My Union Right or Wrong.
A history of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union 1900-1932
By Issy Wyner
In 1901, Mahony's proposal for the Union to affiliate with the Eight Hours Committee was adopted and two members, George Dulstone and G.Buchanan, were elected to represent the Union on the Committee. As well, a committee of three members was elected to enquire about production of a banner for the next Eight Hours Day March. A week later, Mahony reported that the Union had been accepted as a member of the Eight Hours Committee and the sum of £4 was voted to the Committee. (Minutes, 22/7/1901and 22/7/1901)
Later, Mahony reported to a Special Meeting, having discussed with Messrs. Althouse & Geiger and with J J Legge & Co. the price for making a banner. Althouse and Geiger offered to make a banner 12 feet by 10 feet for about £80 and would have it ready by Eight Hours Day if they could procure the silk. They offered to submit a design for approval by the Union. As an alternative, they offered to make a banner from sateen, ten feet by ten feet with the name and scroll for £9. J.J.Legge & Co offered to make a banner twelve feet by ten feet for £80 but would not have it finished by Eight Hours Day. They would take a series of photos of various aspects of the Union's work and submit a design. Alternatively, they would make a small silk banner for £5. (Minutes, 29/7/1901.) The matter was deferred for a week. In the event, the next meeting decided "that we procure a silk banner, 4 x 3, for five pounds" and elected a committee of five to report on a special display for the procession. (Minutes, 6/8/1901.) A further meeting decided to pay the Secretary fourteen shillings for his time lost in making enquiries about a banner, this being a time when the Secretary was not a full-time paid position and the incumbent was obliged to work in the industry. (Minutes, 12/8/1901.)
A Special Meeting noted advice from the Eight Hours Committee concerning
the height of overhead wires in the streets of Sydney that the Procession passes & also that the Height of Exhibits on Display must not exceed 17 feet from the roadway.
and the Committee reported on the display it proposed to produce for the day and its probable cost and recommended
That we have a boat rigged up as a Barque on a Trolley with men engaged at painting her & that we have a Trolley with a Diver at work to be surrounded with Green Gauze to represent the sea & to also have men carrying the different emblems of our calling & they estimated the probable cost at about Ten pounds. They would also recommend ... procuring Badges for the members on that day.... adopted. (Minutes, 26/8/1901.)
And a proposal to obtain special badges for the Day was adopted at a meeting when the tender price of £4.10.0 for 360 badges made of "silk with a silver fringe" was accepted and a charge of threepence each was also agreed to. (Minutes, 9/9/1901.)
This meeting was advised also of other decisions by the Eight Hour Committee, such as,
when the order of procession was discussed & they decided to have a band leading every third Society. The draw for positions resulted in the Letterpress Printers leading the procession & the Seamens' Union the last. our Union drew the second last position & strange to report the smallest union leads the procession & the largest union brings up the rear. The route of the Procession is from Domain to Moore Park. Mr. Dulstone was appointed starter for the Sports & Mr Buchanan was appointed on the Gates. (Minutes, 9/9/1901.)
A report from the Eight Hours Committee to the next meeting advised that invitations had been sent to Members of Parliament, Judges etc, to attend the banquet and sports activities on the day. The Union's committee organising for the procession reported and recommended
a slight alteration in their original scheme & they intended to have blocks rigged up on the second lorry & men at work with the ram & they also recommended that their (sic) should be a uniformity of dress among the men taking part in display & that the painters should ware (sic) blue dungaree pants & jumper & the dockers brown pants & white shirts. (Minutes, 23/9/1901.)
(NOTE: the blocks referred to were known as keel blocks which were set in position lengthwise along the centre of the dock floor, looking somewhat like a herring-bone, on which the ship was settled when dry-docked. The ram was a heavy hardwood piece of timber, some four to five feet long, eight to ten inches square, with a heavy iron band on the end to prevent the timber from fraying, to which were attached four short ropes, each held by one docker. After a ship was docked, and all water pumped out of the dock, any work to be done on a part of the keel of the ship would require removal of one or more of the keel blocks on which the ship was sitting. This ram, held horizontally at the end of the ropes, was swung with great force in order to loosen and then remove the keel blocks, and later, after repairs to the keel, to replace the blocks. It was heavy work, done by men in crouched positions under the ship; it was impossible to stand erect for the keel blocks stood no more than three feet six inches high.)
Thus, in the early days of the reformed Union, it joined the forces calling for an eight-hour day, which, of course, did not imply an immediate forty-four hours week. In other words, the achievement of an eight hours day simply meant that work on any of the six working days (Monday to Saturday, inclusive) was limited to eight hours above which overtime would commence. Thus, at that time, the working week was to remain at 48 hours, an improvement on earlier, 19th century, 52 and longer hours. But the demand was for the three 8s: "8 hours labor, 8 hours recreation, 8 hours rest".
It is interesting to note the comments of the Commonwealth Statistician, G.H.Knibbs, in his Official Year Book for 1901-1911, with regard to working conditions, of which the hours of labour are the most important,
....rapid changes in laws regulating industry occur and are likely to occur. To a great extent the trades unions were responsible for these laws. They steadily and continuously urged an amelioration of the condition of the working man, and by organisation and discipline they presented a united front to opposing forces, and attained many advantages by a recognition of the principle that unity is strength. Their efforts have resulted in improved conditions, particularly shorter hours, a healthier mode of life, and safeguarding against accident. One great aim of present-day industrial legislation has been said to be to extend "the reasonable comforts of a civilised community" to those engaged in every branch of industry. (p.1039)
Knibbs then set down the history of the achievement of the eight-hour day in the various States, noting that
. . . . . In New South Wales, the operative masons obtained the eight hours concession in 1855, after a strike; but little development of the movement was noticeable until 1871, in which year four eight-hour trades --- the brickmakers, stonemasons, labourers, and carpenters --- inaugurated the annual celebration. (p.1040)
There were those in the Union who were discontented with various aspects of the Eight Hours movement and their views were expressed in motions put to meetings of the Union from time to time. In 1910, E.Talbot moved that the Union withdraw its affiliation with the Eight Hours Committee, declaring that he "strongly objected to walk with scab unions", a reference to the Trolley and Draymen’s Union, but no reasons were given for this attitude. Talbot’s motion opened up a wide debate on the matter, in which other reasons were cited, such as the fact that the anti-Labor Premier, Wade (whose "Coercion Act" saw the miners’ leader, Peter Bowling, taken to gaol in leg-irons), had been invited to the Labor Council’s Eight Hours banquet ("we don’t want to drink good health to our enemies"). But, the supporters of the affiliation won the day. (Minutes, 28/2/1910.) Towards the end of 1910, Ostler, a member of the IWW, made a further move for disaffiliation, arguing that the Eight Hour Day march "was simply advertising the Employer’s goods". But once more the meeting rejected the proposal. (Minutes, 12/9/1910.)
Running parallel with the somewhat muted demand for an eight-hour day, in 1908 the Union's delegates to the Trade Union Congress (Mahony and Talbot) reported that, inter alia, they had supported a motion from the Sydney Labor Council "in favour of 44 hours being a legal weeks work". (Minutes, 27/4/1908). On that occasion, the Congress did not carry the motion.
When considering "ways and means" of bettering working conditions in 1915, Swadling moved successfully at a Union meeting that a claim be made for a 44 hours week (Minutes, 29/11/1915) and the Management Committee took up this decision by preparing a log of claims for a new award, which opened with a claim for a 44-hour week (Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 12 noon.) (Minutes, 6th and 7th December, 1915.) The employers rejected this claim outright and it was not pursued further at that stage. (Minutes, 12th June, 1916.)
The Eight Hours Demonstration in 1916 was held on Saturday 18th November, which the Government had declared a public holiday. This date had been determined after the march had to be postponed from 2nd October "due to inclement weather". (Minutes, 16/10/1916.) In the following year, a dispute arose over the refusal by the Management at Cockatoo and Garden Islands to recognise the holiday, but the Minutes record no action over the loss of this condition. It was 1923 before the Shipbuilding Tribunal, which had oversight of such matters in Government yards, upheld the Union's claim for payment for Eight Hour Day as a public holiday. (Minutes, 19/11/1923.)
In 1918, the Union agreed to meet the Carpenters and Joiners Society "to consider a 44-hour week", and elected Wheeler, McDonald and Talbot as delegates to attend the proposed conference. (Minutes, 19/8/1918)
No report on the result of the conference was recorded. And the matter did not surface again until the Union's half-yearly meeting in 1920, when Mahony reported on his attendance at a conference of unions in the shipbuilding and ship repair industry. (Minutes, 5/1/1920.) The conference had discussed methods for establishing uniformity of working conditions in the industry and had decided to send a deputation to the Government to claim a 44-hour week and an increase in wages to meet the increased cost of living. The most that this delegation could achieve from this meeting was an assurance from the Prime Minister, Hughes, that he would give the matter careful consideration. (Minutes, 1/3/1920)
In 1919, the Union, with 150 members marching, was awarded the second prize for the best dressed group and the best matched pair of horses and decided to give the prize money (£5) to the lorry driver who had carried their float each year. (Minutes, 13/10/1919.)
At the end of March, 1920, advice came from the Labor Council of a proposed special Trade Union Congress to consider the demand for a 44-hour week. The campaign for a 44-hour week was at this time, gathering momentum throughout the union movement. Impetus had been added by the decision of Hughes to introduce legislation which specified that any change in standard hours (48 per week) could only be dealt with by a full bench of the Arbitration Court. This Act led to Judge Higgins resigning as Chief Justice of the Arbitration Court, because it overrode his decisions in a number of cases in which he had granted the shorter hours. His replacement, Justice Powers, soon showed the difference between the two judges, as the new broom set about ensuring that no union would have reduced working hours.
Later in the year, a Special Meeting of the Union, gave consideration, among other matters, to a log of claims for a new award. This log, prepared by the Management Committee, included a reduction in working hours to 44-per week to be worked in 5½ days, and any work outside these hours to be paid for at double time. (Minutes, 2/8/1920.) This decision caused Mahony to advise the Union not to join the Iron Trades Group action for a 44-hour week "as we were now serving a new log on the employers". (Minutes, 13/9/1920) But, later, he reported that the Labor Council had taken a case for a 44-hour week to Mr. Justice Higgins and the Union agreed to give financial support to this case. (Minutes, 28/12/1920.)
Mahony reported to a meeting in the following year that he had met the President and delegates of the Shipwrights Union, concerning that Union's decision to work only 40 hours per week
until the employers agreed to pay the rate they were entitled to under the 44 Hours Act. They said they wanted an assurance from us that we would not assist to dock vessels while they were off. The assurance was given them and in return they were asked to assist us by stopping their members handling and slinging timber or doing any work that should be done by our members. They agreed to bring the matter before their next meeting. (Minutes, 29/8/1921.)
The meeting endorsed the Secretary's action. The Shipwrights' claim was based on New South Wales State legislation (introduced by the Storey Labor State Government, which only ran from April 1920 until October, 1921) which did not cover workers employed under Federal Awards. The Storey Act was repealed by the later anti-Labor Nationalist State government in 1922.
In this period, when the struggle to reduce working hours was intensifying, Jim Hagan, noted, in his The History of the A.C.T.U.,
Both the coming and the going of the shorter working week were accompanied by considerable industrial dispute and resentment. In New South Wales, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company virtually closed down their Newcastle steel works for six months (November 1921-May 1922), rather than operate it on the terms of the 44 hour week and the Engineers' award. In Western Australia engineers struck in an attempt to hold the 44 hour week after Mr. Justice Powers varied their award, and remained out for seven months until they were forced back to work.
The employers' objection to the shorter working week was simple --- it would ruin them. They claimed that, given the existing levels of tariff protection, Australian manufacturing could barely survive. Whether weekly hours could be shortened therefore depended on an increase in productivity, and according to the employers a significant increase in productivity depended on the introduction of payment by results and piece-work schemes.
In this regard, the view expressed by Jim Hagan was more fully expressed by Judge Alfred William Foster in his judgment granting the forty-hour week in 1947, (see Appendix 8 (6).)
The employers' total lack of concern for workers' health and safety was clearly demonstrated in their attitude towards shorter hours --- the fact that the long working hours led to excessive tiredness, inability to concentrate and loss of vigilance over the many and varied hazards, of being subjected to the noise, dust, fumes, etc., meant nothing to companies bent on achieving ever-increasing profits. The fact that reduced hours of labour could be a major factor in saving workers' lives, limbs and health and could have the double effect of also providing employment for many of those out of work, was met with the age-old complaint of reduction in profits by such conditions. Employers' opposition to reductions in working hours has never varied, from the times of 12-hour-days and six or seven days per week until the eventual achievement of the 35-hours (and in some cases, 37½-hours) week. Despite all the complaining and opposition based on loss of profits, industry continued to flourish, profits continued to be drawn, nothing of a calamitous nature occurred from the achievement of progressively shorter hours of labour.
The Union's log of claims in 1921, submitted to the employers for response, brought a request from the shipowners to defer the demand for 44-hours until the end of the year when the existing agreement ran out. But the Union decided to advise employers that it is our intention to work under such log as from January 1st 1922.
Towards the end of the year, Mahony reported on the Court's rejection of the 44-hour claim lodged by the Labor Council. (Minutes, 5/12/1921). This decision was made at the height of the opposition to shorter hours, in a period when unemployment was rife, and the Federal Government, Courts, the Board of Trade and other authorities capable of determining such matters, stood unitedly against any proposals favourable to reduced hours. In hisIn Case of Oppression, Ray Markey noted
In early 1920 and 1921, the building trades and maritime unions also struck over the 44-hour issue. Their success was followed by State legislation in support of a 44-hour week, and Justice Higgins granted Commonwealth awards for the same to the AEU and the Timberworkers. However, Prime Minister Hughes responded with legislation requiring a full bench of the Court for variation of standard working hours. Higgins thereupon resigned, because he interpreted this action as an attack upon his integrity.
Justice Powers became the new Chief Justice of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. He joined a full bench which overturned Higgins' reductions to working hours, upon appeal from employers, and rejected all further union applications for reductions. (p.204)
By 1923, with the forty-eight hour week re-established everywhere, the struggle for shorter hours continued, and reports were given to Union meetings of calls from the Labor Council for financial assistance for the Coopers in their fight against the 48 hours, and advice that a delegate from Western Australia would address the Council on the fight in that State (Minutes, 12/2/23.) And Swadling and Shepherd successfully moved
That a letter of congratulations be forwarded to Mr. Harrington (through the Balmain Branch of the Ironworkers Assistants) in the able fight he put up for the employees of the Balmain Council on the 44 hours.
And a letter of thanks was received from the Boilermakers Society for the Union's "valuable assistance to them in their recent trouble on the question of 44 hours" (Minutes, 12/3/1923.)
Although the Union was engaged in supportive activities for various unions on the shorter hours issue, and generally showed a keen awareness of every move made in this direction, it is interesting to note that, at a Special Stop Work Meeting of the union held on 21st September, 1925, no mention was recorded of the Lang Government's passing of the Shorter Hours Act, providing for a forty-four hours week in New South Wales, on 16th September, 1925. While, undoubtedly, Mahony, as a member of the Upper House, would have been fully aware of this Act and would have been eager to report on it to the Union, it was also an Act which would not directly affect Painters and Dockers, who were covered mainly by a Federal Award. The minute-taker, apparently, did not consider any mention of this matter being of significance to record.
Nevertheless, the Union made a momentous decision in 1925 to work only a five day week (No Saturday Work) until they were granted a 44-hour week. This decision led to the Union being debarred from obtaining a new award for some ten years and was regarded as one of the longest strikes in the history of Australia.
This decision resulted in a notice being stuck up around the works at Mort's Dock declaring
We regret to announce that owing to the Ship Painters and Dockers refusing to work their Award, these works will be closed on Saturday 23rd. inst. 1926
Apprentices to remain at work. Wages for lying time will be paid noon Monday 25th 1926.
January, 1926T.H.Silk. General Manager
At the same time Mort's Dock notified the Arbitration Court of the Union's decision and a hearing was set down for Monday, 8th February, 1926, the Union being summoned to attend and
Show Cause why you should not be ordered by the Court to pay such penalty not exceeding five hundred pounds (£500) as the Court shall deem fit for that since the twenty first day of January One thousand nine hundred and twenty six certain members of you the said trade union have been taking part in and are still taking part in an illegal strike within the meaning of the said Act as amended of employees of the said Company at Mort's Dock Balmain Sydney aforesaid contrary to the provisions of the Arbitration Act 1912 and the Acts amending the same.
No action was taken on that occasion against the Union and the ban on working more than 44 hours per week continued.
The matter once more came before Conciliation Commissioner A.M.Stewart on 30th August, 1928, when the Commissioner asked what trades were involved in the docking of ships and Captain Walton on behalf of the shipowners stated
The two trades involved particularly in shipping, are the shipwrights and the dockers. By the action of the dockers and the shipwrights in both refusing to obey the award and work on Saturdays, the docking operations so far as Saturday is concerned are a dead letter in Sydney. They have knocked one day out of the dock and it has not only inconvenienced the shipowners but there is also a loss of earnings in the dock. Docking has ceased since both unions took action at the same time in refusing to work on Saturday. The thing is stupid in this way, that you may have a large vessel in dock and your work may take you just past midnight on Friday, and so far as they are concerned the ship has to remain in the dry dock until Monday morning before she can undock.
. . . . . . . .
MR. MAHONY: I understand the manager of Mort's Dock offered our people time and a half to work on Saturdays when I was one of the members of the conference that met him, and you suggested another conference. I said, "what about renewing your offer" but he withdrew the offer. I said, "If it was good enough to make the offer about 12 months ago what about making it now?" but he would not do it. I reported back to the men, but we have no control over them and they decided on this course.
THE COMMISSIONER: But you must control them and keep them up to the collar. ....
(Transcript of hearing before A.M.Stewart, Conciliation Commissioner, 30th August, 1928.)
In a further hearing before Conciliation Commissioner A.M.Stewart, on 25th June, 1929, concerning a log of claims by the shipowners the matter was considered
THE COMMISSIONER: What is the point as to hours then?
MR. MAHONY: For 2½ years now, as far as Sydney is concerned, they have been working about 44 hours. .....
THE COMMISSIONER: You work 44 hours and you are paid at an hourly rate, are you?
MR. MAHONY: Yes
. . . . . . . .
THE COMMISSIONER: And if a ship happened to be in dock and the employer wants to work beyond, say 8 hours in one day....
MR. MAHONY: Then the overtime operates.
MR. SCHWILK: It is really a question of the 4 hours between 44 and 48. Overtime is the whole crux of the matter.
THE COMMISSIONER: That is the crux of the position, is it?
MR. ADAMS: And it is also the Saturday morning work.
. . . . . . .
MR. MAHONY: You have been getting on for 2½ years now
MR. ADAMS: We have had to get on, because you will not work; but you are morally and legally bound by the award and we want you to honour your obligations...... (see transcript of conference summoned before Mr. A.M.Stewart, Commonwealth Conciliation Commissioner, Sydney, Tuesday, 25th June, 1929, No.70 of 1929)
The year 1926 saw much discussion on the shorter hours demand. Painters and Dockers at Garden Island saw all other trades working the 44 hours in six days and decided that they would do this, too, provided they were paid double time for hours worked on Saturday. (Minutes, 25/1/1926.) In keeping with the decision to only work 44 hours in five days, the same meeting was advised by the Secretary "that if it was right for the members to have no Saturday work, therefore the Office staff should not be asked to work on Saturdays either" and this was endorsed. Some months later, Cockatoo Island management complained of men refusing to work on Saturdays unless paid overtime rates and the 44 hours decision was once more reaffirmed. (Minutes, 28/4/1926.) Occasional limited victories were reported to Union meetings: Mort’s Dock on one occasion paid O.T. because the foreman had promised it; and Cockatoo Island paid due to "a misunderstanding". (Minutes, 3/5/1926.)
In 1926, the Labor Council found itself embroiled with the Union when it issued instructions to members employed at Garden Island to work 48 hours, claiming that it desired the dispute to be limited to the Metal Trades. It spelled out its policy as endorsement of the principle of 44 hours and that no overtime should be worked until the employers accepted the shorter hours principle and "that no other matter should be allowed to crop in on this issue". As well, the Labor Council decided to concentrate the fight in New South Wales with unions in other States being called on to assist financially.
In connection with the Painters and Dockers being only a casual occupation and having only three hours guarantee, agreed that our members could work a job as long as they did not work more than 44 hours". (Minutes, 17/5/1926.)
The meeting also considered the instruction to Garden Island members to continue working 48 hours and the acting federal Secretary, Moloney,
questioned the rights of anyone instructing our members to return to work at Garden Island as the Branch had definitely decided on a 44 hours policy.
The meeting then carried a motion
That this Branch have the control of the 44 hour question over the Disputes Committee of the Labor Council.
When the Secretary then read out a letter from the shipowners to the effect that the Union was in breach of its Award by not working the 48 hours week, no decision was made when the meeting adjourned at 10 minutes past 11 o’clock.
The matter did not rest there, however, and a Special Summons Meeting convened a few days later, on a Friday night, to consider the demands by the shipowners and Mort’s Dock. The meeting also welcomed a representative from the Labor Council’s Disputes Committee, Falkingham. Following a report which included reading a letter from the Labor Council Secretary, J.S.Garden, which stated
That in view of the policy of the Labor Council the Disputes Committee instructs the Ship Painters and Dockers, Shipwrights and any other union involved that they must work on Saturday morning if necessary providing they only work 44 hours per week.
Following the reading of the letter, Falkingham sought to explain the Disputes Committee position but was confronted with a motion that he be no longer heard. The motion was defeated but was followed by a further motion, which was carried
That no member of the Trades and Labor Council be heard until December. (Minutes, 21/5/1926.)
Later in the year, the Union decided to support the Federal Unions in their approach to the Arbitration Court for a 44-hour week (Minutes, 12/7/1926) and a later meeting agreed to pay its quota of the cost of the application. But it still continued to press its own demand on shipowners for the shorter working week, (Minutes, 22/7/1926.) and a week later, supported the Eight Hours Committee decision to call a joint demonstration of Labor Council and the ALP
to show their appreciation for the 44 hours and the Workman’s Compensation Act and also to give some expression of their confidence in the State Parliamentary Labor Party and Premier Lang. (Minutes, 26/7/1926.)
Early in the New Year, it was decided to protest in writing to the Shipwrights Union over its members undocking a ship without Painters and Dockers on a Saturday morning, thus weakening the Union’s No-Saturday Work action to get the 44-hour week. (Minutes, 21/2/1927.)
Support was given to a decision by a Special Conference of Unions to call for 48 hours pay for 44 hours work (Minutes, 22/3/1927) and to the Plumbers and Gasfitters Union’s demand for a five-day working week at Garden Island. (Minutes, 11/7/1927.)
Indicative of how strongly the Union felt about its demand for the shorter week was the case brought against five members of having worked on a Friday night (within the No Saturday work period) to raise a number of sunken punts. The upshot of the charge was a fine on each of the five of £2.19.0 (an unexplained figure.) (Minutes, 5/9/1927.)
The Union pressed on, year after year, with its No Saturday work rule (no work beyond midnight Friday), constantly raising the 44 demand at conferences with employers (Minutes, 31/1/1928),
As with all moves to obtain a new Award, Mahony once again reported that the Union could not get before the Arbitration Court until the Full Court determined the all-unions’ claim for shorter hours. (Minutes, 26/3/1928.) In September, Mahony reported at length on a compulsory conference on the Union claim for a new Award, before Federal Commissioner A.M.Stewart, who had adjourned the hearing while the Union considered his request that members work in strict accordance with their Award. Stewart stated that "the only fly in the ointment is New South Wales", and Mahony advised him
We convened a Special Meeting of the New South Wales Branch .. and everything was explained ... .The members took the view that the employers simply said to them "We want you to work 48 hours, but they do not give any guarantee that they would be employed for 48 hours".
The only guarantee in the whole award is that if they are engaged the engagement shall be for three hours ... and they saw in the whole report that there was not any offer of any concessions at all to them, only that a further discussion would take place on the claims, and after listening to the whole thing they considered they were not committing any breaches and they preferred to go along as they are going ... .
From Mahony’s report a motion was carried unanimously
That in the opinion of this Branch, no breach of the Award has taken place. (Minutes, 10/9/1928.)
While constantly pressing its claim, making it difficult for obtaining a new Federal Award, the New South Wales Branch still joined in activities such as the Labor Council decision to hold a demonstration for the 44 hours in Belmore Park, Sydney on 19th January, 1929. (Minutes, 21/1/1929.)
The campaign did not always flow smoothly and there was an effort made to change the decision which limited work in any week to 44 hours including overtime. While not seeking to call off the Saturday work ban, those who had petitioned for a Special Meeting sought to introduce a wider interpretation of the ban, but this effort, after a long debate, was defeated by 126 votes to 40. (Minutes, 11/3/1929.)
Later in the year, a further compulsory conference convened and Silk, on behalf of the employers submitted
That the Union accept the working of 44 hours in 5 days and "the Union guarantee to supply men to work on Saturday mornings (ordinary rates) when necessary. He, Silk, would only engage men for Saturday work who had not worked 44 hours during the week ...
The Branch attitude was simply "not to entertain the suggestion of Mr. Silk" with the proviso that the Branch would agree to work the 44 hours in either 5 or 6 days to suit the convenience of employers. (Minutes, 26/6/1929.) At a further meeting, the proviso was spelled out more clearly as an instruction to those attending another conference to "negotiate along the lines of 44 hours in five days or 44 hours in 6 days, according to the custom of the establishment". (Minutes, 5/8/1929.)
Early in 1930, Swadling ‘s motion was carried stating
That the General Secretary approach the Minister for Labour and Industry, the Hon. J.Beasley and ask for a talk to try and bring about agreement with the Cockatoo Island Board of Control and Garden Island Authorities re 48 hours pay for 44 hours work. (Minutes, 3/2/1930.)
Some weeks later, Mahony was able to report that the Minister for Defence had agreed to the introduction of the shorter working week at Garden Island which Mahony
was of the opinion that its had been a fairly good gain on behalf of the permanent hands employed at Garden Island considering the economic position at present existing and would be useful to use at any conference on wages and working conditions. The tendency today was to reduce wages instead of increasing same as had been done in this case and he was of the opinion that the offer should be accepted. (Minutes, 17/3/1930.)
It was some twelve months before agreement was arrived at with the G.I. authorities on introducing a 44 hour week with 48 hours pay. (Minutes, 2/3/1931.)
The decision on Garden Island by the Federal Minister for Defence, however, did not affect decisions proceeding in the Federal Arbitration Court and thus, the Labor Council, at a special meeting of union Executives and Delegates took note of the opinion
by those who would be affected by the increase to 48 hours, viz., the Railway and Tramway men, that there would be no possible hope of a general strike being declared against the principle. (Minutes, 14/4/1930.)
In mid-year, Branch Secretary McDonald reported on an offer from the firm of Morrison and Sinclair for a 42½ hours week, which would have required foregoing at least part of the dinner hour each day. McDonald had discussed the proposal with the federal secretary, Mahony, who favoured accepting it for use "as a lever when our case comes before the Arbitration Court". In the debate, it was argued that the three-quarters of an hour for the midday meal had to be adhered to. When put to a vote, the Morrison and Sinclair proposal was rejected. (Minutes, 23/6/1930)
1932 saw the Eight Hour Committee propose to change its name from "Eight Hour and Labor Demonstration Committee" to "Labor Day and Social Committee" and when reported to the Union, there was no objection, even though the fight for ever shorter working hours continued. (Minutes, 1/2/1932.)
In 1934, in preparation for the first full award since 1925, Mahony reported to a Union meeting of his discussions with the shipowners on the matter of the 44-hour week
I discussed the 44 hours position in Sydney with the Secretary of the Ship Owners Association. I pointed out to them that I was instructed to state that the Branch was prepared to work 44 hours in 5 days or 5½ days.
I further pointed out to him that several Companies in Sydney closed their works down on Saturday. If an agreement was arrived at the Companies could select its hours, but once the hours are selected it must abide by them.
He stated that if the facts as outlined by me were correct he would get in touch with Mr. Dillon in Sydney and find out from him the position. He would write to me as to the result.
I then interviewed Mr. Faulkner, Director of Huddart Parkers Ltd., and Mr. Waugh, Superintendent Huddart Parkers, and discussed the position with them. Mr. Faulkner is Vice President of the Steamship Owners Association. They both agreed to support the request for 44 hours. (from Mahony's written report to Union meeting, May 1934)
In July, 1934, Mahony and Swadling reported on discussions with Captain Butler of Burns Philp & Co. in which Butler had agreed to accept the 44 hours week (worked in six days) "provided we accept the suggestion he made as to the engagement of labour", which was to the effect that he would call for labour from the Union for jobs of one week's duration or over and pick up other labour at the wharf. The proposals were submitted to a meeting of the Union and were adopted and Mahony then advised Burns Philp & Co by letter on 8th August, 1934.
With these and other individual agreements and Court hearings, the dispute dragged on with no work on Saturdays, until Beeby, J., handed down the new Award on 30th September, 1935, including the 44 hours week.