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The Rise of the ACTU

Socialisation and trade unionism in Australia during the 1920s-30s
by

Chris Chen

on 22 March 2012

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Transcript of The Rise of the ACTU

The Growth of Unionism in Australia And the rise of the ACTU Christopher Chen and Mesbaah Lalee Origins Unions have existed in Australia since the early 19th century as "craft unions" Responsible for extolling the 8 hour day and the values of socialism Often their demands were met with violence, esp. the 1891 Shearer's Strike 1891 Shearers' Strike They went on strike until the contract would meet the conditions: Shearer's union had boasted tens of thousands of members by 1890 Many of them were angered by a contract which would reduce the union's power (Logan Downs Station) Current pay rates continued
Protection of workers' rights and privilieges
Just and equitable agreements
Exclusion of low-cost Chinese labour (later manifested in Immigration Restriction Act) First May Day march to Barcaldine, it gathered much support (as much as 1340 men took part), where the men held out for a long time Despite this it was poorly timed and the strike did not achieve its maximum effect, leaders were charged for sedition and gaoled for 13 years Reportedly the first branch of the ALP formed in Barcaldine under the ghost gum "Tree of Knowledge", as the first decisions and policies were made here Others turned to a more political solution and formed the Australian Labor Party (ALP). Violent response to union action meant that most workers weren't unionised in the early 20th century. Only the most resilient unions survived... However, a change was looking up. The Rise of the Unions and the ACTU The ALP first came to power in 1899 in Queensland, and held it for a week. The ALP first rose to national power in 1904. In 1910, the ALP held the first majority government (House of Reps & Senate) in the world under Andrew Fisher. Skilled organisers helped to up the union membership density rate a very large amount by 1914. At the time there were two distinct ideas of unionism. Industrial Unionism Trade Unionism Believed in the idea of uniting all workers into "One Big Union". Believed in the union of all workers in a single trade/craft. A lot of the unions of the time were radical or militant, and supported socialism. At that time the two big unions in Australia were the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) and the AWU (Australian Workers' Union) IWW AWU radicality size No Smaller Larger Very (cc) image by anemoneprojectors on Flickr After the IWW dissolved in the late 1910s various militant and radical trade unions united to form the Worker's Industrial Union of Australia (WIUA) Stanley Bruce's attempts to dismantle the AIRC (Australian Industrial Relations Committee) was the driving force for the formation of the ACTU as "One Big Union" in 1927 Tension between the WIUA and AWU prevented the formation of the "One Big Union" Unfortunately, it still isn't actually that, but since has amalgamated together and absorbed many smaller unions, and changed from being representative of the blue-collar workers in 1927 to all workers in 1981. Conclusion The ACTU was important for bringing all (well, most of) the workers into one union: the BIG ONE
Trade unionism was firmly rooted ever since the colonisation
They helped to give us the free, fair workplace we have today
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