Australian Unions: An Industrial Relations Perspective by Bill Ford and David Plowman

By Bill Ford and David Plowman

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That compromise, however, was not sufficient to win the allegiance of the A WU, which boycotted the Congress on the grounds that it was run by Red wreckers. e. production, distribution and exchange'. Its methods were (a) The closer organisation of the workers by the transformation of the trade union movement from a craft to an industrial basis, by the establishment of one union in each industry. (b) The consolidation of the Australian labour movement with the object of unified control, administration and action.

The electors rejected the government's proposals, but the episode was by no means wasted from its point of view. Among other things, the government was able - with considerable public approval - to take severe measures against unions in whose executives Communist influence was strong. Chiefly, these were the unions of waterside workers, seamen, and coal miners, which were seeking pay rises. By the end of the 'fifties, the federal government was able to create further difficulties for the same unions by vigorously supporting programmes of automation in the mines and on the waterfront.

The Court established a list of seven economic indicators, which were to guide it in determining whether the economy had the 'capacity to pay' wage increases. In 1953, after the recession and rapid inflation of 1951-52 was over, it decided to abolish the quarterly cost-ofliving adjustments that had allowed the basic wage to keep its real value between hearings. The effect of these two decisions was to ensure that, for almost the whole of the 'fifties, the basic wage did not increase in real value despite the rapid annual gains in the national wealth.

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