utmost.
In the State House, Jack Lang, M.L.A. took the Government to task over the issue with a motion of censure:
That it is a matter of urgent necessity that this House should forthwith consider the following motion: "That this House deplores the loss of life which occurred at Rothbury yesterday, and censures the Government for permitting the use of the State police to further the efforts of the mine-owners in their attitude of open defiance of the law."
…..I think it can be shown that the only persons guilty of unlawful conduct since the beginning of the lock-out are the mine-owners, who have been supported right through by the present Government…..
But I want to know what answer the Government is going to give the people when they ask why it ordered Australians to shoot down their fellows in an industrial dispute. It must come as a revelation to the people that in this country it is still possible for a Government to compel the workers at the point of a revolver to work for a lower wage than that prescribed by a lawful tribunal….
When the second advance was made by the men, the constable was not sent out again. That did not fit in with the Government’s plan of "going the miners". This time the police fired on the ground in front of the men. Was there someone in authority who gave an order similar to that which the notorious Colonel Tom Price issued years ago to the military when the striking shearers were shot down? Was the notorious order of that notorious Colonel Tom Price --- "Fire low and lay ‘em out, boys" --- used at Rothbury yesterday as it was used by Price in Queensland years ago? (Hansard,17/12/1929, pp 2518-19.)
While the Union was involved in various strikes, it continued with its own fight for a 44-hours week, by its ban on Saturday work, from 1925 until 1935.