The Home Front Volume I
CHAPTER 11 — The Challenge is Accepted
The Challenge is Accepted
IN the sharpened demands of the new war, employers felt that the nonsense of the 40-hour week must at last be thrown out, along with undue devotion to workers’ rights and conditions. Workers, while aware of heightened danger and need, felt that the old enemies, the bosses, were using the crisis to whittle away strong points won by years of union struggle.
The first skirmish occurred at the Dobson coal mine, Greymouth, in the week of Pearl Harbour. Towards the end of 1941 minor stoppages in Westland mines had increased in number, and on 5 December Webb, the Minister of Mines, had said that there must be no go-slow policy, and no stopwork meetings, without permission of management. On the afternoon of Friday 12 December, the Dobson union president asked for a stopwork meeting at 3 pm, a normal hour for such events, to discuss domestic union matters—there was no dispute with management. When this was refused, he called the men out of the mine at 2 o’clock, whereon the mine manager dismissed him and three other union officials for obstructing work.1 The miners decided not to work until the dismissals were withdrawn, and the backshift did not work on Friday night. During the weekend, after several deputations had failed to change the manager’s mind, the Minister ordered that the four men should be reinstated, work resumed, and the miners prosecuted. Summonses were issued for 22 December, but as it was plainly unsuitable, in the Christmas coal crisis, to impose a day’s idleness in court, the hearing was postponed. On 6 February, the prosecution explained that the charges were laid as a warning that stoppages would not be tolerated in the mines. The magistrate, G. G. Chisholm,2 found that a breach of the regulations was proved, the men having left work without permission, but they had felt that their business justified a meeting, for which they had never previously been refused leave. Management page 373 was not free from blame: there was no reason why the trouble should have arisen, nor should it have been allowed to go as far as it did. More than a hundred miners were convicted and ordered to come up for sentence if called within twelve months.3
Government had maintained that hours exceeding 40 per week must be paid for at award rates of overtime, except where the Industrial Emergency Council, having been shown that a war-needed industry could not carry such payments, adjusted rates and lengthened hours through labour legislation suspension orders, of which a number had been made. Many existing awards, framed to induce full employment rather than bursts of overtime, provided time-and-a-half rates for the first three hours (or, in some awards, four hours) of overtime in any one week and thereafter double rates, while work on holidays won triple rates. But, with labour scarce and growing scarcer, the government realised that but for these heavy payments, more overtime could be worked. A regulation on 17 December 1941 extended the hours at time-and-a-half, where these had been three in a week, to three in any one day or 12 in any one week. In awards which had previously had four hours’ weekly overtime at time-and-a-half rates, this was extended to four hours in any day or 16 in a week. Time worked on any holiday would earn double the ordinary rate. The waterfront and the dairying, gold dredging and shearing industries, which were already working more than 44 hours, were excluded.4
To lessen, and where necessary to avoid, the break of routine holidays in the midst of the December crisis, another regulation5 provided that no holidays would start till Christmas Day, that all work would resume not later than Monday 5 January and that employers would decide whether any statutory or special holidays, including annual leave, should be kept as such, postponed for up to six months or worked at the full ordinary rate plus holiday pay. To assist in the distribution of goods, in shops where overtime previously was restricted to 60 hours a year, another order (1941/238) allowed up to 120 hours worked otherwise than on the sale of goods.
The overtime and holiday suspension orders pleased employers; they were, said the secretary of an employers’ association, ‘a short step in easing award conditions. What we really want now is a general extension of the ordinary hours of work from 40 to 44 or 48 hours, in all industries at ordinary rates of pay for the duration.’6 Applied blanket-fashion over all but a few industries, however, the page 374 regulations produced anomalies. Thus on Christmas and Boxing Days, cool store men at Auckland refused to handle, at double-time rates, the same produce that wharfies were loading at triple rates; they would, said their spokesman, have worked at ordinary, let alone double, pay, but they objected to the discrimination.7 Further, in some industries, fixed prices already allowed for certain double and triple time days, and workers were quick to perceive that they were losing extra pay directly to the employers.8 Freezing workers at Longburn refused to work on New Year’s Day unless the employers paid a day’s wages into the War Expenses Account, which they refused to do;9 at Makarewa, the men protested against the Minister’s interference with awards and declared that the order did not increase production but every holiday worked made a gift of £9,000 to the freezing companies from the workers’ wages.10 Those at Kaiapoi also protested, adding that they would not have done so if the money saved went to Treasury for the war effort or if the order applied to all workers.11 The Auckland Harbour Board Employees Union called it an unjust penalty on the workers, who had a right to know where the cancelled pay was going.12 Several other Auckland unions, for example, drivers, boilermakers and glassworkers,13 and the Auckland Trades Council14 protested against abrogation of their awards and declared their intention not to work on Anniversary Day, 29 January, except at full award rates. Webb replied that they would be deregistered if they took this stand; there would be no let-up and no compromise; there were proper channels for grievances but work must go on. He also said that men causing trouble would be removed from their industries for the duration, notwithstanding any resolutions passed by local federations dominated by political opponents of the government.15 However, on 28 January, on the advice of the Industrial Emergency Council, Webb also said that anomalies had been foreseen and would be considered sympathetically; the Auckland unions, after an hour-long address by him, reversed their decision about working on Anniversary Day.16 By 2 February it was stated17 that though the order would not be withdrawn, it would be page 375 administered with due regard to varying conditions, and that the government was unlikely to issue any more blanket orders. Before the end of the month, the Auckland Employers Association urged that the government should make up its mind, speak clearly and insist on obedience, for unions were whittling away the order: drivers, electrical workers, linesmen, radio workers, switch-board and sub-station operators, tramway employees and boilermakers were applying for exemption.18 Workers in the Wellington City Council’s milk department, for instance, had already been exempted retrospectively.19 In March it was decreed that all men on defence works and all firms supplying essential goods or goods for military purposes, including cement, rubber, woollen goods, leather, sugar, service biscuits, tinned fruit and pickles, should work over the Easter holidays at the rates given by their various awards.20 At the Federation of Labour’s Easter conference it was said that the holiday and overtime suspension order had created widespread confusion, and the president, A. McLagan,21 attributed this to hasty and badly worded orders made in the rush of Japan’s entry, the Crown Law Office not having been properly instructed by the Labour Department; if aggrieved unions had contacted the Federation’s national executive, explanations and exemptions could have been made more quickly.22 By late 1942 the order was not generally applicable, about 60 awards having been exempted from it.23
Meanwhile, on 14 January the government tackled the chaos that was growing as labour sought out the best-paid jobs. Industries concerned with the war effort or services necessary to the community were declared essential; workers could not leave such jobs without consent of the District Manpower Officer and, except in dismissals for serious misconduct, both workers and employers must give seven days’ notice of wishing to terminate employment. To control the inflow of labour, the Minister of Labour could specify less essential industries, in which employers had to have Manpower’s consent before page 376 engaging any worker. Further, the Minister could require any specified class of workers, such as those with certain skills or in certain age groups, to register, and these persons could be directed into any job or training. Among the industries first declared essential were those of defence construction, munitions, coal mining, dairy factories, footwear, woollen, knitting and rubber mills, gas and electricity supplies, railways, hospitals, freezing works, flax and linen-flax mills and the timber industry. The list was extended from time to time to include firms engaged even partially on military orders, such as J. J. Melhuish and Co., picklemakers,24 and other industries necessary to the public.25
As the Auckland Star remarked, this was a single giant stride towards the regimentation of people’s lives. The manufacturers joined the unions in complaining that they had not been consulted in the framing of these regulations, which probably, said the Press, explained the suspicious and resentful reaction they produced; the purpose was thoroughly justified, but faults and oversights in drafting made the impact more jarring than was necessary.26
To the workers, these arrangements seemed heavily weighted in the employers’ favour. The Makarewa freezing workers called for the immediate conscription of wealth, claiming that workers, now fully conscripted, were facing sacrifices and hardship while the dividends of manufacturing and processing concerns had risen to new records.27 The workers’ fundamental right to sell their labour to the highest bidder had been swept aside, and it was feared that industries now paying above award rates to secure labour would contrive to reduce pay to award rates. And again there were anomalies: in certain clothing factories which, because they were making uniforms, were declared essential, some of the girls were sewing civilian suits, frocks and underclothing, yet they were anchored to these jobs whereas those doing similar work in factories without war contracts were free to move. The regulations, declared John Roberts,28 secretary of the Clothing Workers Union, were reminiscent of the Middle Ages when farm labour was tied to the job.29 The Auckland Trades Council declared that it would take no part in carrying out these coercive regulations, more likely to produce disunity than co-operation. It advocated the use of production committees and local works councils page 377 similar to those in the United States, with labour and management equally represented under a government chairman.30
In short, these regulations, plus December’s holidays and overtime orders and the powers taken by the Attorney-General in September 1940 to exclude from industry and unions persons likely to cause dissent, pressed against rights regarded as basic by organised labour. The men felt that the government had given them over to the bosses in the name of the war; if they could neither strike nor leave the job, every grievance could be ignored.
With this background of resentment, there began immediately the first of three strikes in the meatworks of Auckland. The petrol restrictions of December 1941 had caused the transport company serving the Westfield area, where transport was already over-loaded, to lay off four of the twelve petrol buses used at peak hours, while those men who previously had gone to work in groups by car now lengthened the bus queues. Freezing workers started very early in the morning, many in gangs where the lateness of one man upset the rest, and they finished at varying hours in the afternoon. Some men who knocked off at about 4.30 pm claimed they were not getting home till 7. Representations had been made since 17 December to the local traffic licensing authority, which had recommended to headquarters at Wellington that unless the train service could be altered to fit Westfield needs, something would have to be done, including the granting of petrol to private cars for group transport of men living beyond the ordinary service routes.
But nothing had been done by noon on Thursday 15 January 1942, when more than 100 mutton slaughtermen at the Westfield works ceased killing and said that they would not start again till transport was improved. The bus company’s petrol was at once restored, making some improvement, and work was resumed on 16 January, but there was loud outcry from some quarters. This stoppage, declared the New Zealand Herald of 16 January, was an immediate test of the essential industry regulations brought in barely two days earlier. Would they be enforced or would the government weakly follow its past practice of overlooking industrial offences committed by workers? ‘It must enforce industrial discipline as strictly as military discipline—or abdicate.’ The Herald deplored that the government had begun with appeasement, meekly increasing petrol for buses and talking of petrol for workers’ cars. Holland telegraphed Fraser that the Auckland province was seething with indignation. page 378 When farmers and townspeople had met with extreme inconvenience and financial loss from lack of petrol, to give in to illegal strikers was to put a premium on lawlessness and a penalty on patriotism. Fraser should hasten to Auckland and tell the lawbreakers once and for all that the government and not the freezing workers was going to run New Zealand.31
Webb, as Minister of Labour, announced that legal proceedings would be taken against those in the hold-up, that if their union supported them it would be de-registered, and that unless the men resumed normal work they would be excluded from the industry for the duration.32 Letters in the Herald explained that slaughter work was arduous and unpleasant; others pointed out that a soldier’s job was arduous, unpleasant and long, a soldier never got home to dinner, and killing Germans was much more dangerous than killing lambs. Transport was still inadequate, and the Westfield men said that if it could not be improved they would have to cease work daily at an earlier hour; this, they said, was not a threat or an ultimatum, and would not be rushed into.33
On 16 January Scholefield, journalist and historian, recorded his bewildered reactions to militant unionism in wartime crises:
With the best will in the world towards my own class, the workers, I find it hard to understand how any body of men who know anything of the history of the working class movement can use the war to behave as many of them are doing. To-day there is another strike at the Westfield freezing works, on account, it is said, of the overcrowding of buses in which the men are taken to and from work. They surely cannot be ignorant of the overcrowding of trams and buses in which working girls in the towns and people of all classes are now travelling every day of their life. If there is a better explanation of their conduct they should urgently state their case before the public, otherwise labour will not have a friend left outside the trades unionists when the war is over. Immediately following this strike, slaughtermen in the Auckland city abattoirs struck for higher wages for abattoir assistants and labourers.
That the malady is not universal is evident from the output of coal in 1941…. The public should be fully informed of what labour is doing and what hours are being worked.34page 379
At the same time, another stoppage was not reported in the papers or recorded in the Labour Department’s MS Register of Strikes, but appeared later in the annual report of the Department of Labour. Boners of the Westfield Freezing Company ceased work on 16 January alleging that carcases were not thawed sufficiently. Court proceedings against 14 men were begun but withdrawn ‘as the employer had apparently not made it clear to the workers that they were expected to continue with the work.’35
Also on 16 January, butchers at the Auckland city abattoirs ceased work, alleging that, because the City Council refused to pay abattoir labourers above the award rate of 2s 7d an hour, they could not get sufficient men to avoid excessive overtime and strain on the labourers whose cleaning work necessarily continued some hours after slaughtering ceased. For the first three days of the next week the butchers did not kill after 2.30 pm, but on Thursday, when asked again by management, promised normal work. Immediately, seven labourers gave one hour’s notice, as they were entitled to do, meat killing for local use not being an essential industry. Management, saying that the situation was farcical, closed the abattoirs at 11 am, and they remained closed on Friday. Over the weekend, the National Service Department ordered the men to return to work and they did so. The abattoir section of the union was de-registered and the work declared essential.36
Webb at Westfield on 27 January spoke strongly of New Zealand’s danger, of slavery under Japanese tyrants and children learning a foreign language at school. Extolling Russia’s fight, he said that the half-baked Communists who were denouncing the government were ‘just wreckers and ratbags’ who would not last 24 hours in Russia and whose real work for the Labour movement could be written on a tram ticket. No stupid action would be allowed to jeopardise the Labour government, which had done so much for the workers. For the transport problem, a main complaint, Webb promised remedy; other speakers however berated the government for listening to the national executive of the Federation of Labour, not to the rank and file, for having two Hotel Workers Union members on the Industrial Emergency Council but none from the freezing industry, and for page 380 abrogating industrial awards by reducing holiday pay, seen as a gift to employers. On this last point, when asked what happened to the wages lost, and whether employers were required to hand the money over to the government, Webb was reported as saying, ‘It may go to help pay old age pensions and other social benefits we have given to the people’. After loud cries of dissent had subsided he said that he was against any employer making money out of the war but the question was not so simple of solution as some people seemed to think.37 It was hardly an agile reply, and the Evening Post helpfully sought to improve it by explaining that ending penal overtime rates checked inflation.
On 27 January, Amendment No 1 to the Strike and Lockout Emergency Regulations 1939 provided that any person who had offended or should hereafter offend could be imprisoned for up to three months or fined up to £50 or, if a body corporate, up to £200. Next day, with the stated purpose of upholding the law and the regulations, 43 men from the Auckland abattoirs were prosecuted for partial discontinuance work. The magistrate, J. H. Luxford, said that certain peacetime rights had to be thrown overboard, including the right to sell one’s labour to the highest bidder, for in the present labour shortage adherence to this principle became exploitation. Having regard to the sudden change into a state of emergency, he would not fine or imprison; the defendants were ordered to come up for sentence if called within 12 months; they would not be called if they worked in a proper spirit and manner, but any more breaches would mean prison.38
Next day, 29 January, 63 mutton slaughtermen from Westfield met the same charge and the same penalty, as did a further 53 a few days later. Luxford said, however, that with men working long hours and living over a wide area, transport was of utmost importance in running an essential industry. ‘The sudden imposition of blanket petrol restrictions without making proper provision for the essential workers seems to me to show that some restrictions are being brought in without full appreciation of the situation’; but the men had spoilt an unanswerable case by taking direct action.39
The men might have said that only direct action had brought their unanswerable case to light. Even as they were in court, a committee was looking into the complex problem of Westfield transport, which Sir Ernest Davis, the former Mayor of Auckland, said was an absolute scandal, utterly unfair to the workers. Westfield was an page 381 industrial area, without nearby houses, and its industries were expanding much faster than was transport. At the Westfield Freezing Works alone there were 1850 men, fifty per cent more than in the previous year, and a further increase to 2400 was expected.40
In March, W. T. Anderton,41 a slightly leftist Labour member of Parliament, criticising lack of co-operation and co-ordination between certain departments and ministers, said that such a lack between the departments of Transport and of Labour had caused the first Westfield strike, which would never have happened if the Transport Department had acted before, rather than after, the strike.42 It was decided to make the railway timetable more useful, two transport companies offered to lend extra buses for the rush hours, and a permanent committee would arrange details and watch for future problems.43
That problems persisted was evidenced by a later court case. On 5 March a wearied Westfield cannery worker, when denied entrance to three successive buses, struck the driver and used indecent language. She was fined 10s on each count and 13s 4d costs, though the magistrate, J. Morling, bore in mind that she ‘was working for her livelihood and had lost her head.’44
During February and early March, the Labour Department’s MS Register of Strikes recorded several minor stoppages at Auckland meatworks. On 5 February, 15 men ceased work for one and three-quarter hours over inadequate means of sending out boned meat, and better methods were adopted; on 20 February, the lunch interval of 162 men was prolonged three-quarters of an hour over ‘several matters in dispute’, on which no concession was made; on 6 and 12 March, 100 men stopped for one and one-and-a-half hours, discussing grievances over the manning of the mutton killing floor; on 13 March, 13 labourers in the pig killing area made similar objecttions for three hours, to all of which no concessions were made. At Hellaby’s, on 28 February, 47 slaughtermen ceased work for four hours because they were not supplied with knives to which they were entitled but which were hard to obtain, and on 9 March, 18 boners struck for five hours over too cold meat.
But in mid-March Westfield discontent produced a more formidable strike. At Hellaby’s, which worked mainly for the retail trade, there had been since 1933 a small union covering workers page 382 engaged in preserving meat.45 The much larger Auckland Freezing Workers Union,46 to which 350 of Hellaby’s male staff belonged, regarded it as a bosses’ union, had tried to have it de-registered, and was currently suing the firm for arrears of wages due under the freezing workers award.47 In February, the canning department at Hellaby’s was extended and women were hired to work on service contracts. These women were told by management that they must join a union and the appropriate one was Hellaby’s. Hearing of this, officials of the larger union asked the company for a lunch-time meeting with the women to suggest that they should instead join the Auckland Freezing Workers Union. The company, not wanting the women to be disturbed by contact with a troublesome union, refused. Thereupon 329 of Hellaby’s members of the Auckland Union held a meeting and, claiming that the company was interfering with the rights of workers to run union affairs and decide which union they would join, ceased work on the afternoon of Thursday 12 March.48
The strike spread to 2320 men. On Monday afternoon 16 March, 1595 members of the Auckland Freezing Workers Union employed at the Westfield Freezing Company ceased work in support of Hellaby’s men; they were joined on the 17th by 307 men at the Southdown works of the Auckland Farmers Freezing Company, 73 men from this Company’s cool store at Kings Wharf, and on the 18th by 16 bacon-workers at Hellaby’s.49
In the generally expressed view, this was selfish action on a trivial matter when the war situation called for national effort, unity and sacrifice. Webb said immediately that it was unpardonable and treasonable, there would be legal action against those responsible and they might also be expelled from the industry. Indignation rose rapidly. The Mayor of Dunedin said it made one hang one’s head in shame.50 The Press spoke of wantonness and said that Webb should put his hat on and take his gloves off.51 The New Zealand Herald said that the merits of the original dispute had become irrelevant to the main issue, which was a challenge to the government page 383 and all authority, a stab in the back of the country which was entitled in the present crisis to the services of all citizens without conditions or thought of self. ‘It is for the Government to step in to show by firm decisive action that this form of national sabotage must end. It has the power. Let it be used.’52 The Evening Post said that the government could prevent the strikers from obtaining other work and expel trouble-makers from the industry and would have the united support of the country in doing so.53 Hawke’s Bay farmers declared that ‘the offenders should be drafted automatically into the military forces for suitable duties, where they would be subject to military discipline and pay.’54 The Dominion wanted to know what ‘proceedings’ Webb proposed against the strikers: ‘Are they, or their ring leaders, to be fined a pound or two, and then invited or drafted into other work? If not—if at long last there is to be an end to meaningless finger-wagging and humiliating “appeals” to aggressive and irresponsible agitators—why does Mr Webb … not say plainly what is in store for the men he accuses of treason, and follow the word by the deed?’55
The Prime Minister on 17 March called for volunteers, both men and women, to cope with the thousands of animals already at the works or en route, and to continue canning for overseas orders. This was a step far from automatic for a leader risen from Labour ranks where ‘scab’ was a very dirty word. Several hundred men came forward, to be organised and led by the freezing companies’ office staffs augmented from other works. Some were farmers,56 but many came from the city, their hands showing that they were not usually manual workers; the majority were middle-aged, ‘and a number were undoubtedly emerging from retirement’.57
On the afternoon of 18 March the strike was declared over: the men would resume work while the Federation of Labour would bring the issue at Hellaby’s before a tribunal. Next day work went smoothly at the cool stores and the Southdown works, where there was stock available, but at Hellaby’s and at Westfield men were told that as stock supplies were interrupted and volunteers were on the job, they could not all be taken on at once, and it was made clear that some, including union officials, would never be taken on. Claiming that this was victimisation, some 1700 men remained on strike.
On Friday 20 March, more than 80 Westfield men who had already received suspended sentences for the earlier disturbance and who had also taken part in the stop-work meeting of 6 March, were sent to prison for a month, while six who had merely taken part in the meeting were fined £2 and costs.62 Their counsel, W. R. Tuck, page 385 anxious to put their case fairly while avoiding statements likely to be provocative or to cause bitterness, explained that in the present issue two unionist principles were involved: firstly, the workers’ right to choose and develop their own union organisation free from the employers’ influence; secondly, if any members were penalised for union activity their fellow-workers considered themselves equally concerned and equally liable. They were not merely supporting comrades; ‘The union was the union of all the workers in all the works and the principle involved was one of equal importance to all the workers. That, sir, is the explanation of the action taken.’63 Luxford, imposing sentence, told the men that in defying the law, the government and public opinion, they were running against an impenetrable barrier, nor should they flatter themselves that there was safety in numbers, that a real penalty could not be enforced. He also stated, as a fundamental principle, which should be understood by every citizen, that the government must see that workers in essential industries got a ‘fair go’; an employer would not be allowed to exploit the Strike and Lockout Emergency Regulations of 1939; the controller of an essential industry was now a trustee for the whole community, and must subordinate all other considerations.64
Fraser, informed of this sentence in the House, said, ‘I do not want to see men punished; but I would sooner punish any number of men than betray the country, at the present moment’. Referring also to watersiders who had stopped loading a ship that morning in weather merely damp, he said that this sort of thing was stabbing the country in the back and he could endure no more of it. He called on every decent-thinking person to support the government in whatever action it took; ‘If the Government cannot take strong enough action by the ordinary process of the Civil law, then other methods may have to be contemplated’. Also, if as Prime Minister he could not get better support from the industrial workers, it was his clear duty to step down altogether. He would not endeavour to form a government behind the backs or opposed to the wishes of those with whom he had been associated; he would step down and ‘let those who can carry on, do so.’65
This was not to be Fraser’s last threat of resignation, but it was the first, and it had considerable impact. The Press, however, looked into the whole statement coolly. ‘Admiration and sympathy for the Prime Minister, and relief that some member of the Government is at last being honest about a situation that has most New Zealanders page 386 badly worried, must not obscure the fact that what he said leaves the situation much as it was.’ The force of his threat of ‘other methods’ was weakened by his further threat to resign. ‘To tell the industrial workers at one moment that he may use force to bring discipline into industry and at another that he will resign if he does not get their support is to be dangerously inconsistent. The industrial workers may well feel that the outcome of another strike may be nothing worse than Mr Fraser’s resignation and the formation of another Labour Government.’ Mr Fraser, concluded the Press, ‘is the coolest and wisest man in New Zealand political life and the best informed about the war situation. If he could speak and act according to his convictions the few dissenting voices would be drowned by the approval of a nation which in frustration and bewilderment has waited long enough for a leader.’66
On Monday 23 March there were ‘unprecedented scenes’ in the concert chamber of Auckland’s Town Hall: the day-long mass trial of more than 300 Hellaby strikers. Appearing for most of them Tuck, although somewhat apologetic, submitted that an intransigent employer had peremptorily and unnecessarily rebuffed the workers. He pleaded again the vital union principle that workers’ unions should be free of employers’ influence and brought out that management at both Hellaby’s and Westfield intended to exclude some men permanently. Luxford remarked that, without adjudication by the Manpower authorities, the last would offend against essential industry regulations, and was surprised that machinery for quick settlement of disputes did not exist or had not been pressed into action. He found that the employers had kept within the law while the workers had gone outside it, and said that while listening to counsel a paraphrase of a passage from Holy Writ went through his mind: ‘What does it matter if we lose every principle for which trade unionism has fought if we lose the war while doing so?’ New Zealand, with all its legislation for social justice, in the hour of direct threat was distracted by a serious dispute ‘which has caused the Prime Minister to make the unprecedented, I might say terrible, intimation that, if the civil law does not function, another law will. Are we to be the first unit of the British Commonwealth to say that our civil law is unable to function?’67
The Crown prosecutor, late in proceedings, had announced that he had just received instructions from the Crown: the men realised the gravity of their action, they would not repeat it, and a severe penalty was not called for. Behind these instructions one may sense page 387 the conversations of ministers who foresaw the awkwardness of having more than 300 essential workers in prison, but the magistrate had no such misgivings: he declared that his duty was clear and it would be performed fearlessly. Charges against 116 men had been withdrawn or adjourned, about 30 who had returned to work were fined £2, and 213 were sentenced to a month in prison.
It was then 4 o’clock, and the men were told to wait. In the hall, stuffy with its blackout devices and the big crowd, there were cries for air and water. Some men with pencils and paper hastily supplied by the union secretary wrote letters to their families, which were sent off, even by taxi. At about 6 o’clock a police officer announced that as it was not possible to accommodate them all in prison that night they should go to their homes, pledged to present themselves to work out their sentences when called on. In groups of seven they signed this pledge and were despatched homeward in all available conveyances, again including taxis. Thus in something like a burlesque the unprecedented scenes ended, at about 7 o’clock.68 Meanwhile 1700 men were still on strike.
Hearty good humour in both prisoners and police marked the next act, two days later, when those sentenced assembled at the central police station, and police vans, plus a couple of postal vans, carried them off to prison in batches of 10, each cheered by those remaining, the process taking several hours.69
That same day, 25 March, the strike was ended, with the employers agreeing to take on all the men without discrimination within a fortnight as stock came forward and volunters diminished. Meanwhile the Federation of Labour pointed out, and the employers confirmed, the impossibility of full production minus many skilled men. With the strike thus settled, the men were ready, said Tuck, to return to work and faithfully discharge their duties to the industry. The Department of Justice considered use of the Royal Prerogative, but on Luxford’s advice it was decided to re-consider the sentences by way of rehearing. The men, including the 80 imprisoned earlier, were released, to come up for sentence if called within a year.70
‘They marched the strikers into gaol and marched them out again. So ends an incident that savours not a little of comic opera’,71 wrote R. M. Algie,72 and many agreed with him. Less prominent, and less page 388 comic from the unionist viewpoint, was the striking out or dismissal of more than 100 appeals for Auckland freezing workers against Territorial service.73 But while many heads were shaken over government softness to militant unions, the workers took another view. A few union resolutions appeared,74 charging the government with harshness to the freezing workers, and the conference of the Federation of Labour criticised the government’s handling of the dispute. One speaker, F. G. Young MLC,75 said that the Auckland Trades Council believed that had the government been firmer at the start there would have been no need for volunteer labour or court action. If the government put the boot into workers, it should also put the boot into employers when they deserved it; the employers, placed in a strong position, had abused their strength. ‘It is felt in Auckland that the Government is loath to tackle the big employers’, and had let the workers down.76 The workers, however, with government support, prevailed in one area: very quietly, at the end of June, Hellaby’s union, the last of the company unions, applied for deregistration and was gazetted out of existence.77
Something of the hostility shown towards those who worked during the strike was revealed at a Manpower appeal in May. The Westfield manager said that lockers were broken into, clothes damaged or destroyed, and meat was thrown at these men, while others jeered. This was dangerous as men with sharp knives in their hands could cut themselves, and there was risk of hot tempers leading to serious incidents. Some men thus persecuted had sought to leave the works, but the trouble was now much diminished.78
The perplexity of an alert observer amid these conflicts was set forth by the editor of the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly:
I do not hold a brief for any of the parties concerned, Government, employers or strikers. I know too little of the inside story, of what had gone on behind the scenes. Can it be a tussle between Labour bosses and the Government? Is it a skirmish for power, or for true principles of democracy…. ‘Depriving our boys overseas of food’ and such-like statements did not cut ice as far as I page 389 was concerned, for … I found simultaneously with the accusations against the strikers, statements about the problem of surplus meat…. We want a united nation, want it more than anything else, not class struggle. In order to create this unity we want clear facts for cool, unbiassed and reasoned judgment. We want both sides of the story. Much better reasons could be found to explain why strikes could and should not be tolerated in these days than the reasons given.
The writer pondered on overseas pressures: ‘We need supplies. We need to be included in the general defence programme. In order to be included we have to do our bit and do it well. This Government must see that things are run to time-table, that ships are not delayed. We are only a small pawn in a great game.’ People who wrote to the papers saying that the 40-hour week must go did not know what they were talking about, continued this vigorous lady. To many workers the 40-hour week was becoming nominal, and many were on piece-work. ‘Girls in factories could enlighten the public on this subject. They claim that the “song of the shirt” is coming into its own again. Piece-work, of course, speeds up production, but it is a wrong system and saps the vitality of all workers’; generations had fought against it. For such reasons workers became suspicious, began to doubt whether the war was worth fighting. ‘It is all very complicated and very confusing.’79
Twice more in March the government took legal action against strikers. On 20 March, at the height of the Westfield affair, there was very minor newspaper interest in a strike trial at Hamilton. On 3 March, 38 carpenters working on a cool store at Horotiu, objecting to a man they disliked being made foreman, left in a body. They were paid off, their employment terminated,80 and were away nearly two weeks. Their counsel, T. Henry,81 said that they had not realised they were breaking the regulations, they had returned to the job and, with the cause of the dispute removed, were working harmoniously. They were convicted and ordered to come up for sentence if called within a year.82
Another strike threat which had a background conflict with the Minister of Labour was finally cancelled. Early in February a committee was appointed to examine a dispute at Borthwick’s Belfast establishment, concerning the re-employment of one man and pay- page 390 ment of chain workers. The workers’ representatives were John Henry, Thomas Martin and R. A. Brookes.83 On 25, 26 and 27 February 1942, 76 butchers had prolonged stop-work meetings on these topics, and on 5 March another meeting refused to promise the Minister of Labour that there would be no further stoppages.84 That same day Webb reduced the dispute committee to two representatives from each side and changed the workers’ representatives to A. McLagan and F. P. Walsh, both powerful union men close to the government. Rapid Supreme Court action produced a writ of prohibition against this new tribunal, preventing it from sitting, but a meeting of Walsh and McLagan with the employers’ representatives reached agreement.85 Immediately Webb instructed that the 76 butchers should be prosecuted for illegal strikes during the meetings of 25, 26 and 27 February.86 The charges were to be heard on 25 March, but on the 24th, just after the Westfield trial comedy, it was known that the Crown would withdraw the charges,87 and they were withdrawn without comment the next day.
In the first quarter of 1942 there were 37 industrial disputes, losing 28 068 working days. This was far more than in the same period of 1941 (8851 days lost) when the war situation had been much less ominous. Only in two cases (at the Auckland cool stores and at Longburn on New Year’s Day) were strikes in direct response to the emergency regulations of December and January. The reasons listed in the Labour Department’s MS Register of Strikes were as various as usual.88
There was broad acceptance of less pay, more work and loss of freedom to move from job to job. Grumbles were silenced in people’s minds, in talk and in public places, by awareness that such sacrifices were little against what the boys overseas were giving and taking. Essential work restrictions, which so closely resembled conscription, met less overt resistance than did the regulations reducing holiday overtime rates. There was also awareness that the enemies were at page 391 the gate: the Japanese were uncomfortably close, while Russia desperately needed all help of any sort in the common struggle; the Communist party, normally an automatic supporter of industrial strife, now opposed it, constantly advocating works councils and efficiency committees instead.
On the other hand, the resistance to the cheapening of overtime, the protest, albeit modest, at the immobilising of essential labour,89 and such incidents as Webb’s reception at Westfield90 indicate a ground swell of resentment that the government had seemingly sold the Labour pass, given the advantage to the employers. This strengthened both rigid union loyalty and union resolution to assert its strength against the encroachments of war-backed bosses, workers being fully aware of the heightened value of their labour. Strikes are rarely planned; they happen, often from tangential pressures, in a maelstrom of conflicting reactions, personalities, interests and loyalties, in which ‘striking it out’ often seems the only course. It was almost predictable that the impact of restrictive labour regulations in December–January 1941–291 would be marked by some industrial clash. The meatworks, traditionally a fighting edge of unionism, were a likely place for it, especially as the job itself, always unpleasant, was made worse by pressure of work and expanding work-forces, and, particularly at Westfield, irritated by bad transport.
Of the 28 068 days lost from 1 January to 31 March 1942, the 20 strikes at freezing works accounted for 25 366 days. In the mines, nine disputes cost 1502 days; ships and the waterfront lost 929 days, largely in one half-day strike by 1789 Wellington watersiders, and 271 lost days were shared by sawmillers and builders.
Between April and June industrial disputes were few: the meatworkers added a mere 46 lost work-days, and five mine disputes cost 1718 work days, together making 1764 lost during that quarter, and 29 832 in all during the half-year. Through the next three months, apart from the massive 20 826 days lost in the coal mines, mainly during September in the Waikato, only 60 working days were lost over the whole industrial field, making the sum for nine months 50 718 work-days. In the last quarter, seven scattered minor page 392 strikes added 718 days, making the year’s total 51 436 work-days lost.92
After the meatworks explosion early in 1942 there was industrial quiet for several months, while the Japanese pushed into New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, and Manpower authorities tried to meet the needs of essential industry and services by directing men and women into jobs. But in the coal mines another area of turbulence was arising, produced by many factors, not least of which was chronic ill-will between men and management.
Coal supplies were short. There were some 140 mines widespread about New Zealand, some producing thousands of tons annually, some only a few score; fewer than 40 were sizeable. Most were privately operated, some on freehold land, some on land leased from the Crown. On a State coal reserve near Greymouth some 150 to 170 men worked about 19 small co-operative mines, with government blessing and technical advice, in all producing less than 90 000 tons annually. There were, by 1942, six State mines; three of them, the James, Liverpool and Strongman in the Grey valley, had from their starts been developed by the State, which had also taken over several mines when these became unprofitable for their owners to operate: Mangapehi and Tatu in the North Island during 1940 and, in July 1941, Blackball in the Grey area. Two other South Island mines, Dobson and Wallsend, were taken over in February 1943.93 By the end of the war 11 underground and 8 opencast mines were operated by the State.94
For stabilisation purposes, coal production was subsidised. In May 1940, to meet increased wages and other costs, the government granted mine owners a subsidy of 1s 6d a ton, and two years later further subsidies were awarded, ranging from 6d to 2s 7d a ton, according to situation and costs of production.95
Imports of bituminous, gas-producing coal from Australia were reduced from 111 537 tons in 1939 to 37 352 in 1943 and nil in 1944 and 1945. Locomotives, which preferred bituminous coals, page 393 needed more of the brown and lignite types. Railway traffic had increased: apart from moving troops and their supplies, railways were carrying passengers and goods that formerly went by road, and were making extra hauls so that ships need call at fewer ports. Locomotives consumed 484 423 tons in 1939, 492 456 in 1940, 528 552 in 1941, 537 732 in 1942, 611 841 in 1943, 634 007 in 1944 and 576 926 in 1945.96
Expanding industries used more coal, and there were particular difficulties over gas-making, as many retorts were designed for bituminous coal and could not use the lower grades that were abundant locally. Pre-war, railways were using about 500 000 tons of coal, coastal shipping 100 000, gas-works about 250 000, factories 700 000 and households 850 000 tons.97 In the 1939–40 year, 885 022 tons of coal were used in factory industries: gas making took 27 per cent of this total, with dairy products, meat freezing, lime and cement making, the three main industries, taking 41 per cent. Wartime increases may be tabulated from Yearbook figures, allowing for some gaps where classifications change:98
|Year||Total industrial use||Gas-making||Dairy, meat, cement|
|tons||per cent||tons||per cent|
|1939–40||885 022||242 383||27||365 910||41|
|1940–41||974 235||257 745||26||374 033||38|
|1941–42||1 093 280||263 520||24||388 986 + 109 043* = 46%|
|1942–43||1 083 640||272 087||25||391 511 + 74 258* = 43%|
|1943–44||1 095 597||286 562||26||377 013 + 74 579* = 41%|
|1945–46||1 166 922||309 782|
|1946–47||1 110 612||314 702||28||405 963 + 61 045 = 42%|
Two steam electricity generating stations, one at Evans Bay, Wellington, one at Kings Wharf, Auckland, were working hard to meet extra demands for electricity. Military camps were using large quantities of coal. In houses and in schools open fires were still the most usual form of heating and coal stoves were not uncommon, while shortage of wood cutters had made firewood scarce. The prudent householder tried to buy in advance of need, thus spreading demand: for example, deliveries of domestic coal from Wellington and Christchurch depots rose from 6486 tons in January–April 1939 to 12 581 tons during those months in 1940.99page 394
During the winter of 1942, domestic coal was acutely short, particularly in the Auckland area, with some householders burning every available fruitbox and bit of timber and boiling the wash-copper with old magazines and newspapers.100 Anyone faced with a cold grate, or even the threat of it, was ready to criticise recalcitrant miners, immune from military service, who withheld their labour on trivial pretexts, depriving citizens of a basic comfort besides damaging the war effort, industry and all those dependent on rail transport.
Although mining was more or less a reserved occupation, there were not enough miners. They increased during the war by only a few hundred, with few additions underground. In 1942, 3659 underground men produced a peak 717 tons per man, whereas 3542 had produced 648 tons per man in 1939; in 1945, when opencast mining had substantially increased, there were 3932 men underground and a total of 5592 employed in mines, whereas the total for 1939 was 4762 and 4997 in 1942. By May 1940, 167 had left as volunteers101 and though thereafter underground workers were appealed for, the Mining Controller102 remarked early in 1941 that military service was the principal reason for the shortage of miners, and ‘the idea that men would rush mining jobs to escape military service was proved to be a bogey.’103 Others left for more congenial jobs104 before mining was declared an essential industry in January 1942. At the end of March 1942 Webb spoke of withdrawing 300 miners from the Army but, though War Cabinet’s approval was announced in mid-June,105 soldiers were not actually released till more than a month later.106 Meanwhile the manager of Brunner Collieries told an appeal board, ‘Twenty men want to go, and two of them are trying to loaf their way into the Army.’107 Mines were not favoured as funk-holes.
Coal miners had a sustained reputation for strikes. Of 1939’s 66 industrial disputes, costing 53 801 working days, there were 29 strikes and 21 439 days lost in the mines; shipping and cargo-working followed closely, with 20 864 days lost during 9 strikes. In page 395 1940, when all strikes were reduced to 56, with only 28 097 days lost, coal miners led the field with 13 strikes costing 11 375 days.108 In 1941, out of 89 strikes totalling 26 237 days (that is, 1860 fewer than in 1940) miners lost 11 569 days in 43 strikes. In 1942, out of 65 strikes costing 51 189 days, miners in 24 strikes contributed 24 450 lost days, second only to freezing workers, who in their 24 strikes lost 25 227 days.109
Behind these figures lay the work itself, dark, dirty, dangerous, breeding a separateness within the general community, and intensely cohesive unionism, fed by awareness that every advance in wages and conditions had been won by union pressure. This awareness reached out in time and distance, from dingy Durham and the bitter valleys of Wales, and from New Zealand’s own Depression when 1500 men were driven from the industry, although miners themselves had been willing to share the job with their mates, working day and week about at no extra cost to the employers.110
The attitude of British miners grew from long experience of class warfare, ‘conducted in most areas in geographical isolation from less strenuous industries and blander ways of life…. Against the crudest exploitation known in British industry the miners had erected unions of legendary solidarity.’111 Many New Zealand miners or their fathers had begun work in British pits, they brought traditional attitudes with them and they continued to live in isolated grim little towns whose sole reason for existence was the mine. The feeling that they had enemies far closer than Hitler or Tojo112 was widespread. The page 396 preamble of the rules and constitution of the United Mine Workers of New Zealand read:
We hold that there is a class struggle in society and that the struggle is caused by the capitalist class owning the means of production to which the working class must have access in order to live. The working class produces all value. The greater the share the capitalist class appropriates, the less remains for the working class; therefore, the interests of these two classes are in constant conflict.
There can be no peace so long as want and hunger are found among millions of working people whilst the minority who constitute the employing class have all the good things of life. Between these two classes the struggle must continue until capitalism is abolished and is replaced by a system of social ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Long experience has proved the futility of those political and industrial methods which aim only at mending and rendering tolerable, and thereby perpetuating, capitalism, instead of ending it….113
Since the start of the war, miners had been under fire. Editorials and reports on stoppages not infrequently referred to past as well as to current errors, strengthening the troublesome image; notably an article in the New Zealand Herald, 18 June 1941, repeated in other papers, summarised nearly 50 stoppages since the war’s start, concluding, ‘Such facts speak for themselves and indicate how wide is the opportunity for greater production by eliminating frivolous and irresponsible stoppages of work.’ ‘Mine Idle’ was a frequent heading, though the actual news might be of flooding114 or safety measures115 or of full bins and delays in shipping.116 Often, the reports were of strikes over the suspension or dismissal of one or two men;117 over transport;118 over pay claims for heat,119 or for distance of the coalface from the mine mouth;120 for machine-cut coal;121 over cavils (the page 397 miners’ three-monthly ballots for working places) and mistakes in them122 or because miners would not walk a quarter-mile in rain from the bath-house to the mine123 or because the clothes of a few rope boys were wet because the bath-house was too cold to dry them.124
Idle Coal Mines, More Time Lost’ deplored the New Zealand Herald and other papers on 6 December 1941, listing reasons why more than 600 men in five Grey district mines had lost a Friday’s work: at the Liverpool and Blackball mines the bins were full; the Wallsend miners, after a normal stop-work meeting, left for the funeral of a drowned trucker; at the Dobson, some men who had ‘gone slow’ for the past month were refused lamps (ie, suspended) and all the men returned home in sympathy; at the Paparoa, a pair of miners complained about the condition of a working place, the men discussed the dispute and they all went home.
Such multiple idleness was unusual; more often it involved only one or two mines at a time, and quite often work stopped for only one day. For instance, the State Mines Union had a resolution on its books that if there were no transport home for the wet-time men (who worked a 6-hour shift finishing about 2 pm), the mine would not work the following day. On 26 May 1941, when the Railways did not provide the usual train, 38 wet-time men from the Liverpool mine waited in heavy rain for the general mine train at 4.35 pm in a small unheated room and empty railway carriages. Next day, the Strongman, James and Liverpool miners, 500 of them, did not work, the Union stating that direct action was the method most likely to get grievances rectified as other means did not bring satisfaction.125
That statement touches the crux: strikes brought the miners into disrepute, but they got results, from a railway train to a pay adjustment. Mere complaints frequently brought nothing at all, and negotiations with work proceeding could take a long time, for why should management hasten towards any concession while production continued? This is the point usually invisible to the public and tediously clear to the workers. As an instance: on 28 April 1941, while the New Zealand Division was ending its rearguard action in Greece, 198 men at the MacDonald mine, Huntly, demanding 6d a ton more for machine-cut coal, ceased work. They had given 14 days’ notice of this intention but there had been no discussions between their representatives and the owners.126 The strike lasted six days, page 398 producing a crop of indignant editorials against the miners, the government, and Webb. ‘For this intolerable position the Government is directly to blame…. This is no time to discuss the merits of the present case. The men may have some justification for their claims…. The one primary consideration, however, is that production should proceed without interruption.’127 At length the men went back to work and the dispute to a committee which awarded them 4¼d a ton more in bords and 2d a ton in headings.128
Annual reports from the State mines listing the possible working days which were not worked give a more solid account of mining interruptions than the newspaper reports achieve, though the latter had more influence on public opinion. As a sample, in the year ending 31 March 1943, the Liverpool mine worked 235 days while possible working days, including 13 back Saturdays, numbered 274. There were 11 days of holiday: Good Friday, Easter Monday, Labour Day and eight days at Christmas. Four days were lost in three disputes, over horse-drivers, late trains and ‘preference of men going on coal’. Shortage of transport lost five days, a slip on the roperoad, one day; slips on the railway, 11 days; wind damage, one day; heavy rain, four days; power failure, one day and the funeral of a man killed in the mine, one day.129 The Strongman mine, in the year ending 31 March 1944, worked 256 days out of the possible 278, which included 16 ‘back’ Saturdays. Apart from two days off at Easter and eight at Christmas, there were two days lost over wages, one for the bath-house being cold, four in four disputes regarding miners, truckers, a shotfirer and stoppage of lamps. One day was given over to a funeral and four days were lost in protest at the recall to camp of men who had worked in the mines while on military furlough.130
Miners’ negotiations were many-tiered. First, the secretary of the local union, with a member of the committee from the mine where the dispute occurred, would interview management, and if this failed ask for a local disputes committee to be convened. This would have three representatives of each side; neither the manager nor a union representative of the particular mine would be included, although they could give evidence. If this committee could not reach a settlement, the next step was the appointment of an independent chairman, which was more difficult than it sounds. Each side could page 399 nominate one, but it was hard to find a man with practical knowledge of mines not biased to one side or the other, and from experience miners were doubtful that a chairman acceptable to the other side would grasp their arguments and the intricate conditions of mine working.131 If a chairman could not be found, the dispute would go to a national disputes committee, with three representatives of the coal owners and three of the national miners organisation, and if they could not agree on an independent chairman, the government would appoint one. Finally, there was the Coal Mines Council set up by emergency regulations in mid-1940 to maintain steady output, with wide powers over plant, methods, transport, housing, terms of employment and disputes arising from all these things. In practice the Council became a tribunal entirely devoted to trying to secure the rapid settlement of disputes, travelling from coalfield to coalfield and giving decisions on local disagreements.132 Its current members were T. O. Bishop, formerly a mining inspector and now secretary of the Coal Mine Owners Association, C. J. Strongman,133 superintendent of the State mines, and A. V. Prendiville, of the Nightcaps Union, who had lately replaced McLagan as national secretary. In all these channels, unless a settlement was really wanted by both sides, a dispute could wander for a long time.
Mining arrangements were obscure to the general public; almost inevitably strikes appeared selfish and frivolous, holding the country to ransom over trifles. Union solidarity seemed automatic and perverse, for dismissals which the miners contested had publicity while nothing was heard of those which they accepted.134 When, as often happened, the cause of a minor stoppage was a new issue not dealt with in the award or agreements, it was outside the range of the disputes committee.135 It was not generally known that physical conditions varied greatly from mine to mine and from place to place within each mine (hence the importance of cavils), or that agreements which attempted to meet such variations were necessarily complicated, bristling with opportunities for men and management to get at odds in interpretation. Often it was not readily apparent that complaints were long standing or recurrent.page 400
Perhaps the height of the seeming unreason was reached when, as Java fell in March 1942, 149 men at the Millerton mine, Westport, had a three-day strike claiming wet-time payments for two horse-drivers when it rained during their weekly half-hour drive from the mine mouth to the settlement and back, the drivers having already been allowed 1s 3d a week to buy oilskins. It was stated, not conspicuously, that the claim had been made previously to a local disputes committee without being settled, and had got no further.136 The statement by the union that 17 pairs of miners at Millerton were producing a record 500 tons of coal a day, 90 per cent of it cut in the open under a 50 foot roof, producing cheap coal for the company while in danger of death or maiming,137 seemed strangely inconsistent with such a fuss over a wetting. The committee hearing the dispute decided that the drivers should be paid wet-time money for the days when they got wet.138
It was easy to forget that, despite increased precautions, mining was still a relatively dangerous job; small notices appeared from time to time, saying, for instance, that Jack Stephens, 42, with wife and daughter, was killed at Denniston by a fall of coal when he was removing a prop, the handle of a pick piercing his chest;139 that Robert Glen, 39, married, died in a few hours of injuries to chest and spine from a fall of stone at the Dobson mine;140 that George Wilson, aged 58, died in hospital of injuries received that morning in the Wairaki mine.141 Between 1940 and 1945, the number of men employed in mines ranged roughly between 5000 and 5600. In 1940, eight were killed and 23 seriously injured; in 1941, four were killed, 20 seriously injured; in 1944, 12 were killed, 36 seriously injured,142 and each year there were more than 2000 lesser injuries. Awareness of such risks heightened grievance and brought blood-eloquence into miner–boss relations.
Miners’ pay varied; some were on contract, some on wages, some were paid differing tonnage rates, while there were sundry allowances and deductions. It was widely thought that they were well paid; H. G. Dickie,143 National MP, said in October 1942: ‘I would rather lose money in a mine than work in it. I admit that coal-mining is an unpleasant, wet, dirty job; but the men earn jolly good wages.’144 page 401 The research of Dr A. E. C. Hare145 qualified this belief: he found that while between 1914 and 1939 coal miners’ wages rose 68 per cent, the general average increase for other industries was 77 per cent, miners falling from fourth to tenth on the pay-rate list, with an average weekly wage of £8 15s 2d in 1939. This rose to £10 9s 10d in 1942, and £11 11s 2d in 1944, but this increase, by about a third between 1939 and 1944, was no more than that received by a number of factory workers.146 In April 1945 Prendiville, president of the United Mine Workers Federation, said that except for the two wartime five per cent cost of living bonuses, coal hewers were then working for the same rates that applied in 1931, ‘before the coal owners smashed the agreements.’ These rates were 3s 6¼d a ton in Waikato mines, 3s 2¾d on the West Coast.147 The Coal Mine Owners Association, in reply, pointed out that during the war miners’ average daily earnings were 30s 6d in 1939, 39s 4d in 1942 and 45s 10d in 1944; at the Renown mine they were 31s 6d in 1939, 38s 11d in 1942, 48s in 1944. At Denniston average earnings were 40s 5½d, 42s 2½d and 43s 9½d in the respective years; at the Strongman State mine 32s in 1940, 40s 2d in 1942 and 42s 2d in 1944.148
The New Zealand Herald on 10 September 1942 summarised a ‘typical’ wages sheet for a pair of Waikato miners; many, it was stated, showed higher totals, particularly where extra shifts were worked, and others considerably lower. These two men in a fortnight hewed 113 tons 17 hundredweight of coal at 3s 6¼d a ton and 113 tons 18 hundredweight at 3s 10½d a ton, making a total of £42 2s 3d, the different tonnage rates being due to differences in the width and height of the face, or other working conditions. Several extras, 13s 9d for stone, £1 4s 2d for doing their own trucking, 12s 6d for breaking away a new face, £1 5s 6d for setting timber, with 10 per cent added according to their agreement, brought the total up to £50 10s. From this was deducted £4 9s 7d for explosives, 6s for check weighing the company’s figures, 5s 3d for tools, 2s for the doctor, 1s for the ambulance, reducing it to £45 6s 2d, or about £11 6s 6d a week for each man.149 These details indicate the complexity of mining pay calculations. The Herald stated that the minimum wage for Waikato coalhewers was 26s 8d a day and if through page 402 no fault of their own they could not average this over a fortnight the difference was made up by management. In the report of the Pukemiro inquiry150 the minimum daily rate was given as 25s 4d; the report is more authoritative than the Herald article.
Other examples of pay figures come from annual reports of State mines. In 1942–3, at the Strongman, 52 men and 11 boys worked on the surface, while underground 79 deputies, shiftmen and truckers, and 52 coalhewers, produced 94 170 tons of coal. Each coalhewer’s average daily output was 7½ tons, and his daily earnings £2 9s 9d gross, or £2 4s 7d after paying for explosive, while a total of £71 1s 11d was paid out over the year to make up the minimum wage. At the Liverpool mine, where 67 men and 13 boys on the surface and 236 workers underground produced 165 837 tons, the 86 coalhewers each averaged 9 tons 1 hundredweight a day, earning £2 12s 1d gross, or £2 8s 6d net, with £3 10s 3d paid out to make up minimum wage deficiencies. At Blackball, taken over in difficulties in July 1941, 34 527 tons were produced by 23 men and 4 boys working on the surface, 33 truckers and 27 coalhewers who each cut 7 tons 11 hundredweight a day, for £2 8s 7d gross or £2 4s 7d net, with no deficiency payments required. From Tatu, near Ohura, came 29 619 tons, produced by 88 workers, 24 of them coalhewers each averaging 6 tons 4 hundredweight daily for £2 2s 6d net, with no minimum wage payments.151
Newspaper letters give a few other glimpses. To a suggestion that miners were unaware of the war and that some might well spend a week in camp or be taken on aerial patrols or minesweepers in rough weather,152 ‘A miner’s wife’ replied that the fighting lads at least had fresh air and could see the sky, but a miner had no sky or fresh air nor could he wash his hands to eat his lunch. ‘The miners are doing their own job and minding their own business. They are not telling others to do better. They have enough to do to knock out a wage. I was charged 6s 4d in town for a bag of coal.153 My husband gets 3s 6d a ton to cut the coal. Out of that he has to pay for light, tools, powder, boots, clothes and tax.’154 Another letter spoke of boots lasting eight weeks, trousers and shirts six, of sore eyes, scratched faces, arms and legs, of muscles aching from pick work in cramped quarters, ‘some of the “places” being only 2 ft high’, page 403 and then Home Guard on Sundays.155 A miner, stung by a farmer saying to an appeal board that miners were down the mine for only five and a half hours a day, finishing at 3 pm, with no work on Saturdays, wrote that all the 55 men in his mine left the pit top by 8 each morning and emerged between 3.15 and 3.30 pm. ‘I work at least six and three-quarter hours daily—I am allowed one hour travelling time on top of this—so my day’s work is nearly as long as the man who works outside in the sunshine, and I can safely say this goes for the majority of mine employees.’ Many did not work on Saturday, but many others did so.156
There were frequent complaints about absenteeism, some from the miners’ champion, P. C. Webb,157 as well as from management. Poor attendances on the alternate ‘back’ Saturdays which, because of the coal shortage, miners were asked and agreed to work from April to September each year of the war, had special and often critical mention,158 but not till May 1943 were pay rates for Saturday work raised to time-and-a-half—when men worked more than 11 shifts in a fortnight;159 a year later all Saturday work was at time-and-a-half.160 Miners also, at government request, worked on such holidays as May Day, King’s Birthday and Labour Day, and back Saturdays in some Decembers.161 The Northern Miners Union claimed in July 1942 that there was ‘no great unjustifiable absenteeism’, union tallies showing a rate of 4 per cent.162 This was not very different from the 5.2 per cent of unjustifiable absences recorded at Huntly during a fortnight in May 1943 by the Mines Department.163 Again, in May 1944, Webb stated that during the past 48 weeks, at 25 principal collieries, on the coalface voluntary absenteeism amounted to 4.9 per cent of man-shifts, with justified absences taking another 9.3 per cent. Comparative British figures were 6.1 and 9.6 per cent respectively. Among New Zealand mine workers not on the coalface, voluntary absenteeism was 3.5 per cent, and justified absences 6.8 per cent, with comparative British figures 4.9 and 7.5 per cent.164 Dr Hare in 1943 wrote that the rate of absenteeism among miners ‘is much lower than public discussion might suggest’. page 404 Official records recently instituted at the main mines showed that 10.8 per cent of the total shifts which could have been worked during the four winter months May–August 1943 were lost through absence, but sickness, accidents, etc, accounted for 7.6 per cent, leaving only 3.2 per cent of unexplained absenteeism.165
In human terms it was not strange that, despite the war, some miners dodged work on very slender pretexts or none at all to, say, stay in bed, garden, go whitebaiting or go to the pub,166 now that fear of losing the job was removed. For all the talk of sending lazy or difficult miners into the Army, miners held power and they knew it. The miner’s working day was supposed to be of eight hours, from when he entered the mine until he left it, including the time taken to walk to his working place. Several Huntly managers in 1940 told a Manpower committee that the men were in fact observing a 7-hour day, and had whittled down their actual working time, exclusive of meal and travelling times, to about 5 or 5½ hours daily; output was falling while miners averaged 34s a day and truckers 21s 1d; owners were powerless to enforce full working hours and absenteeism was a problem.167 Tom Hall, secretary of the Northern Miners Union, spoke of miners receiving 26s 1d a day, not 34s, claimed that they were working harder than others in the community and explained that men knocked off early to get cleaned up at inadequate bath houses before the train left, while young men walked out more quickly than the older ones. But he also said, ‘I was whipped to do things seven years ago which I am not whipped to do today.’168
George Lawson, secretary of the Pukemiro union, pointed out that to earn 34s a day in an average pick place at the average tonnage rate of 3s 6¼d per ton, the miner must dig 10 tons or more, as the extras allowed for setting timber, etc, did not meet the cost of his explosives. He wanted a full inquiry into the industry from producer to consumer, with attention to middleman costs. ‘Let the public remember, when next they pay £3 and upwards for a ton of coal, that the miner who risks his life daily for the princely sum of 34s and often much less, receives 3s 6¼d for digging that ton of page 405 coal.’ He appealed to readers not to take everything they saw printed about coal miners as absolutely authentic.169
Little public attention was given to the miserable housing of most miners, nor was this generally associated with their grudging attitudes. The Depression years had checked all house building at mining settlements, and at the privately-owned mines there had been no worthwhile move to close the gap between what existed and what was needed. Few miners could afford to build decent houses, and mine owners had a very limited sense of responsibility in this area. When Webb on 7 July 1942 said in the House that some hovels at Burnett’s Face were a disgrace to New Zealand, the Westport Coal Company replied that these were the property of the miners themselves, and though their external appearance might be unpretentious, ‘the furnishings internally are exceedingly good and would compare more than favourably with most workmen’s homes in New Zealand.’ At Denniston, however, the company, at capital cost of £20,000, had built 39 houses for its employees, 10 of three rooms, 18 of four rooms, seven of five rooms, the rest of six to eight rooms; five small houses were then vacant.170 Denniston, clinging to its bare rock, was probably the most desolate mining township but, though the locale of others might be less harsh, they were all generally meagre and dreary. Those in the Waikato were no exceptions; in April 1941 Webb and the Waikato owners, aiming at increased production, had discussed the acute housing shortage in the Huntly area, where single men could not get board and a number were living in tents and roughly made baches near the mines.171
With coal a national necessity, mine owners felt that it was government’s responsibility to build workers’ houses at private mines,172 and they were not alone in this view. The Press, for instance, stated: ‘It may as reasonably be argued that the State should provide miners’ houses as that the companies should. Miners’ earnings put them in as good a position as other workers to build or buy their own homes. Those who prefer to rent houses have as strong a claim as other workers to be assisted through the State’s housing programme.’173 The government, while accepting the need to build modestly at its own mines, was very guarded about doing this where it would assist mine owners. In July–August 1942, the government began building 40 houses in the Grey district, half at Dunollie for page 406 State miners and half near the Dobson and Wallsend mines, both taken over some six months later,174 while announcing that houses would soon be provided in the Waikato, subject to negotiations with the mine owners.175
The State had by 1942 spent £100,000 on housing for its Liverpool, James and Strongman mines and, since 1940, £12,000 at Tatu. At the Mangapehi mines near Te Kuiti, also taken over in 1940, £70,000 had been spent on houses and a hostel; the new settlement, named Benneydale, with its hospital, town water supply, sewerage system and co-operative store was called a model mining village.176
In April 1942, a Glen Massey miner wrote that the excellent housing described in a recent broadcast applied only to State mines and was entirely lacking on the private fields of Huntly. Here many employees, unable to get family housing, had to keep two homes going. ‘Surely it is time the State took over all these mines so that the northern miners may also reap the benefit of its humanitarian principles.’177
On 24 July 1942, at a conference of Waikato owners’ and miners’ representatives, Webb warned that miners who would not work would be replaced by men from the Army, and also declared that Waikato production was lagging because the owners had not hastened with housing as they had promised. They would get on with this at once or he would have no hesitation in asking the government to take over all the mines and rush up the required housing. The owners had asked for 300 more workers and the Army was ready to release 300 men with mining experience, but without housing they could not be taken on. Unionists told of men living in washhouses, garages and hovels, or in hotels at £4 a week. Most of the owners fully admitted that housing was inadequate, but pleaded their difficulties: the extreme demand for coal had arisen only since the war with Japan, and it would ease when the war was ended; building materials were short, and the plans first proposed by the owners had been rejected as non-permanent. Glen Afton’s management, denying inactivity, said that it had bought two houses, built four, prefabricated, and proposed 20 more, but the cheapest builder could do only one at a time. To the miners, Webb again inveighed against absenteeism, saying that any who did not work fairly would page 407 go into the Army, whence 1000 former miners could replace them.178 A few days later, the government undertook to protect owners against capital loss on providing houses, and to assist miners to buy the houses. Owners promised fullest co-operation, miners approved and the conference proceeded to arrange a production council and pit committees.179 Minhinnick, on 27 July, cartooned Webb jumping on the conference table (and his hat) while both owners and miners cowered before him.
Meanwhile, Webb could claim that while the last year’s 2 639 507 tons of coal was a record, output for the first six months of 1942, despite heavy floods on the West Coast,180 was 1 312 099 tons, being 33 000 tons or five per cent more than in those months of 1941, and with 127 fewer men in the mines. The Waikato had contributed substantially to the increase and, apart from minor troubles at Pukemiro, there had been no hold-ups for months past.181 In the six months to the end of June there had been 16 coal disputes, involving 2771 workers and losing 3220 days,182 but during July and August there were only three one-day stoppages, involving in all 764 miners.183 On 27 August, Webb announced that in the past few weeks railway coal stocks had increased by 1400 tons weekly, so that an additional 1200 tons a week from Waikato could be released for household use, and 800 tons in the South Island.184
This was the relatively tranquil background against which the Huntly strike of September 1942, with all its political repercussions, broke forth in the Waikato. By agreement, if miners working on tonnage rates could not, through no fault of their own, average 25s 4d a shift over a fortnight, management would make up the difference for the shifts worked. At the Pukemiro mine management, claiming that 10 men had been going slow, refused their deficiency payment, and 190 miners, claiming that the minimum wage principle was at stake, struck on Thursday, 3 September.
Webb said immediately that the strike was totally unjustifiable, the miners were breaking their agreement, the rules of their federation, and the law; the law would be upheld. The executive of the Northern Miners Union recommended strongly that the Pukemiro page 408 men should resume work, referring the matter to a disputes committee, and pit-head meetings at the several mines on Friday morning endorsed this.185 The Pukemiro men refused, unless the money at issue, totalling about £16, was paid while the dispute was being considered; they claimed that their agreement’s insistence that work should go on in ‘all respects as before’ during negotiations included payment.186 Meanwhile on Tuesday, 8 September, after stop-work meetings, the men at the Glen Afton, Renown, MacDonald, Alison and Rotowaro mines, saying that previously they had not had all the facts, decided almost unanimously to strike in sympathy; when the Wilton mine joined them next day about 1300 miners, normally producing nearly 3000 tons a day, were idle.
On 9 September, the Auckland Star’s strike news included a small paragraph headed ‘Government Should Take Over’: the Mayor of Ngaruawahia had raised a new aspect, saying that in his opinion ‘there would never be peace on the coalfields until the Government took over the mines. From other sources it seems that this opinion is generally held among the men, and there may be in the action taken a suggestion that the Government’s hand is being forced in this regard.’187
Management claimed to have figures showing that men on the disputed coalface, a few weeks earlier, were able to make up to 35s a day, but in the last pay fortnight the earnings had dropped to between 12 and 22 shillings a day, which, taken with knowledge of the coalface, showed that they were breaking the spirit of the agreement; their earnings were short of the minimum wage through their own fault, and therefore did not have to be made up.188
The men contended that no miner liked being on the minimum wage which, with deductions, gave him less than £10 a fortnight to take home; that only those actually working a face knew how much coal could be cut and filled there, and that conditions had changed. Previously, the face had been narrow, and workers there had received an additional yardage rate; now that it had been widened, this did not apply; more blasting (a charge on the miners) was required and there was more stone in the coal. Further, previously the men had done their own trucking for which each pair of miners was paid 26s 7d a shift.189 Webb explained that lately page 409 men emerging from the Army had taken over the trucking, releasing miners for full-time work on the face, and production should have increased, but it had dropped. The Coal Mines Council had discussed the matter when visiting the Waikato the week before the strike, but the miners had not prepared their case and though the union secretary had promised to forward details he had not done so.190
It seems regrettable that the Coal Mines Council had not pursued these inquiries, but presumably they did not seem urgent. Fraser was away in America, due to return on 17 September. Webb deplored that despite all the improvements that Labour had achieved for miners a few irresponsible wreckers were spoiling the fine effort of the majority; their challenge would be accepted and all the powers of the State used to maintain production.191 On 8 September, the government had decided to prosecute the Pukemiro miners and on the 10th it was announced that they would be called to court on the 17th. Semple, warning of drastic cuts in North Island rail services, was amazed at the miners’ sudden defection and 100 per cent behind his colleague in accepting their challenge.192 The press approved these condemnations: Webb and Semple, said the Evening Star, had been practical miners and ‘if there had been any justification for the action of the men they as Labour stalwarts would have seen it.’193 Editors hungered for strong action, declaring that the public was less interested in the cause of the stoppage than in its effects,194 and that the miners’ defiance, their feeling that they could be a law unto themselves, came from Webb’s former bluster and weakness. Almost alone, the Auckland Star’s reports set forth, without advocacy, the miners’ view: they pooh-poohed the go-slow suggestion, and saw instead an actual breach of the agreement and an attack on the minimum wage which must be fought to a finish, not only for miners but for the whole industrial side of which they were the champions. ‘To them the industrial struggle is a much older struggle than the war’, though their recent response to a production drive showed that they were willing to respond to war appeals; in the Waikato, where conditions were good, some had been producing 15 tons a day, and the average had been about nine tons.195 At the same time, the Star’s editorials condemned the strike as heartily as page 410 did any other paper: ‘It is appalling that on so flimsy a pretext the whole production of the lower Waikato mines should be stopped.’196
Webb, Minister of Labour and of Mines, and heavily criticised for his handling of other disputes, did not go to the Waikato. Instead, there came Angus McLagan, for 15 years secretary of the United Mine Workers of New Zealand, president of the Federation of Labour since 1937 and, since 1 July, Minister of Industrial Manpower. He had started work, aged 14, in a British pit, but had been nearly 30 years in the mines and unions of New Zealand, mainly on the West Coast.197 Two months previously he had reluctantly accepted a place in the Upper House, the necessary constitutional step to the War Cabinet, as a Labour leader of proved and puritan worth. Though honest, able and hard-working, with a widely informed grasp of issues, McLagan was not an easy or tactful manipulator, ready at the right moment to take or seem to take others into his confidence. This was the first major dispute in which he was not acting as the miners’ man. He was uneasy and uncommunicative, ‘frankly hostile’ to the press,198 and he made no immediate approach to the men at large.
After he had met the Northern Miners Union executive, it was decided to hold a secret ballot on whether to resume work while a disputes committee settled the minimum wage issue or to continue the stoppage till the amount involved was paid. The Auckland Star’s reporter commented that in this union as in other bodies there were inactive members, and particularly at pit-head meetings good talkers were liable to sway proceedings without enough debate by those holding contrary views, who were awed by what seemed majority opinion.199 Three-fifths of the votes cast were needed for a clear decision and McLagan, saying that this was the most important decision ever before them, urged all miners to vote at the 13 polling places open on Friday 11 September; but he did not call or address any public meetings before the ballot. With McLagan was J. Devlin, who had just been re-elected president of the United Mine Workers, heavily defeating Lawson of Pukemiro.200
Cartoonists, contrasting miners with soldiers and prisoners-of-war, ridiculed Webb and McLagan.204 Editors repeatedly censured miners, ministers and the government, and called anew for strong action. For example: ‘Not all the merits of the dispute are on the side of the employers, but whether the action of the employers in paying reduced wages was right or wrong, it is clear that the action of the miners is absolutely wrong…. The Government cuts a sorry figure … the men are trading on the known weakness of the Government which has given way to them in practically every serious industrial argument that has arisen…. If the State has the right to order a man into the Army, it has the right to order a man into a mine and make him work.’205 The New Zealand Herald wanted non-union workers: no large labour force would be required, there would be no insuperable difficulties in showing the miners that they were not, as they comfortably believed, indispensable. ‘The Government could and should prove to the miners … that the country can get on— can get coal—without them. The lesson would be sharp and salutary, saving trouble in the future and averting the industrial and page 413 transport crisis’; morale and war effort would be boosted if the government turned from wheedling and threatening to acting and producing.206
The great question today is whether a democracy is prepared to use a firm hand against those who sabotage its war industry…. If the only way to bring them [miners] to their senses is to call for volunteer labour, that step must be taken, for subject to certain safeguards, such labour can work the mine.207
In post-strike debate, Holland claimed that the leaders should have been ‘arrested and incarcerated’ and the men given 48 hours to return to the mine or go into camp where he believed the soldiers would have taken good care of them.208 It is also probable that such toughness would have brought forth the battle-cry ‘Victimisation’, with support from other miners and even other industries, apart from such practical difficulties as finding the leaders or coping with recalcitrant miners over or under military age. The strikers were not worried lest men from the Army take over. ‘You might get a few to work but you won’t get a thousand ex-miners to turn down their mates’ was their feeling, and some of those on strike were themselves lately released from the Army.209 If experienced volunteers could not be obtained, inexperienced men would be a danger to themselves and everyone else. Routines, slowly evolved and enforced by mining inspectors and deputies, would have become hazards, and the dangers for ‘scabs’ underground would have been obvious to anyone whose situation in life made him a possible volunteer.
Meanwhile, on Monday night 14 September, McLagan had left for Wellington, along with Hall, secretary of the Northern Miners Union. At Huntly, affairs stagnated and criticism grew about the handling of the strike. There was wide recognition that work must resume, there was the usual necessity to ‘save face’, and there was union in-fighting, with strong conflict between executives and younger ‘irresponsibles’. Antagonisms were heightened when a meeting, arranged by the strike committee of the MacDonald mine at a theatre for the afternoon of Tuesday 15th, was banned by the police in the interests of public safety. The arrival that day of 30 additional police did not sweeten the mood of Huntly, seething with talk and divided opinions, but with no hint of violence.213 ‘Well-informed observers’ stated that had this theatre meeting been held much confusion might have been dispelled, and it would have been no surprise had the men decided to abrogate the ballot and other decisions and vote for an immediate return to work.214
On 16 September, G. Smith,215 the Mayor of Huntly, and A. F. Moncur MP,216 who had lately toured the mines on a production page 415 drive, tried to negotiate with the owners and to arrange a mass meeting, but as the police would allow only these two as speakers, the union executive would not have it.217 The Federation of Labour (of which McLagan was president) declared that however justifiable a stoppage might be normally, to slow up the war effort was against trade union policy and its effect was comparable to the Japanese bombing the railways. The United Mine Workers (of which McLagan was secretary) also urged ending a strike disastrous for miners and the whole Labour movement. The Auckland Trades Council ‘while fully realising the justice of the miners’ case’ entreated them to resume in the interests of the struggle against the Axis,218 and the communist-minded In Print declared itself, despite the mine owners’ ‘provocative and truculent’ action, against the strike method at the present time.219 Only the Auckland watersiders proffered support, sending £249 as strike relief.220
Any support for the strike was unlikely to appear in print, for J. T. Paul,221 Director of Censorship and Publicity, had instructed newspaper editors that there must be ‘no publication of reports of meetings, resolutions or statements in support of the unlawful strike, or any statement supporting or condemning the strikers without reference to the Director of Publicity.’222
On 17 September Fraser returned from America, and at Huntly the trial of the Pukemiro men began. All of them, even those absent or on compensation for injury, pleaded guilty to taking part in an illegal strike, while denying full responsibility for it,223 though the prosecution agreed to exclude 14 boys of 17 years or less who would have been swayed by others. The magistrate, W. H. Freeman, after twice adjourning the Court to facilitate negotiations before penalties should harden attitudes still further, on 18 September sentenced 182 men to a month in prison. There was, however, no move to carry page 416 them off, and Fraser later claimed full responsibility for this delay.224 Meanwhile, the strike persisted.
On Saturday the 19th McLagan and Hall, back in Huntly after seeing Fraser, proposed to address next day four meetings there and at the mine settlements, refusing still to have a general meeting, demand for which was growing stronger: four delegates—half the Northern Miners executive—walked out of an executive meeting on this decision.225
When the first meeting was due to start at Huntly on Sunday morning, there were only about 30 men in the hall, though about 350 were in the street outside. McLagan coming out of the footpath towards a group of 60 began to speak: ‘Men of the Northern Miners Union—’, but they turned from him, walking out of hearing, while a few voices asked who had called the meeting. McLagan approached another large group, trying to persuade them to come into the hall, but again there was pointed, silent dispersal. Eventually he there addressed a small and restless group of about 40. The afternoon meetings at Glen Afton, Renown and Glen Massey were abandoned, as was a mass meeting arranged for Monday at Huntly. McLagan, with almost 30 years of union work behind him, was bluntly rejected by the militants, who had grown in strength during the two weeks of rumour and intrigue. There were widespread jibes about the spectacle of a Minister of the Crown forced to pursue a parley in the streets.
About 600 finally met at Huntly on 21 September. Reporters were not present, but it was ‘learned unofficially’ that while McLagan was speaking early in the meeting ‘the suggestion arose’ that the men should return to work forthwith on condition that the government took over the mines. This was approved 440:130, there was an adjournment for McLagan to telephone Wellington, and a hard line proposal to continue striking for the minimum wage was rejected. This meeting was not fully representative, particularly of the original strikers, who wanted the minimum wage issue settled first, and the government did not officially reply. McLagan battled with the Pukemiro men again next morning, and later that day a union notice posted at Huntly said that the mass meeting favoured return to work under State control, that the government had decided to take control, and that members should resume work next day.226 This anticipated by a night Webb’s announcement on 23 September of State control for the duration of the war, with the owners retaining possession. Still the strike was not ended, but there were now two issues page 417 before the miners, the original dispute and State control. The second distracted adherents from the first,227 and finally after more meetings another ballot on Friday 25 September voted conclusively, 715:428, to resume work with the original dispute going before a committee. Work started on Monday 28th, and next day it was announced that the sentences on the Pukemiro men were suspended, provided they worked diligently and took no part in strikes for the duration.
There were precedents under non-Labour governments for such remissions, and Fraser claimed that the law had been upheld, a major industrial disaster averted and coal production resumed, while the rights of the coal owners would be fully protected. Coates tried to quieten alarm raised by the dread words ‘socialisation’ and ‘nationalisation’, saying, ‘I personally believe that there is a distinct difference between socialisation and the form of control it is proposed to adopt.’228 But a chorus of disapproval arose from the press, Chambers of Commerce, manufacturers’ associations and other bodies of conservative thought.
Holland and his followers claimed that the State control proposal came from Waikato, that the mine owners229 had been deprived of their rights at the dictation of striking miners. Fraser explained that Coates had previously230 held discreet exploratory discussions with the mine owners at Auckland and the matter was under consideration by the government when it was spoken of at the meeting at Huntly, ‘an occurrence that I regret very much.’231 The New Zealand Herald, in its first comment on the proposal, understood ‘from a reliable report’ that nationalisation had been under consideration by the government for some days.232 Webb, on the 23rd, said that regulations for State control had been drafted (without reference to the owners) a week before the Huntly meeting on the 21st, and held in readiness for enactment in the last resort if the strike lasted long.233 It is likely that he was improvising in his zeal to deny both that the miners instigated the move and that the government was eagerly awaiting opportunities to nationalise. Coates said that in his page 418 two preliminary discussions the owners were quite friendly and helpful but they opposed the few headings offered, ‘for no regulations had then been set out’, claiming that they had done no wrong and not seeing why they should be picked out for special treatment.234
In any case, the idea of the State running the mines was broadly current. The State could spend more than private enterprise could both on mine developments that were commercially unprofitable but vital in obtaining coal and on amenities such as housing. Since mid-1940 it had already taken over three mines that were in difficulties. The minutes of the United Mine Workers council on 11 April 1941 briefly record that a remit for nationalisation, moved by Hall of the Northern Mines, was carried. In Britain the nationalisation of coal resources, enacted in 1938, became effective on 1 July 1942. Webb’s statement on 24 July that unless mine owners co-operated over housing he would recommend State take-over for the duration should be remembered, as should the opinion of the Mayor of Ngaruawahia,235 given on 9 September, that there would not be peace on the coalfield till the government took over. The New Zealand Herald report, on 22 September, said that the widening of the dispute to the broad and controversial issue of State control ‘is said to be the expression of many latent beliefs held by the miners. There has been practically no previous mention of the subject at the many informal gatherings during the 18 days of the stoppage, but it is recognised that, in the minds of many miners, the questions of mine management and State control are inextricably linked.’ Alongside this, a letter from Tauranga, presumably written several days earlier, mentioned that the miners had ‘made it evident that they want the nationalisation of all coal mines.’236
Peter Fraser with New Zealand servicemen in England
An air raid shelter under construction, Auckland, April 1942
Four St John ambulance nurses at the opening of the Centennial Memorial meeting house, Tawakeheimoa, at Te Awahou
Approval for the National party actions was not wholesale, even in normally conservative areas. The press was divided. The three metropolitan Stars, while consistently condemning the strike and the way it was handled, disapproved of Holland’s group forsaking their posts and the attempt at unity, and did not favour an early election. The Star–Sun was not moved by Holland’s scruples at the government’s compromise: ‘What did he think they would do? They have compromised in every serious labour trouble that has occurred since the war started and it is certain that they will compromise to the end of the chapter, because it is their nature to do so’,240 and it thought that Holland showed poor appreciation of the government’s dilemma and the dangers facing the country when the magistrate ‘slammed the door’ on conciliation by imposing gaol sentences.241 The Auckland Star, after saying that the government had got itself out of a bad situation by establishing a bad precedent, risked a prophecy:
In the long run the country will be better off with a real and active Opposition … than with an Administration based on a political truce which in Mr Holland’s view has become fictitious. But if the Dominion now enjoys a period of industrial peace, and if, in particular, the new control of the Waikato coal mines works smoothly, Mr Holland and his colleagues may before long wonder whose interests have been served by their resignations.242
In a cartoon by J. C. H., Holland trundled along Politics Lane a bundle out of which stuck three pairs of feet, while a miner advised, ‘Don’t let walking out of the War Cabinet worry you Syd—you’re not an essential industry’.243
A few provincial papers also were dubious. The Napier Daily Telegraph of 30 September, while sympathising with Holland, page 420 thought that he might have been wiser to have protested but continued his Administration work; the Timaru Herald said ‘This is a hasty and regrettable decision’.244 The Otago Daily Times of 1 October viewed the resignations with ‘mingled approval and regret’. The Dominion saw them as a ‘logical and proper course’, setting an example greatly needed where ‘so grave an abandonment of both policy and principle called for drastic protest.’245
The Press was particularly concerned at Holland being let down. Two days before the trial Holland, deputy chairman of the War Cabinet, had given an assurance that lawbreakers would be dealt with fearlessly and firmly, with no such interference; ‘by going back on that statement, the Government has brought itself into contempt and has shaken public confidence in the impartiality of the administration of justice.’ Nor did it think that the War Administration was worth saving.246 But neither the Press nor the Otago Daily Times wanted a hasty election.
The New Zealand Herald and the Evening Post went all the way with Holland. The Post held that withdrawal by the Nationalists was inevitable, otherwise they would have become parties to an abject surrender; the country must shortly face the turmoil of an election.247 The Herald declared: ‘The Government…. showed itself unable and therefore unfit to govern. It suffered one of its Ministers to be ignored and itself to be defied and mocked … Mr Holland could not do otherwise than dissociate himself from such pusillanimous proceedings…. Huntly follows on Westfield. None can believe that the sequence will end at Huntly.’ The situation demanded an all-in national cabinet or an early election.248
Within the parliamentary National party, there was some division.249 Coates and Hamilton, resigning from the party, accepted Fraser’s invitation to rejoin War Cabinet as individuals, issuing on 5 October a dignified statement tuned to the realities of the situation and the prime necessity of getting coal. In a no-confidence debate moved by Holland in mid-October, two others, H. S. S. Kyle250 of Riccarton and J. N. Massey251 of Franklin, stood with them, saying page 421 that the government had taken the only practical course. Coates said that it was easier to talk of punishing ringleaders than to discover accurately who they were, and that those who talked of shooting them should point out who would do the shooting. ‘We do not want Hitlerism in this country.’252 Several other non-Labour members regretted that the magistrate had imposed gaol sentences. ‘I do not agree with gaoling strikers,’ said H. G. Dickie, National, of Patea, ‘They should be given a stiff fine and the strike treated as a continuing offence.’253 Andrew S. Sutherland254 (National, Hauraki) and C. A. Wilkinson255 (Independent, Egmont) had similar views256 and Hamilton said that the magistrate’s decision had caused a good deal of the difficulty, whereas a fine would have been practicable no matter how many were involved.257 Holland himself, though early in the debate he had declared that the miners’ leaders should have been incarcerated and the rest given 48 hours to get back to the mine or into camp,258 later adopted this view. In reply to a newspaper correspondent’s direct question whether he would have gaoled the strikers for a month, Holland wrote: ‘If I had been in the Prime Minister’s position, I would not have allowed a law to remain on the Statute Book that could not be enforced. To throw hundreds of men into prison merely makes martyrs of them, but if the men had been fined that was punishment that would have had the required results and the ends of justice would have been adequately served.’259
Meanwhile the news from the Solomons was poor, with the Americans holding, but only holding, Guadalcanal’s airfield and other places seized early in August. “The next six months will be the period of greatest danger in the south-west Pacific,’ pronounced the Press on 28 September. By mid-October, when Holland and Doidge in the House were urging an election, the long-expected counter-attack was developing and, as the Auckland Star said, ‘There is only one fight that the Dominion can afford now.’260 What had made the strike specially reprehensible also made an election untimely.page 422
The National Disputes Committee,261 which examined Pukemiro’s problems on 3 to 4 October found, as so often in trade union disputes, that the cause lay well behind the point of outbreak. It was shown that in the first fortnight of August, five pairs of men working in the places concerned had averaged 14, 11, 9.8, 12.6 and 17.2 tons per shift, besides doing their own trucking, at 26s 7d a day to each pair. When the trucking was cancelled in the last fortnight of August, an average of only 7.2 tons per shift was cut and filled. At first the miners’ advocate, G. Lawson, maintained that the reduction was the result of change in the nature of the coal, but later ‘admitted frankly’ that the miners had not produced all they could because they thought that even by working hard they could not earn satisfactory wages; when the trucking arrangement was ended, they deliberately reduced their daily output. Management therefore was justified in refusing to make up their earnings. However, the committee judged that only two of the eight places seen were good, at two it would be difficult for even a skilled miner to earn the minimum wage and the others were borderline cases. In the mine manager’s opinion, fair production from this section would be 15 tons per pair a shift, which would average the minimum wage of 25s 4d a day, whereas the general mine average was more than 40s. Ever since this section had first been opened, its tonnage rate had caused dissatisfaction, being based on that of earlier workings 12 feet high, while currently height was restricted to 9 feet. But for the trucking arrangement, which had raised the miners’ earnings substantially, trouble would have come to a head earlier. Instead of approaching the question
by proper and well established methods, the Pukemiro union attempted to use the minimum wage provision to force it to a conclusion; hence the whole of the recent trouble. There was no justification at any time for the union’s action, but there remains still to be settled the important matter of the tonnage rates for the Taupiri section of the mine and the parties should without delay proceed to deal with it by proper methods.262
These methods duly raised the tonnage rates in that section by 9d a ton, removing or at least lessening the original grievance.263
Except at Auckland, the main dailies were content to publish the committee’s finding that the strike was not justified; they did not page 423 give its report in full, notably omitting its recommendations on the tonnage rate.264 The Auckland Star, however, after drawing attention to long-standing dissatisfaction with the tonnage rate, continued: ‘As so often in the past … once men resort to “direct action” … the original grievance is submerged. In this case the question, so far as it was commonly understood, was whether or not the men had been “going slow.” Now, after so much else has happened, the committee has detected and defined the original grievance—the apparent cause of the “go-slow”—and has strongly urged that it be investigated and settled by proper methods and without delay’. The Star also commented on the secrecy that had confused the dispute:
It has been left to the committee … to reveal that although the mine manager rightly refused to pay the minimum wage to the ten men who were going slow he continued to make up the earnings of other miners when necessary. There was therefore no question of an ‘attack on the principle of the minimum wage.’ Both these important matters should have been elucidated, publicly, at an early stage, but mine owners and union alike refused to take advantage of the opportunity to make their cases public. The reason often given for secrecy in such areas is that publicity ‘will not help’; but it would be very hard to say whose interests were served by the secrecy with which the recent dispute was surrounded—certainly not the interests of the public.265
On 10 October, emergency regulation 1942/293 established a Board to control the five mines concerned in all aspects—such as methods of working, plant, equipment, workers’ housing, hiring and firing— for the duration of the war, while the owners were to receive each year an amount equal to the profits averaged over the last three years. The Board was dominated by the Minister, who chaired it, with a casting vote, and appointed all the members, four from the owners, two from the miners and one other. Webb found the field immediately transformed by goodwill and zeal for production, which within a month rose by more than a thousand tons a week. Pit committees were interviewing absentees, there was co-operative trucking, machines were splitting coal pillars, a practice the Union had previously prohibited, and alternate Saturdays were worked.266
Three hundred miners would be released from the Army as soon as there were houses for them; 20 houses were to be built at Mangapehi, 20 at Tatu and 40 in the Huntly area. Of the last, 20 at Glen Afton were to be finished by about the end of November, when page 424 another 20 were to be started at Rotowaro. They were ‘being built by the companies under an arrangement with the State which had given priorities with men and materials’, and James Fletcher, Commissioner of Defence Construction, had given his powerful attention to the matter.267
The housing spurt was short. The 1943 report of the Mines Department recalled that since 1935, under Labour, £270,000 had built 370 miners’ homes, £245,000 at State or State controlled mines. Since the war’s start, 186 houses costing £117,788 had been built at State mines, and in addition 55 at the Waikato collieries since October 1942. The report added that there was statutory obligation (Section 151, Coal Mines Act 1925) on colliery owners to provide satisfactory housing, and in view of the government’s financial assistance there was now no excuse for failure to build homes where necessary ‘as speedily as possible under existing conditions’.268 This was not very speedy; there were great and growing demands for all kinds of construction, for defence, industry, farm housing and, increasingly after 1943, homes for returning servicemen, while materials were acutely short. Later mines reports told of scarce builders and materials preventing the provision of miners’ homes and thereby the employment of more miners, though camps for single men were established at the Renown and Wilton mines in the Waikato, using army huts plus cooking and other facilities. In 1946, houses were still hoped for, and hostels were being considered.269 Nor were the defects of existing houses rapidly set right. In October 1943, the Raglan County Council, stirred to investigate by the Health Department, had never seen such filthy, insanitary conditions as those at Glen Afton and other mining towns in the district, and decided that mine owners, the Mines Department and local ratepayers in each town should confer to improve household drainage.270
At first, production in the Waikato mines improved. It was estimated that the strike had lost well over 50 000 tons of coal. In January 1943 Webb, announcing that during 1942 the northern district mines had yielded 929 063 tons compared with 921 747 tons the previous year, claimed that strike losses had been made up.271 In the Waikato mines, during the first eight months of State control, output exceeded that of a similar previous period by 42 125 tons or 8.37 per cent,272 reached its peak in 1943, the first full year page 425 of control, and thereafter waned. One mine, Wilton Collieries (1934) Ltd, was fully sold to the government in October 1944. The other four, Pukemiro, Glen Afton, Taupiri and Renown, which had together produced 688 172 tons in 1941 and 689 853 in 1942, yielded 741 856 tons in 1943, 693 346 in 1944, 631 645 in 1945 and 593 767 in 1946.273 Meanwhile, payments guaranteed to the owners, assessment of which proved difficult, in all cost the War Expenses Account £241,895 by March 1945. Government, however, claimed that appeals to the managing board, representing both owners and workers, prevented any prolonged stoppages at these mines, apart from four days in sympathy with railway strikers in January 1945.274
Elsewhere, when development became uneconomic for owners, government bought out several mines, to sustain production either by conventional methods or by opencasting. Wallsend and Dobson were thus taken over in February 1943, Stockton in June 1944, Mossbank and Wilton in October 1944, Ohai and Wairaki in January 1945. The press generally disapproved of such nationalisation at the taxpayers’ expense, but remits passed at council meetings of the United Mine Workers repeatedly advocated that all mines should be nationalised.275 The basic principle that coal reserves, a national asset, would be more soundly developed by the State than by profit-minded interests, finally led to the Coal Act of 1948, vesting in the Crown all private rights to coal and compensating owners with lump sums.
Total coal production continued to rise: the record 2 639 507 tons of 1941 became 2 680 041 in 1942, 2 787 868 in 1943, 2 805 970 in 1944, 2 833 576 in 1945 and 2 793 870 in 1946. From underground mines output diminished: 1943’s 2 725 831 tons dropped to 2 609 516 tons in 1944, 2 380 896 in 1945 and 2 265 170 in 1946.276 The decrease was more than balanced by the government’s new opencast mines, where production per man was about three times more than by underground methods, and where quite small deposits could be economically exhausted. Even though for several years earth-moving machinery was scarce, opencasting was practicable where the overlay was not too thick and in 1945, when some large machines specially designed for such work were imported, production rose steeply. Opencast coal in 1940 had totalled 50 763 page 426 tons, produced by 36 men; 55 774 tons in 1942 and 62 037 tons in 1943. In 1944, it rose to 196 454 tons, using 242 men. In 1945, 51 such mines, large and small, operated by 332 men, yielded 452 680 tons, more than one seventh of total production.277
But demand continued to exceed supply. There were recurring gas shortages, basically due to gas equipment being designed for imported bituminous coal, but sharpened by shipping delays in the bar harbours of the West Coast. On the railways restrictions fluctuated but were always present, with long queues at booking offices. Supplies of domestic coal continued uncertain, with customers often limited to one or two bags at a time, while from the start of October 1943 bags were reduced in weight. In the recurring winter crises, and in several Decembers, miners worked on ‘back’ Saturdays and also on some public holidays.278
Miners themselves were still scarce; some hundreds were released from the Army, but others were ageing. There continued to be disputes. In 1942, in 24 disputes, miners lost 24 450 work-days out of the year’s industrial total of 65 strikes costing 51 189 work-days. During 1943, in 33 disputes, miners lost 8901 work-days in the year’s total of 69 strikes and 14 687 work-days lost. In 1944, there were 66 coalmine strikes involving 18 470 work-days in the total 149 disputes and 52 602 work-days. In 1945, 75 mine strikes cost 25 253 work-days out of the 66 629 lost in 154 disputes.279 Most of them lasted only a day or less—as when after a normal stopwork meeting no more work was done that day280—and a few of the longer ones did not involve a quarrel with management but were for such causes as sympathy in several mines when the appeal against mobilisation of a soldier who had worked in a mine while on furlough in 1943 was dismissed.281 Others resulted from sympathy with railway workers, or because there was no doctor in the district.282
New Zealand’s strikes during the first four years of the war, in relation to those in other countries, were tabulated by the Labour Department in 1947 thus:283page 427
Two examples, taken at random from reports on State mines for the year ending March 1945, give sharper, if narrower, focus on miners’ withholding of labour. The Strongman mine, employing 241 men and 9 boys worked 244 days with a gross output of 107 114 tons, being 12 days fewer and 1413 tons more than in 1944. Possible working days, including Good Friday, Easter Sunday (1944) and 18 ‘back’ Saturdays, numbered 278. Those not worked were: Easter Monday and Anzac Day; two days for a breakdown; one day in dispute re truckers’ turn on coal; three days over power failure; two days because the bath house was cold; two days for funerals of employees;284 two days’ dispute over waiting time; 10 days for Christmas holidays; two days as additional Christmas holidays taken by men; four days in dispute re pay; two days because of fire in mine; one day in dispute re transfer of a carpenter, and Good Friday 1945. At Mangapehi, 119 men and two boys, who produced 60 860 tons gross, worked 240 days 2 hours (¼ day) out of a possible 265 days, taking off: two extra days with their Christmas holidays, two days for no apparent reason; three days, fire in mine; nine days, union meetings; one civil day; three and a quarter days, miscellaneous breakdowns; four and a half days, disputes etc.285
Webb, the Minister of Mines, while regularly pointing to increased output, complained of disloyalty to the government and frivolous stoppages and stop-work meetings.286 The coalmine owners pointed out that but for the new opencast mines the shortage would have been very grave indeed, adding that it was not generally known that much of the increase was of inferior quality coal which would not be saleable in normal times. ‘From our own knowledge of what has been happening over the past six years we are convinced that the page 428 principal reason why output of so many of the old-established collieries had been so disappointing is to be found in the mishandling of the industrial situation which has led to and permitted short-time work, innumerable petty stoppages and marked absenteeism throughout the industry.’ Concessions forced in existing awards and substantial rises in miners’ earnings—from 5s to 10s a day for miners, 10s a day for truckers—were further objections.287
As well as shortage due to additional demands and reduced imports, there could be technical reasons for fluctuations in a mine’s output, such as development work, size and accessibility of the seams, or whether or not pillars were taken out, but both public and press, when chilly or in travel difficulties, blamed the miners. Thus the Auckland Star on 26 February 1945, commenting on the desperate shortage of railway coal, with severe restrictions in both passenger and freight services, recalled that from the outset Webb had been billed as a practical man who knew the industry inside out and, in particular, how to deal with coal miners. ‘The experience of nine years suggests rather that the coal miners know how to deal with Mr Webb. They observe his hat-raising performances with derisive amusement and they are unmoved by his rare and apologetic rebukes. They produce coal when they want to do so, and when they don’t want to do so, they don’t.’
Complicated and obscure factors often lie behind strike figures, confounding conclusions, but a few broad lines show through the war years. In 1939, there were 66 disputes, costing 53 801 work days; in 1940, 56 disputes cost 28 097 days and in 1941, 89 disputes took 26 237 days. In 1942, when danger was nearer to New Zealand, 51 189 work-days were lost in 65 strikes. It seems likely that the impact of labour regimentation prompted a rash of strikes. In 1943, when victory was assured but distant, there was the lowest tally: 14 687 days lost, in 69 strikes. Perhaps full awareness of the war sank in after the worst of the event; also, workers had become used to Manpower regulations, finding them less feudal than they had feared; Stabilisation was in its most promising phase and there was abundant overtime; there was, further, the strong possibility that a strike-exasperated public might install the National party in that year’s election. All these factors could have contributed to the industrial steadiness of 1943. In 1944, and still more in 1945, war urgency was fading, leaving room for sectional interests. Lower paid workers were increasingly restive as despite the apparent steadiness of the page 429 price index, living costs rose and belief in stabilisation was eroded, while overtime was reduced or seemed likely soon to be reduced; the National party had been safely exiled for another term. In these years over a wider range of industries and firms, strikes increased; 52 602 work days were lost during 148 strikes in 1944, and 66 629 in the 154 of 1945. (In 1946, another election year, only 30 393 days were to be lost in 96 strikes.)288 The watersiders, who since 1941 had been quiet under large overtime payments and the quick settlement procedures of the Waterfront Commission,289 again came into prominence with stoppages, but many normally more docile workers, such as bus-drivers, railway, gas, dairy factory workers, timber-workers and engineers added their quota of working days lost.
Waterside workers, traditionally a highly militant section of the work force, did not have major strikes during the war. Because their industry was so crucial, the government stepped in early and appointed the Waterfront Control Commission to speed up work, lessen friction and settle disputes quickly.
The start of the war found watersiders restive. Their award had expired in June 1938; both sides manoeuvred, delaying negotiations for various purposes. Their Union distrusted the Court of Arbitration from which it had in the past obtained less satisfaction than it had through agreements with the employers, the shipowners, but meanwhile the basic pay rate was falling behind those of other work groups.290 After the war’s start, fewer ships came and work, paid by the hour, was done more slowly. Against this background, in the first months, there were stoppages and go-slow tactics which outraged public opinion and drew widespread criticism. The Overseas Shipowners Allotment Committee wrote of the waterfront in New Zealand being notorious for inefficiency and expense.291 James Roberts, secretary of the Union, in March 1940 amid a chorus of dissent told a meeting: ‘This is the only country in the world where the winches do not work continuously during the war…. In Great Britain today ships are worked continuously and the same thing applies to the United States and to Australia. I am not saying that page 430 I agree with it. I do not want to have to work two shifts.’292 He and others on the Union’s national executive opposed industrial action lest it embarrass the Labour government. Said one: ‘The Labour Party … is not perfect. But with all its faults we are immeasurably better off than we would be under the rule of Adam Hamilton. Had the old government been in power we would have been working on the wharves by this time under a licensing system.’293
After some months’ research and amid growing unrest, the government in April 1940 set up the Waterfront Control Commission with wide powers to ensure expedition in the loading, unloading and storage of cargo.294 It had three members, on £1,250 a year,295 then a handsome salary. The chairman was Captain R. E. Price,296 who had served in the navy during the previous war and as ship’s master on the New Zealand coast until 1926: he had since worked as inspector of scaffolding for the Department of Labour and as a Conciliation Commissioner in the industrial arbitration system.297 James Roberts, secretary not only of the Waterside Workers Union but also of the Alliance of Labour throughout its life from 1919–36, braved charges of deserting to serve the bosses, because he believed that he could and should help to reconcile waterfront interests and the needs of war. The third member was initially H. A. McLeod,298 managing director of a stevedoring company, but he resigned from the Commission early in May 1941, and was replaced in January 1942 by Captain T. H. Bowling,299 late Marine Superintendent of the Union Steamship Company at Wellington.300 Price and Roberts had worked alone until December 1941 when page 431 the waterfront employers began actions challenging the legality of the Commission’s orders and decisions made without the third member. As the Solicitor-General advised that these proceedings would undoubtedly succeed, Price and Roberts filed consent to judgment that the orders and decisions in question should be quashed. The shipping companies and the Union required some to be reheard and the rest were re-enacted by the full Commission in a blanket order.301
To ensure speedy handling of cargo, the Commission was given power to control all wharves and equipment; to employ all waterside workers, directing or varying existing methods of engaging labour, and taking over control of offices and staff. It could introduce any new method of employing labour or handling cargo, prescribe conditions upon which any person was employed, and exclude or suspend from the wharves any persons, including watersiders, whose presence was prejudicial to the quick despatch of shipping. From the shipowners it was to recover all moneys expended on wages or other purposes connected with loading, unloading or storing cargo, and it could impose levies on them for its administrative expenses and for special purposes.
As a first step towards improving workers’ co-operation and morale, the Commission in June 1940 raised their pay by 2d an hour to 2s 10d, the rise being that awarded to other trades under a standard wage pronouncement by the Court of Arbitration in September 1937; watersiders had been excluded from it on account of their average hours being fewer than 40 per week. From October 1940 the general 5 per cent cost of living bonus, reckoned at 2d an hour, was added and from May 1942 another at the same rate raised the basic pay of watersiders to 3s 2d an hour.302 Later, in March 1945 the Court of Arbitration pronounced that the standard wage rates fixed in September 1937 should increase by 3½d an hour, and this, with a pro rata increase for overtime, was built into watersiders’ pay from 9 July 1945.303
In June 1940 the Commission hoped to extend the ‘bureau system’ for engaging labour, already established at Auckland, Wellington, Lyttelton, Wanganui, New Plymouth and Napier, to other ports of any size. This system replaced the old ‘auction block’ method, whereby employers directly selected men as they crowded around page 432 the labour stool in a scramble for place and favour, with its possibilities of bribery, victimisation and discrimination.304 Each bureau was run by a board on which both union and employers were represented. Men were graded according to the kind of work they said that they would do and all received a share in the work available over four-weekly periods. Grade B men through age or infirmity did light work only, and many were on Scheme 13 work305 or Social Security benefits when light waterfront jobs were scarce. Grade A men performed the heavier and more demanding tasks. At Auckland, Wellington and Lyttelton Grade A men, provided that they kept listed rules, were guaranteed wages, or in any case payment, of at least £3 a week (raised in June 1940 from £2 10s a week). In practice, when few ships came, Grade A men were given all the work, reducing the need for supplementary payments. At Wellington between 1937–8 and 1944–5 only £345 7s 3d was paid out in this way.306 At the start of the Commission’s rule many watersiders hoped that the guaranteed wage would be extended to less busy ports but this would have meant considerable outlay to men doing nothing in weeks between ships, and extension did not happen during the war, causing a good deal of disappointment. Not till February 1947, under the re-organised Waterfront Industry Commission, were weekly minimum payments established.307 Meanwhile, in 1940 existing bureaus, along with pay offices, were taken over by the Commission.
Payment for wharf work, chequered and complicated by its very nature, its complications multiplied by concessions whittled out in agreements or calcified by custom, was a problem spawning endless disputes within the industry and much criticism outside it. For 20 years the idea of co-operative stevedoring had been discussed along the waterfront and by 1939 many were looking to it as the magic panacea.308 The Commission devised a new system to replace the hourly payments whereby maximum return came from minimum effort and slowest pace. The idea of piece-work was anathema to the Union and full co-operative stevedoring proved too difficult to organise. Roberts said bluntly: ‘First and foremost, we did not have the gear and experience to operate.’309 The president of the Union, J. Flood,310 explained in April 1941 that previously they had thought page 433 that it would not be difficult to supplant the stevedoring contractors but ‘it was found that practically all the ship-owners were interested in stevedoring firms themselves, and were virtually the contractors, and naturally they had no desire to go out of business.’311
The Commission steered a middle course and evolved its own cooperative contracting system which it hoped would create incentive and job interest. The Commission made contracts with the shipping companies, setting out rates, minimum payments, etc, and received money from the companies. The Commission paid the men at hourly rates for the cargo worked and any profits made on contract price by speedier work was distributed to them. There were variations in payment methods: at Wellington, profits were distributed on a ship basis but at other ports they were pooled over three-month periods.312 Up to 31 March 1945 a total of £667,272 was distributed; this averaged 8.79d per ‘winch’ hour, that is time when cargo was actually being moved.313 Co-operative contracting began at Wellington on 3 June 1940 on overseas vessels and by March 1941 had been extended to most ports and to local ships of more than 350 tons.
The Commission claimed that results justified the new system. In 1941 it estimated an average saving of three days by overseas ships due to this factor, while admitting that there was ample room for improvement as appreciation of the new way grew.314 In 1945 it claimed that over the war years speedier work under co-operative contracting had made an average saving of five days per vessel; continuous work had contributed a further seven days and reduction in ports of call six days.315 Employers held that these two latter factors, rather than co-operative contracting, had hastened the turn-round of ships.316
As Roberts himself stated, the new system meant complete reversal of the watersider’s traditional position—the longer the job takes, the more the pay—and deep—rooted attitudes did not change quickly.317 The Commission in 1945 pointed out that work was slowed by several factors; night shifts under artificial lighting required greater caution; there was congestion because deliveries to and from the wharves did not keep pace with round-the-clock work on ships; cargoes, in relation to their bulk, were heavier than they had been pre-war; watersiders were older and more tired.318 The results were page 434 ‘as a whole, quite gratifying’ but ‘Co-operative contracting, as the name implies, requires the full co-operation of every member of the union…. Workers must realise that to obtain a share in the management of industry they must first show that they are capable of accepting the responsibility that goes with it.’319
In most small ports responsibility was accepted more readily than it was in the main ones. This was reflected in profits distributed which, over the five war years, averaged 6d per ‘winch’ hour at Auckland, 8.27d at Wellington, 1s 1.39d at Lyttelton, 2s 1.83d at Port Chalmers, 1s 1.81d at Napier, 1s 6.85d at Nelson.320 Hare, taking Nelson as a favourable example, described administration where the secretary of the Union was also the Commission’s agent.
He is responsible for the engagement, dismissal and organisation of the labour force of the port, consisting normally of about 75 workers, though in the busy season this may increase considerably. When a ship is to be unloaded, the shipping company informs the union secretary of the work to be carried out, and the company’s wharf representative acts in co-operation with the union secretary to see that the work is performed to the company’s satisfaction. Beyond this, however, the company has no power of supervision or control of the discipline of the labour force. The men are engaged, organised and the work directed by the branch secretary, in consultation with the President of the union and the committee members. On the testimony of the manager of the chief shipping company concerned, the work is carried out very rapidly and efficiently…. many sources of friction between the employer and worker are eliminated since questions of discipline can only arise between a worker and his own union officials.321
There were proposals for complete co-operative stevedoring by the Union at Auckland and Bluff, but in face of inherent difficulties, steadfast opposition by the shipowners and official feeling that the necessary thought and energy was not available in war time, they came to nothing.322
Lack of enthusiasm resulted mainly from the scheme being a watered-down version of earlier hopes and from its pay additions being too remote for incentive purposes. Co-operative contracting amounted to working cargo at an hourly rate plus a despatch bonus varying with rates of work. Unionists had nothing to do with the contract-making, and some felt that the bonus was akin to piece-work. They could not follow the intricate computations and though page 435 the facts and figures were open to inspection even Union executives were hazy about rates of contract; in general, everyone let the Commission clerical staff wrestle with the system, accepting any profits that emerged. The scheme, while benefiting watersiders, gave them no part in its organisation; control belonged to the Commission and the wide sense of involvement which the Commission had hoped for did not develop.323
Further, the Commission, aiming to rouse enthusiasm for the system, over-sold it.
Captain Price in particular made definite promises pointing the way to a waterside Utopia in easy stages. He promised the watersiders in Auckland, for instance, that three months after the inauguration of co-operative contracting there would not be a foreman on the wharf and the men would be running their own jobs. At the end of the stated period no advance had been made. The men therefore lost confidence in the Commission. When confronted by the men with his own words he would retract what he had said by saying he had expressed his own personal views and perhaps the Commission did not agree with him entirely. Mr Roberts was also guilty of creating the same expectant attitude although more by inference as he never said anything definite that could be quoted back at him later.324
Expectations were also raised and disappointed further down the line of authority. At Wellington there were complaints that the Controller and superintendents gave interpretations which they were not entitled to give and which later were not endorsed by Commission rulings. The superintendents told the men that they would, or should, get certain rates per hour, but when the jobs were finished they did not receive the rates expected; disputes followed, with decisions going against them.325
By 1945 the Commission, aware that contracts based on ‘winch’ time did not provide incentive for workers to reduce delays and petty disputes over dirt-money etc, looked towards substituting ‘all-in’ or ‘overall’ contracts. The rate would include all delays, removal and replacement of hatches, re-stowing and shifting cargo, special cargo, dirt money, minimum periods, etc. There was also talk of more worker responsibility,326 But the war and the Commission both ended without these changes being effected.page 436
The Commission appointed controllers at the main ports, with wharf superintendents under them, delegating wide powers. Controllers were necessarily men of much experience on the waterfront, as master mariners, stevedores or waterside leaders; the task of each was to maintain order in his port through direct and indirect use of his power, maintaining authority without appearing autocratic, adjusting matters between opposed interests through persuasion and co-operation.327
Their work was difficult. They had first of all to contend with the employers; but they soon found, when the Commission was established, without sweeping changes and large benefits to the watersiders, that the men and their union officials were not cooperative.328 The clashes grew in number and magnitude and in Auckland, especially in May 1943, occasions for disagreement seemed deliberately contrived. Men loitered at their work, held up jobs, abused wet weather clauses and ‘spelled’ unduly, ignoring the protests of foremen until a controller or wharf superintendent appeared. These officers tried to cover all the ships but they could not prevent delays. The commonest form of slowing down work was limiting the number of bags, bales, baulks of timber, etc., in the sling until told by the Superintendent the number to be worked.329
The Commission could penalise recalcitrant workers but rarely used its powers—especially that of exclusion from the wharf—being reluctant to antagonise the main body. By mid-1943, the Union officials in both Auckland and Wellington were attacking the Controllers for their ‘dictatorial’ methods, while Controllers complained of growing hostility from the Union which prevented good results and good relationships. Despite such friction, the Controllers achieved much in organisation and at the smaller ports unionists and Commission officials worked well together.330
Wharf superintendents, in continual close contact with the men, had to be acceptable to them. When two were needed, one was a Union man, the other by training and background inclined to the employers’ viewpoint.331 Where only one superintendent (or in page 437 smaller ports, Commission’s representative) was appointed he was from the Union.
In practice the appointment of Union officials to permanent, paid positions did not achieve the desired industrial harmony. The majority group in a Union, deprived thus of its leaders, was soon swamped by new men with new policy who rose to fill the executive. The original executive members lost prestige when they were no longer the direct representatives of the men. They were regarded, particularly at Auckland, with some suspicion which became active when they did not always uphold a Union case but judged matters on merit; they were then accused of ‘selling out’ the Union for a good soft job.332
The Auckland Branch in February 1944 called for reconstruction of the Commission, saying that while eight out of 14 senior officers were former members of the Union there was no provision for electing a Union nominee.333
Work hours lengthened. Until March 1941, waterfront hours Monday to Friday were 8 am to 10 pm (or till midnight to finish a ship), less two meal-hour breaks; Saturday mornings, 8 am to noon, were ordinary hours, but at time-and-a-quarter rate; 1 pm to 5 pm was overtime. Thus the total time which could be worked in a week was 44 ordinary hours and 24 overtime hours.334 From the end of March 1941 the winches began to work around the clock on overseas ships: extended hours335 were replaced by a shift system. By tradition, night work was deeply opposed by watersiders who ‘had fought for a quarter of a century for the 10 o’clock knock-off and mid-night when a vessel was finishing.’336 Even in 1916 they had insisted that work after 10 pm should be optional.337 Besides the fatigue of very long hours, the social dislocation of shifts and increased danger under artificial lights, a regular shift system would require a larger union work force, and this, given the uneven flow of cargo work, would mean periods when there was not enough work for all.
Outside the normal eight hours, 8 am to 5 pm at 3s 2d, pay rates were high. Overtime from 6 pm to 10 pm was 4s 7d an hour. Monday to Friday night shifts, from 11 pm to 7 am, received 6s an hour plus a free hot meal, and Saturday afternoon drew the same rate. page 438 On Saturday after 6 pm and on Sunday the rate was 7s 4d, so that a man putting in 12 hours at the weekend could earn £4 8s. The employers had proposed 6s for the weekly night shift, the Union having asked for 7s, and they agreed to the weekend rate (7s and hour plus 4d cost of living bonus).338 Overseas shipowners’ objections were lightened because the increased cost was sanctioned and paid for by the British Ministry of War Transport. After further negotiations New Zealand shipowners, when obliged by the needs of overseas vessels to work their ships in shifts, recovered the additional cost from the War Expenses Account.339 From June 1942, under pressure to keep up with overseas trans-shipments and coastal cargoes, local vessels of more than 350 tons were worked continuously.340
The Commission’s chairman, Captain Price, explaining that as cargo working was not a continuous process a regular shift system as in a factory was not possible, said that it was both a modified and irregular form of shift work, which is continually being started and broken up, varying in length with each ship. The Commission, by making a day shift extend into overtime hours and the night shift work at a high hourly rate, enables men at the main ports to secure a financial return that suffices to tide over unpaid periods of waiting for a job.341
Cargo was concentrated at main ports at the request of the British Ministry of War Transport in conjunction with the British headquarters of the shipping companies. The Ministry supplied two small freezer vessels to move refrigerated cargo and accepted the cost of railing and coasting cargo to the main ports. This reduced the average number of ports of call per vessel from the 6.13 of pre-war days to 2.16 in the year ending 31 March 1944; the following year saw a slight increase, 2.50 ports. Over the war years, the Commission estimated an average saving, by centralisation, of six days in each turn-around time.342
From small ports, where the centralisation policy meant few ships and scant pay, some unionists were moved to other ports at rush times.343 There were difficulties in meeting the demand for labour, page 439 especially at Wellington, and men were not sent to Auckland, where civil servants and others were used on night shifts and non-union labour was registered for shift work, but transfers from such places as Oamaru and Timaru to Lyttelton, Dunedin and Port Chalmers, from Wanganui to New Plymouth, worked smoothly.344 The costs, £27,272, involved in nearly 5000 transfers between June 1941 and March 1945 were borne by the War Expenses Account.345
Besides pay for hours actually worked, there was an established system of minimum payments, whereby men were paid for a shift or part thereof if the work to which they were ordered could not be done for a reasonable cause, such as breakdown of machinery, or if it were finished sooner than expected. There was plenty of scope for delaying or stretching out work so that overtime or a night shift would be called for and would then finish early.
The basic gospel, the Order of the Waterfront Control Commission June 6th 1940, Section 14, set forth a number of situations in which men received three or four hours’ pay whether they worked that time or less or not at all. The place of such minimum payments in watersiders’ aspirations may be gauged from the comment of J. Flood, as acting-secretary of the Union, in April 1941:
It will be remembered that at previous conferences when a four-hour minimum was advocated by the General Secretary (Mr J. Roberts) and other delegates for the men who commenced work at 8 a.m. or at any time during the day, and for the men who were ordered back at 6 p.m., this provision was looked upon as something that might be achieved in the dim and distant future; yet it is an established fact today, and I believe that it gives greater security to the waterside workers than any other condition we have obtained for a number of years past.
When this Organisation was resuscitated in 1915, we had a two-hour minimum on the waterfronts, and if we were ordered back in the afternoon or at night there was no minimum. Today if a waterside worker starts work, he is entitled to approximately 12s, a sum greater than he received for a full day’s work at the time of the 1913 strike….
… the cost of living is higher, and living standards have been raised, but I am firmly of opinion that we have made more advancement than any other Organisation in this country insofar as wages and conditions of employment are concerned, and I believe that the honest-thinking waterside worker will agree that page 440 the waterfront is a fairly good place to earn a living for himself and his dependants.346
There was also the practice of ‘spelling’347 whereby part of a gang rested for varying periods while the others worked. This was not new; it had legitimate beginnings in freezer work where there was a long-term benefit in men taking turns to get relief from the cold. There was also advantage in some cramped hold areas, such as near the square of the hatch, where long carries were not needed and where, if all the men in a gang tried to work at once they would get in each other’s way, while it was claimed that with men resting in rotation a faster pace overall was achieved. It must also be remembered that many watersiders were getting on in years;348 they could not maintain the pace of the younger men and worked better with short rests. But though there was sometimes reason or excuse for ‘spelling’, the practice, already over-used before the war, was badly stretched and abused in the war years, becoming a rooted custom where there was no occasion for it. It was deplored by the Commission and there were many attempts to combat it, but improvements usually faded after a time.349
One way and another, it was not rare for passers-by to see much slackness or apparent slackness on the wharves, while the nation was exhorted to maximum effort. Feeling was sharpened because it was known that troops overseas in ports such as Benghazi and Tripoli worked at high speed unloading ships, often with the risk of air attack hanging over them, for 7s 6d a day. Watersiders’ earnings were regularly published in the press, with the peaks highlighted. Thus the Evening Post on 18 December 1941 reported that for three weeks in November A-class (or grade) men at Wellington had averaged £10 14s and B-class men £6 18s 6d a week. Again at Wellington in the 14 weeks before 6 October 1942 A-class watersiders averaged £11 7s 8d, the highest weekly average being £14 10s, the lowest £8 10s; while for B-class the corresponding figures were £7 11s 6d, £11 19s and £4 12s.350page 441
At Auckland (where a large proportion of work was for Americans, at an extra shilling an hour), in the year ending 31 March 1944, among 1810 unionists 504 earned varying amounts under £400, 200 gained between £400 and £500, 318 between £500 and £600, 306 between £600 and £700, 310 between £700 and £800, 139 between £800 and £900; 13 exceeded £900. At Wellington (1868 unionists), 569 earned up to £400, 346 between £400 and £500, 468 between £500 and £600, 434 between £600 and £700, 49 between £700 and £800 and two gained just over £800 each, the top figure.351 A report publicising the top earnings at Auckland, where one man received £940, said that the amount of overtime could be gauged from the fact that 40 hours at ordinary rates would give about £6 a week, or £8 if work was for Americans.352 Earnings were notably highest at these two ports. At Lyttelton (633 unionists) the three top men averaged just over £700 each, 150 between £600 and £700, 199 between £500 and £600, 103 between £400 and £500. At smaller ports numbers and earnings tapered down steadily.353
A return of average total earnings (ordinary and overtime, and profit distribution) of the unionists with the highest earnings in the year ending 31 March 1944 showed that 100 men at Auckland averaged £861 each, for which during 50 weeks they worked on average 1148 hours at ordinary time and 1704 hours at overtime rates, including 45 Sundays and holidays, their average total weekly hours being 57. At Wellington, 100 men in 51 weeks averaged £707 12s, working 1350 ordinary hours and 1360 overtime hours, including 35 Sundays and holidays, their weekly average being 53 hours in all. At Lyttelton, 50 men averaged £663 6s, working 1287 ordinary hours and 1200 hours overtime, including 22 Sundays and holidays, with a weekly average of 48 hours. At New Plymouth, 50 men in 48 weeks averaged £487 5s, working 793 ordinary and 833 overtime hours, including 21 Sundays, their weekly average being 34 hours. At Bluff the 50 highest paid men averaged £465 4s 6d for which they worked 835 ordinary and 875 overtime hours, including 24 Sundays and holidays, averaging 43 hours a week.354
These wages refer to unionists only. The waterside workers had a closed union, roughly 6000 strong, and they were not keen to open their ranks. Its young, fit men were liable for military service; appeals for them were likely to be made by the Commission, and page 442 to succeed, in proportion to the general shortage of their work-fellows. The Commission’s policy was to appeal only for steady and regular workers and only for postponement for about three months, the Union branch concerned meanwhile opening its ranks to suitable and efficient applicants. By the end of the postponement period, if the Union had not found such men, it would ask for the appeals to be adjourned sine die; if new men were then within the Union, or if the Union had failed or refused to admit them, the appeals should be dismissed.355
There were difficulties. The Commission wanted its officers to approve applicants for Union membership, the Union combatted this intrusion on its rights. The Commission wished to appeal for each man on merit, the Union wanted appeals en bloc, claiming that there was industrial discrimination in the selection of men for appeal. By September 1942 it was agreed that these decisions should be made by a selection committee of two Union representatives and two Commission officials, and also that new admissions were to be for the duration of the war only.356 Although there were many applicants, admissions were limited. The Manpower Office rejected about half of them as being already in essential industry, the selection committees rejected many others, usually on Union opinion, and of those finally submitted for enrolment the Union itself rejected many as ‘unsuitable’. An advertisement inserted by the Controller in the Auckland papers in October 1942 produced 1500 applicants, only 320 of whom were sanctioned by the Manpower Office and 93 finally accepted into the Union. At Wellington, in the year ended July 1943, 224 were admitted from 810 applicants.357 Briefly, appeals of watersiders were refused consideration because sufficient new men were not admitted, but with such new members there would be no grounds for appeal as the men called up could be replaced. The Union strove to keep its ranks closed, hoping that its standards of suitability would be accepted by appeal boards.358
Like a bridge between a labour supply limited by adamantine unionism and the irregular demands of urgent work on wartime waterfronts were the ‘seagulls’, non-union men traditionally employed on the wharves when there was more work than unionists could handle. By mid-1942 when cargo work increased sharply, the Services had taken many regular seagulls or Manpower authorities page 443 had directed them into essential industry. In February 1942 the government decided that men already working in essential jobs could work on the wharves during crisis weekends. On 3 April (Good Friday) from several hundred civil servants who had registered for such work in Wellington about 100 were called to action and found that patriotism paid. They received the same pay as watersiders, then seven shillings an hour,359 making, as many worked for 12 hours, £4 4s for a day’s work.360 This figure received a good deal of publicity, ranged against the fact that other civil servants in the Home Guard were doing Army duty at 7s a day.
Sidney Holland promptly telegraphed the Prime Minister about the intense dissatisfaction felt by thousands at such inequality. Rather than have such ‘absurd costs’ added to the national debt, he sought permission to organise an emergency group at each port to help load cargo for Britain at rush times, without pay. Fraser replied that he would be very pleased to discuss the proposal with Holland, the Waterfront Control Commission and the Minister of Labour. ‘Please submit details as soon as possible.’361 Holland replied: ‘… there are no conditions attaching to my offer. I am prepared to organise groups of volunteers to do this work as a war effort and am prepared to be the first volunteer myself. I should like to have the use of the radio service to launch the scheme.’362 The president of the Union, J. Flood, telegraphed Holland that 7s an hour was paid on holidays by agreement with the shipowners. He added: ‘Challenge you to work on the waterfront with myself for soldier’s pay for the duration of the war, all other sources of income to both parties to be given to the State as our war effort.’363 No volunteer companies appeared on the wharves under Holland’s blue banner, but at Auckland civil servants soon followed Wellington in forming a pool for wharf labour when needed.364
Civil servants were not the only volunteers. The New Zealand Federation of Local Bodies’ Employees, Builders, Contractors and General Labourers Industrial Association of Workers and its Wellington Union365 negotiated with the Commission and the Wellington Waterside Union to the effect that the Local Bodies’ Employees Union members were asked by their Union to register as auxiliary waterside workers. By arrangement with the National Service page 444 Department they would be released from other work when waterfront need arose and would have preference when the Waterside Union was admitting members in the ordinary way, ‘other considerations being equal.’366 The Commission undertook to pay auxiliary workers for a minimum of eight hours on days when they were temporarily released from their normal 8 am to 5 pm employment, adding that in most cases the time worked would be much greater. For men required during overtime hours, night shifts and weekends, payment would be the same as for waterside unionists. Would-be auxiliary workers at ports other than Wellington should make arrangements with local waterside union branches and with Commission representatives.367 Initially, 35 Wellington men volunteered, on coupons printed in the newspapers, and were listed with the times at which they were available—most at weekends or for night shifts, but a few ‘at all times’. On 17 November 1942, letters signed by Wellington’s Waterfront Controller went to each man thanking him for his offer and saying that his services would be used when need arose.368
Particularly at Auckland and Wellington, ‘seagulls’ did not merely register and wait to be asked: they watched the ships, used telephones, and went to the wharves in droves, many trying to pick the lucrative overtime and shift jobs. The rush was strongest at Auckland, the main American base, with its extra shilling an hour for work on United States Army and Navy vessels.369 Quite frequently, stated the Commission, more than 2000 non-unionists were employed each day, placing a great strain on its central pay office,370 and the Port Controller on 7 November 1942 told a military service appeal board that in the current week his pay sheets showed that more than 4000 men had been employed.371 The New Zealand Herald in April 1943 reported that civil servants were a majority among the spare-time workers, who included bank clerks, chemists, drapers, City Council employees, truck drivers, barmen, salesmen, clerks, seamen, a golf professional, a lawyer (who acted as tally clerk), shopkeepers, butchers and men on leave from the Services. Baths at the tepid pool were well patronised by men who spruced up after a night on the wharf, changed into good clothes and went off to their normal work. Regular non-unionists were bitter about the ’40-hour weekers’ page 445 who competed for jobs. There was concern over the waste of manpower in non-unionists waiting about the wharves when not urgently needed. Hiring hours were between 8 and 10 am and 4 and 5 pm; frequently 200 or more men were turned away but pay rates made it worth while to wait around for crumbs from the unionists’ table, as only three or four shifts a week provided a living wage. ‘Most spare time workers’, continued the Herald report, ‘are family men. Few of them are making a great deal of money, but what they have earned on the wharves is giving them a good start. Many new banking accounts have been opened and mortgages on homes have been reduced.’372
The prompt settlement of disputes was a major purpose of the Commission regime and procedures were modified by the pressure of events. Under the establishing Order of 6 June 1940 the existing Local and National Disputes Committees continued, with the Commission supplanting the Court of Arbitration as the final authority. More work was done by local committees, the National Committee often being in effect a channel taking disputes to the Commission.373 Local committees had three representatives of the workers and three of the employers; the decision of the majority was to prevail and if no decision was reached questions went to the National Disputes Committee.
Local committees dealt with anything which dissatisfied the men and threatened to hold up work; they were supposed to settle questions of fact and matters of local importance, sending on to the National Committe only those which concerned general or national practice and policy. In practice, many trivial disputes were sent on only to be referred back to the local committees.374 In the interest of speed the role of Port Controllers was extended. Initially, in cases of extra dirty work or exceptional circumstances not covered by the Order, the matter was to be decided by an employer and a representative of the union, and if they did not agree, be referred to the local Disputes Committee; if this did not produce a decision, the Controller was empowered to settle the dispute.375 This all proved too slow; the powers of the Controller were strengthened to make a decision quickly and later his authority in dirt disputes was extended to a wider field.376page 446
The Commission knew that a multiplicity of disputes was characteristic of the industry.377 Ships of various shapes and their cargoes provided much variety in loading and unloading problems. Some cargoes, such as plaster, sulphur, phosphates, and dusty coal, irritated throats and noses; some, such as basic slag, guano, wet hides, were unpleasant; others, such as corrosive acids, oxides, kerosene, naptha, explosives, were dangerous; frozen products in refrigerated holds made for hard and chilling work; it was difficult to make up safe slings of heavy, bulky and unwieldy components. Set rules for payment might not apply when cargoes deteriorated more than the average for that type; conditions in the holds might vary, causing claims for stoop money. The Order of June 1940 covered the working of the majority of cargoes but it recognised that exceptional circumstances would occur and cases continually arose requiring new interpretation. Most disputes concerned claims for extra money based on interpretations of rules in circumstances which inevitably varied. Vigilance and experience perceived opportunities for payments in changed directions, in the use of non-union labour when unionists were available, in demarcation issues such as whether only watersiders could drive tractors on wharves, in lighting and safety matters, in the transport of watersiders, in wet or boisterous weather.378 There were disputes over the meals provided for overtime workers.379 In 1944 a 6-day hold-up, the longest of the war years, costing 96 000 man-hours, occurred in Auckland over the safety of a gangway which did not reach down to the wharf.380
Throughout the war the Commission claimed that the machinery it provided settled disputes quickly, preventing the spread of trouble and stoppage of work. In the four years prior to Commission control, 233 656 man-hours had been lost, against an estimated total of 29 147 977 man-hours worked, an average loss over the four years of 0.80 per cent. For the five years March 1940–5, 212 080 manhours were lost against the estimated total of 51 819 632 man-hours worked, an average yearly loss of 0.41 per cent, with two disputes in 1944 contributing 150 000 of the man-hours lost. In 1945–6, 11 779 129 man-hours were worked and 109 880, or 0.93 per cent, lost.381
The Commission complained that it received too many disputes which should have been settled by Local and National Committees. page 447 To the end of 1945 it had heard 448 disputes; employers had made 23 of these claims, workers 425; 64 were referred back or decisions were reserved; employers succeeded in 206 cases; workers withdrew 37 claims and 141 decisions were in their favour.382 The Commission also claimed in February 1944 that its machinery had been used successfully in more than 1000 disputes.383 Besides this substantial reckoning there were many minor disputes which were not counted, being settled between wharf superintendents and employees before they reached full official channels.384
As the war moved to its end the Commission, regarding the short list of strikes and stoppages, was sure that, for the waterfront, having one central authority was a great improvement on the diffuse and long-drawn-out handling of disputes in earlier times. Employers and the Union both agreed that a central authority was needed, but both were dissatisfied with the existing Commission, which in any case had been set up for the war period only.
Employers complained about the Commission’s excessive aggrandisement of powers, administrative, contractual and judicial.385 In February 1944 the Union’s new president386 complained of many ‘provocative acts’ by the Commission and said that a public inquiry into its activities was long overdue.387 The Union wanted direct representatives under its control on the Commission, feeling that union men appointed to paid jobs soon became mere agents of the government. In November 1945 the Union debated and passed a motion ‘that the Waterfront Control Commission be reconstituted on the basis of a National Commission and Local Commissions of three Union representatives and three employers’ representatives with an independent chairman appointed by agreement of the parties and the Government.’388
Newspapers had little doubt that the watersiders were up to no good, that they were lazy and overpaid. The government was too weak to correct them, and the Commission, its creation, working in page 448 privacy,389 was merely a device for acceding to their demands. Thus the Auckland Star on 23 January 1942:
Mr Webb knows what is mainly wrong on the waterfront. What is mainly wrong is:—(1) That the atmosphere and the pace of work there are infected and dominated by a minority of loafers and malcontents; and (2) that the Government and its Minister of Labour haven’t had the guts to remove them.
The Otago Daily Times on 13 September 1945 expressed the same theme:
The reports that have received circulation … have created the impression that a selfish regard for their own concern has been the motive that has most generally influenced the waterside workers. A costly Waterfront Commission has been set up which seems to regard it as its main business to support the workers in whatever demands they make. It has yet to be discovered that this Commission performs any service to the public of a character that justifies its existence.
Many stock charges and defences were repeated in Parliament on 27 July 1943.390 The independent student of industrial relations, wrote Dr Hare in 1943, must be perturbed by the attitude of the press towards industrial unrest. In particular the press had for years campaigned against waterside workers. He cited recent headlines, chosen at random, which with their articles presented the whole body of them in the worst light. Publicity was constantly given to watersiders’ work, hours, conditions and wages, all to show them as inefficient, overpaid or otherwise delinquent. If there were justification for these public attacks, there was none for the form of them, week after week, over years; if there were abuses on the waterfront, there should be an official enquiry into them, in the House or out of it.391
Such counsel fell on deaf ears. Meanwhile, as the war ended the waterfront situation was changing. The boom years, in which mainly through work outside the daily eight-hour, five-day week, watersiders had experienced good times, were over. Watersiders were wearied with the long hours. By December 1943 they demanded that the day shift should end at 9 pm and that 5 pm should be the finishing time at weekends and holidays, and that meal hours should not be worked unless necessary to finish a ship. The Commission agreed to these hours on 3 January 1944.392page 449
From July 1945, after further pressure from the men, at the four main ports night shifts, Sundays and holidays were worked only on overseas vessels carrying food or military supplies, on feeder vessels and ships discharging coal. As from 8 September 1945 all night shift work was cancelled. From the same time at the four main ports there was no work on Sundays, holidays or Saturday afternoons (except where a ship could finish by 5 pm on Saturday) and from 26 November this applied to smaller ports, except for ships carrying coal and timber, for which need was acute.393
Despite the 3½d an hour rise in the basic rate, from 1 April 1945, waterfront earnings were reduced while hours worked remained much the same. For the year ending 31 March 1946 the average hours per week for main and secondary ports were 41¾ (28¼ ordinary time, 13½ overtime) as against 41¼ (22¾ ordinary time, 18½ overtime) for the previous year. At Auckland in the year ending 31 March 1945, out of 1862 unionists 588 earned more than £600, but in the following year with 1916 unionists, only 123 did so. At Wellington, more than £600 was earned in 1945 by 161 men and in 1946 by 279, but there the number of unionists had dropped from 1822 to 1729.394 The outside hours harvest was over and, with the cost of living in its post-war rise, the battle of wage rates was on.
In July 1946 the Waterfront Control Commission of the war period was replaced by the Waterfront Industry Commission which in the next five years was to face conflict producing lengthening stoppages on the wharves, resignations and removals of its own members, and several forms of constitution. Strikes in 1949 and 1950 led, on 19 February 1951, into 151 days of the bitterest industrial confrontation since 1913. The war years on the waterfront may be seen as part of the background leading towards the 1951 strike, but that is another story.
1 This was done to draw matters to a head. I didn’t expect the men to work when the executive officers were dismissed,’ said the manager, J. Quinn, in court. According to the men, while union officials next day stated their case he ignored them, reading a newspaper. Star–Sun, 6, 7 Feb 42, pp. 6, 8
2 Chisholm, George Galloway (1882–1962): former solicitor, Supreme Court, 17 years registrar, clerk, to Magistrate’s Court & Official Assignee Napier; SM from 1938
4 Overtime and Holidays Labour Legislation Suspension Order 1941/241
6 Auckland Star, 22 Dec 41, p. 6
9 Labour Dept’s MS Register of Strikes
12 Auckland Star, 17 Jan 42, p. 6
15 Auckland Star, 27 Jan 42, p. 6
16 Ibid., 29 Jan 42, p. 8
17 By F. G. Young, a trade union leader, after discussions with the Industrial Emergency Council. Auckland Star, 2 Feb 42, p. 6
19 Ibid., 20 Feb 42, p. 4
20 Press, 21 Mar 42, p. 4
21 McLagan, Hon Angus (1891–1956): b Scotland, to NZ 1911; MLC 1942–6; MP (Lab) Riccarton from 1946; Sec Miners Fed 1927, 1935–46; member FoL from formation 1937–46, Economic Stabilisation Cmte, War Council 1940–5; Min Nat Service & Industrial Manpower 1942–6; Leader Legislative Council 1944–6; Min Employment, Labour, Mines, Immigration 1946–9
22 Standard, 9 Apr 42, p. 6
23 Hare, Labour in New Zealand 1942, p. 25
24 Press, 13 Mar 42, p. 6
25 See p. 664
26 Press, 27 Jan 42
27 Ibid., 30 Jan 42, p. 4
28 Roberts, John (d 1962 aet 76): to NZ 1908; Sec Canty Clothing Workers Union, then Nat Union to 1959; Pres Canty Trades Council of FoL 1939–50
29 Press, 24 Jan 42, p. 6
32 Ibid., p. 8
33 Ibid., 20 Jan 42, p. 6
34 Scholefield Diary, Dec 41 to Dec 42
35 A to J1942, H–11, p. 8. On 9 March 18 boners at Hellaby’s, making the same complaint, ceased work for five hours. In this case, ‘Workers’ demands wholly conceded. Employers agreed that in future men would be called back on Sunday evening to take the meat from the freezer to enable it to be sufficiently thawed for the men to work on Monday morning.’ Labour Departmen’s MS Register of Strikes
36 NZ Herald, 17, 29 Jan 42, pp. 6, 8. In an appeal three months later for a labourer called to the Army it was explained that the output of the abattoirs had increased by 1 867 704lb during the last year, and Army demands were still growing; currently labourers were 29 where 35 were needed. Ibid., 1 May 42, p. 6
39 Ibid., 30 Jan, 4 Feb 42, pp. 6, 8
40 Ibid., 23 Jan 42, p. 6; Auckland Star, 29 Jan 42, p. 8
42 Press, 23 Mar 42, p. 6; NZPD, vol 261, p. 147
43 Auckland Star, 23, 29, 30 Jan 42, pp. 3, 8, 6
45 Its full title was R. & W. Hellaby Limited, Westfield, Meat-preserving Workers, Slaughter-house Assistants, and Freezing Chamber Hands’ Industrial Union of Workers.
46 Its full name was Auckland Abattoir Assistants and United Freezing Works Employees’ Industrial Union of Workers.
47 Hare, Labour in New Zealand 1942, p. 31
49 These figures are from the report of the Department of Labour, A to J 1942, H–11, p. 8, and the Labour Department’s MS Register of Strikes. They differ from those in the papers, eg, Auckland Star, 17 Mar 42, p. 6, which give 1540 men from Westfield, 450 from the Southdown works and 140 from Kings Wharf.
50 Press, 14 Mar 42, p. 6
54 Ibid., 19 Mar 42, p. 8
57 Ibid., 19 Mar 42, p. 8
58 Ibid., 20 Mar 42, p. 4; Auckland Star, 19 Mar 42, p. 8
60 Auckland Star, 18 Mar 42, p. 8. The next week, Minhinnick in ‘Westfield Aftermath’ showed a cook holding a leg of mutton and an irate lady on the telephone: ‘What’s more, don’t you try to tell me it’s wether mutton, butcher—it’s off a scrubby old ewe. Perhaps you don’t know that I have had hundreds of sheep though my hands in my time….’ NZ Herald, 23 Mar 42, Evening Star, 26 Mar 42
61 Auckland Star, 18 Mar 42, p. 8
62 A to J1942, H–11, p. 8
63 Auckland Star, 21 Mar 42, p. 5
66 Press, 23 Mar 42
69 Auckland Star, 25 Mar 42, p. 8
70 Ibid., 27 Mar 42, p. 6
71 Ibid., 30 Mar 42, p. 4
73 Auckland Star, 24 Mar 42, p. 3
74 eg, abattoir section of Palmerston North Freezing Workers Union, in Wanganui Herald, 23 Mar 42, p. 2, and Woburn branch ASRS in Press, 27 Mar 42, p. 4
75 Young, Hon Frederick George (d 1962 aet 73): Sec Auck Hotel Workers Fed from 1930, Nat Sec 1932; Pres Auck Trades Council 1940s; MLC 1941–50; former member Alliance Lab, Pres Auck LRC, Auck rep on Nat Council FoL, Pres breakaway Trade Union Congress 1950 before return to FoL; member Tourist Hotel Corp 1959, Dir from 1960
76 Press, 10 Apr 42, p. 6
79 NZ Woman’s Weekly, 2 Apr 42, p. 1
81 Henry, Sir Trevor, Kt(’70): practised Auck, Vice-Pres Auck District Law Soc 1955; Judge Supreme Court 1955; Judge Fiji Court Appeal 1973
82 Auckland Star, 18, 20 Mar 42, pp. 6, 2
83 NZ Gazette, 5 Feb 42, p. 457
84 Star–Sun, 11 Mar 42, p. 3; A to J1942, H–11, p. 7
85 Press, 10 Mar 42, p. 4
86 Star–Sun, 11 Mar 42, p. 3
88 eg, dispute over suspension of some men for knocking off early, one day, by 300 coal miners at Ohau on 21 January; dispute over refusal of 3 men to join union, ½ hour, by 123 freezing workers at Waingawa on 21 January; protests over payment of chain workers, ¾ day, by 54 Kaiapoi freezing workers on 24 February; dispute over re-instatement and payment of a trucker, one day, by Huntly miners on 24 February.
89 It must be remembered that both official censorship and the competition of news in shrunken papers would reduce the visibility of grumbling.
92 Figures in these last two paragraphs are taken from the Monthly Abstract of Statistics for 1942. In the tables for 1943 the quarterly totals of days lost in 1942 are slightly revised, except for January to March, thus: 29 864 to the end of June, 50 345 to the end of September, and 51 189 to the end of the year, ie, 247 less than the figure first given. In the Yearbook, 51 189 is adopted. There is no indication of the industries wherein these reductions were made. As Dr Hare complained in Labour in New Zealand 1943, p. 35, ‘such revisions make accurate statements impossible’.
93 A to J1943, C–2, pp. 2, 5; statement by Webb, Auckland Star, 24 Sep 42, p. 6
95 Yearbook 1947–49, p. 353
96 A to J1945, D–2, p. 7
98 Yearbook1942, p. 402, 1943, p. 316, 1944, p. 270, 1945, p. 288, 1946, p. 352, 1947–49, p. 369; War History Narrative, ‘Mines Department’, p. 10
99 Mining Controller to Min Supply, 3 Jun 40, file 14/17, WHN, ‘Mines Department’, p. 12
101 Under-Sec Mines to Min, 22 May 40, M.PC 61, WHN, ‘Mines Department’, p. 25
102 Set up by the Mining Emergency Regulations 1939 to ensure adequate supplies of labour and equipment for the industry and to control distribution of mines’ products. A to J 1941, C–2, p. 11
103 Mining Controller to Dir Nat Service, 14 Feb 41, WHN, ‘Mines Department’, p. 25
106 Press, 17 Jul (editorial), 15 Aug 42, p. 4
107 Ibid., 17 Jul 42, p. 4
108 As mentioned earlier, official strike figures are sometimes revised between first and later appearances; for instance, it may be decided not to count a short or partial stoppage; opinions may change about, say, prolonged stop-work meetings, perhaps on domestic concerns and involving no quarrel with management. In the Monthly Abstract of Statistics, which gives 3-monthly strike figures for separate trades, a year’s total is often changed, when it re-appears in comparison with the following year’s total. The Yearbooks sometimes have the original or revised figures of the Monthly Abstract, sometimes they show distinct further revision, which is adopted here. The Yearbook’s industrial groupings are not identical with those of the Monthly Abstract but the leading trades can be followed.
109 Yearbook1941, p. 769, 1942, p. 723, 1943, p. 598, 1944, p. 555, 1945, pp. 580, 582–3
110 Evening Post, 22 Jun 39, p. 8; statement by Angus McLagan, who continued, ‘Mr Davis [C. C. Davis, president of the Coal Mine Owners Association] locked out the men at the Dobson mine for five months because they wanted to share work. After being starved into submission, half of them were dismissed to look for non-existent jobs or eat grass, for all Mr Davis seemed to care. Most other coal owners did the same thing in 1931 and 1932, honourable exceptions being the State Collieries and the Stockton Company. It was not by accident that the first dismissals were of men active in union affairs, regardless of ability, service, or family responsibilities. Mass dismissals continued up to 1938.’
111 Calder, p. 433
112 Tojo, General Hideki (1884–1948): Jap War Min 1940–4; PM 1941–4; executed as war criminal 1948
113 Rules and regulations of the United Mine Workers of New Zealand, reprinted 1 Dec 43, p. 1
117 Press, 2–6 Jul 40, all p. 6, 9 May, 21 Oct 41, pp. 10, 6, 21 Jan, 16 Jul 42, pp. 6, 4
121 Auckland Star, 28 Apr 41, p. 8. Machine cutting of coal, not widely practised, was more dangerous in New Zealand’s gaseous coal than was hand cutting, but the yield per time unit was greater and so the payment therefor was less.
123 Ibid., 11 Jun 41, p. 6; Press, 22 Oct 41, p. 8
125 Ibid., 27, 28 May 41, pp. 6, 8
126 Ibid., 29 Apr, 2 May 41, pp. 6, 6
128 A to J1942, H–11, p. 7. ‘Bords’ are working passages, cut at right angles, in a grid pattern, leaving pillars of coal often about a chain square to support the area. Headings are access ways.
129 Ibid., 1943, C–2A, p. 1
130 Ibid., 1944, C–2A, p. 3
131 Auckland Star, 10, 14 Sep 42, pp. 6, 4
132 Hare, A. E. C., Report on Industrial Relations in New Zealand (hereinafter Industrial Relations), p. 233
133 Strongman, Charles James, OBE(’53) (1885–1967): Inspector Coal Mines 1923–6, 1928–36; local mngr Millerton Mines 1926–8; Superint State Coal Mines 1936–50; Coal Research Board DSIR; Coal Mines Council 1940–8
134 In mid-1940 a West Coast union, while disputing the dismissal of a trucker, stated that it had taken no action about six men recently dismissed on reasonable grounds from the State mines. Press, 6 Jul 40, p. 10
135 Woods, N. S., Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration in New Zealand, p. 167
137 Press, 6 Mar 42, p. 4
138 A to J1942, H–11, p. 7
142 A to J1941, C–2, p. 12, 1942, C–2, p. 6, 1945, C–2, p. 8
143 Dickie, Harold Galt (1874–1954): farmer; MP (Nat) Patea 1925–45; MLC 1950
144 NZPD, vol 261, p. 716
145 Hare, Dr Anthony Edward Christian: Research Fellow Social Relations in Industry, VUC 1942–7
146 Hare, Industrial Relations, pp. 112, 118
148 Ibid., 27 Apr 45, p. 9
151 A to J1943, C–2A, pp. 1–2, 3, 4, 7–8
153 Before October 1943, a bag of coal weighed 186lb. Thereafter, in response to the Auckland Drivers Union, it was reduced to 140lb, 16 bags to a ton. Press, 2 Oct 43, p. 4
155 Ibid., 13 Jun 42, p. 6
156 Ibid., 31 Aug 42, p. 2
160 Minutes of United Mine Workers National Council meetings, 30 Nov 43, p. 125, 10 May 44, p. 134
161 eg, Auckland Star, 5, 7 Jun, 22 Oct 42, pp.6, 2, 4; Press, 26 Nov 42, p. 4, 22 Oct 43, p. 4
163 WHN, ‘Mines Department’, p. 27
165 Hare, Labour in New Zealand 1943, p. 30
166 In the Press of 8 Oct 42, p. 6, a man wrote that after 30 years on the West Coast, 14 alongside the coal miners at Runanga, and much thought about their almost periodical stoppages of work, he was firmly convinced that their chief reason was the inexorable demand of man’s nature for daylight and sunshine. ‘In winter months the miners leave home in the dark, work all day in the bowels of the earth, and return home in darkness. The craving for sunlight must be terrible.’ Such craving could also account for much absenteeism.
169 Ibid., 28 Nov 40, p. 13
171 Ibid., 5 Apr 41, p. 12
172 Controller of Employment to Mining Controller, 28 Nov 41, file 14/9, WHN, ‘Mines Department’, p. 25
173 Press, 31 Jul 42
176 Statement by Webb in Auckland Star, 24 Sep 42, p. 6; Press, 22 Nov 43, p. 6. See also p. 810
180 Some mines were out of production for more than two weeks from 7 April; some in the Ten Mile area had to be re-opened in new places and restoration would take months. Under-Sec Mines in ibid., 15 Apr 42, p. 4
181 Ibid., 29 Apr, 16 Sep 42, pp. 4, 2; Auckland Star, 24 Jul 42, p. 6
182 Monthly Abstract of Statistics, Jul 1942
186 Auckland Star, 30 Sep 42, p. 2
187 Ibid., 9 Sep 42, p. 4
189 Auckland Star, 11 Sep, 5 Oct 42, pp. 4, 4 (report of the disputes committee)
191 Auckland Star, 9 Sep 42, p. 4
192 Ibid., 10 Sep 42, p. 6
195 Auckland Star, 11, 16 Sep 42, pp. 4, 4
196 Ibid., 14 Sep 42
198 Auckland Star, 1 Oct 42, p. 4
199 Ibid., 11 Sep 42, p 4
202 For instance, an informant ‘whose credibility could not be checked’ said that out of 1340 miners, 949 cast votes, 480 for continuing the strike and 469 for returning to work. Auckland Star, 15 Sep 42, p. 4. ‘It has since been learned and checked from several sources, none of them official’ that the figures were 643 for continuation, and 484 for return to work. Ibid., 21 Sep 42, p. 4
203 Ibid., 15 Sep 42, p. 4
205 Star–Sun, 15 Sep 42
207 Ibid., 22 Sep 42
208 NZPD, vol 261, pp. 634–5
209 Auckland Star, 14 Sep 42, p. 4
214 Ibid.; Press, 16 Sep 42, p. 4; the Auckland Star report of 16 Sep was less optimistic but thought ‘It might, however, have cleared the air to some extent’.
217 Press, 17 Sep 42, p. 4; Auckland Star, 1 Oct 42, p. 4. Reporters of the Auckland Star were told that banning the meeting had become a major issue; had the meeting been held the men would have been back at work soon after.
218 In Print, 23 Sep 42; the meeting was on 17 September
219 Ibid., 16 Sep 42
221 Paul, Hon John Thomas, CBE(’58) (1874–1964): b Aust, to NZ 1899; founder, Pres (1917–20) NZ Labour party; ed Otago Labour paper 1905–6; Otago Witness 1924–32; printing, then literary staff Otago Daily Times 1932–9; Director Publicity 1939–45; MLC 1907–19, 1946–50; JP 1906
222 Auckland Star, 16 Oct 42, p. 2. This instruction had at least one unexpected result. Semple, addressing a Tauranga meeting, ‘was tremendous’ on the Huntly strikers, according to Doidge, National MP for Tauranga, but the local paper’s long report had no word of Semple’s attack, and the editor, when taxed, claimed that he was prohibited from mentioning the strike. NZPD, vol 261, p. 685
223 Auckland Star, 1 Oct 42, p. 4
224 NZPD, vol 261, p. 643
231 NZPD, vol 261, p. 642
233 Ibid., 24 Sep 42, p. 2
234 NZPD, vol 261, pp. 682–3
237 See Wood, pp. 235–7. On p. 232 he explains the War Administration: on 29 May 1942 direct talks between the party leaders began, and on 24 June the caucuses of both parties agreed on yet another addition to the structure of New Zealand’s wartime government. The war effort was to be the responsibility of a War Administration of seven Government members (Fraser, Jones, Sullivan, Semple, Paikea, McLagan, Nordmeyer) and six Opposition (Holland, Coates, Hamilton, Polson, Bodkin, Broadfoot). The War Cabinet (which Holland joined and of which he became deputy chairman) was to act as the ‘executive’ of the War Administration in matters not dealt with by the full body. Full details were given in Evening Post, 1 Jul 42
238 Bodkin, Hon Sir William, KCVO(’54) (1883–1964): barrister & solicitor 1909, MP (United) Otago Central 1928ff; Min Civil Defence, War Admin; Min Internal Aff from 1949
240 Star–Sun, 23 Sep 42
241 Ibid., 30 Sep 42
242 Auckland Star, 30 Sep 42
243 Ibid., 1 Oct 42
244 Timaru Herald, 1 Oct 42
246 Press, 25 Sep, 1 Oct 42
249 See Wood, p. 237
250 Kyle, Herbert Seton Stewart (1873–1955): MP (Nat) Riccarton 1925–43
251 Massey, John Norman (1885–1964): son W. F. Massey; MP (Nat) Franklin 1928–35, 1938–57
252 NZPD, vol 261, p. 681
253 Ibid., p. 716
254 Sutherland, Andrew Sinclair (d 1961 aet 74): MP (Nat) Hauraki 1942–54; Senior Govt Whip 1949–54; Pres Ngaruawahia RSA
256 NZPD, vol 261, pp. 707, 709
257 Ibid., p. 712
258 Ibid., p. 634
259 Press, 22 Dec 42, p. 6
261 J. Devlin, A. Prendiville and F. Crook of the United Mine Workers, and C. C. Davis, T. O. Bishop and F. Carson of the Coal Mine Owners Association, under chairman J. Dowgray, a senior working-class figure who had represented the miners in a commission on a disaster at Huntly in 1914 and was chairman of the Coal Mines Council 1945–7
263 Hare, Labour in New Zealand 1943, p. 39
265 Auckland Star, 6 Oct 42
268 A to J1943, C–2, p. 5
269 Ibid., 1944, C–2, p. 6, 1946, C–2, p. 21
270 Press, 18 Oct 43, p. 4
271 Auckland Star, 8 Jan 43, p. 4
272 A to J1943, C–2, p. 2
274 A to J1946, C–2, p. 13; WHN, ‘Mines Department’, pp. 46–8
275 Minutes of United Mineworkers 1932–49, 30 Nov 43, 30 Apr, 10 May, 29 Oct 44, 20 Apr, 2 Nov 45
277 A to J1946, C–2, pp. 4, 6
279 Yearbook1944, p. 555, 1945, p. 583, 1946, p. 675, 1947–49, pp. 720, 722
280 A to J1946, H-11, p. 10
281 Ibid., 1944, H–11, p. 1
282 Ibid., 1945, H–11, p. 6
283 Ibid., 1947, H–11, p. 24
284 These were not from accidents in the mine.
285 A to J1945, C–2A, pp. 2–3, 8–9
288 Yearbook 1947–49, p. 720
290 A to J1941, H–45, p. 2; NZWW (New Zealand Waterside Workers) Union secretary’s annual report, 2 Dec 41, p. 2, Roberts Papers, B43/21—‘never during the history of the waterside workers has the Court of Arbitration conceded one single condition….’
293 Ibid., p. 8
294 Waterfront Control Commission (WCC) Emergency Regulations, 1940/59
296 Price, Captain Richard Everett, OBE(’46) (1891–1960): b UK, to NZ 1904; 25 years in sail and steam from deck boy to master; 1NZEF 1916–17, Lt RNR 1917–19; Labour Dept Inspector of Scaffolding, of Weights & Measures and Factories Awards; Conciliation Cmssnr Auck 1936; chmn Fish Export Advisory Cmte 1937, Navy Pay & Conditions Cmssn 1939, WCC 1940–6
298 McLeod, Hugh Andrew (b 1896): sea experience in British, American, Nova Scotian sailing ships for 8 years, officer Union Steam Ship Co NZ 1903–6, then 10 years ashore with same company; head stevedore, Shaw, Savill Auck 1916; joined firm of stevedoring contractors 1921, later Dir; WCC 1940
299 Bowling, Captain Thomas Henry (d 1964 aet 80): b at sea in Shaw, Savill clipper Akaroa; served time in sail and steam; joined Union Steam Ship Co 1912, 1st cmnd 1925; Asst Wharf Superint Dunedin 1927; Wharf Superint Lyttelton 1929, Wgrn 1934; seconded Wgtn Co-operative Labour and Employment Assn (later Waterfront Industry Cmssn) 1939–40, WCC 1942–6
302 The cost of living 4d was not included in overtime reckonings, so that the normal overtime rate, time-and-a-half, was 4s 7d, and Saturday mornings, at time-and-a-quarter, 3s 10½d an hour.
303 WHN, ‘The Waterfront’, pp. 166, 172
304 Ibid., pp. 25–6
306 WHN, ‘The Waterfront’, p. 59
307 Ibid., p. 60
308 WHN, ‘The Waterfront’, p. 3
309 NZWW Union Secretary’s report, 2 Dec 41, p. 14, Roberts Papers, B43/21
310 Flood, John: d 1968 aet 90; for many years Sec and later Pres Lyttelton Watersiders Union; Sec, then Pres, NZWW Union, exec member Lab Party, FoL, LRC
311 Report to special conference, Apr 41, p. 4, Roberts Papers, B44
313 A to J1945, H–45, pp. 5, 66
314 Ibid., 1941, H–45, p. 4
315 Ibid., 1945, H–45, p. 74
316 WHN, ‘The Waterfront’, p. 144
317 NZWW Union Secretary’s report, 2 Dec 41, p. 7, Roberts Papers, B43/21
319 A to J1945, H–45, pp. 4–5
320 Ibid., pp. 65–6
321 Hare, Industrial Relations, p. 238
322 WHN, ‘The Waterfront’, pp. 133–4, 137–8
323 Ibid., pp. 114–5
324 Ibid., p. 262n
325 Ibid., p. 34
326 A to J1945, H–45, p. 16
327 WHN, ‘The Waterfront’, p. 33
328 ‘It was difficult enough to fight the employers, but we found at the same time some opposition to the Commission from the waterside workers…. The Commission was told … on several occasions that the waterside workers had openly expressed their hostility to it and that they did not want the co-operating contract system; in fact, the Auckland Branch carried a resolution asking the Commission to withdraw it.’ Roberts in NZWW Union Secretary’s annual report, 2 Dec 41, p. 8, Roberts Papers, B43/21
329 WHN, ‘The Waterfront’, pp. 38–9
330 Ibid., pp. 39, 41
332 WHN, ‘The Waterfront’, pp. 30–1
334 A to J1949, H–45, p. 8
335 ‘… hours were extended to 11 p.m. and to 2 a.m. when a vessel was finishing.’ NZWW Union Secretary’s report, 2 Dec 41, p. 13, Roberts Papers, B43/21
337 WHN, ‘The Waterfront’, pp. 105–6
338 WCC ‘Activities of the Waterfront Commission for year ended 31 March 1943’, p. 6, Hare Papers, Watersiders folder. This explains that waterside pay in Australia, the United States and Britain was generally higher than in New Zealand. Australia’s basic rate was 3s 8½d an hour, 9s 3¼d on Sundays and special holidays. In the United States the basic rate was $1.00 an hour for a 6-hour day, and thereafter overtime at $1.50, with high rates for special cargoes.
339 WHN, ‘The Waterfront’, p. 106
340 A to J1945, H–45, p. 3
343 WHN, ‘The Waterfront’, p. 91
344 Ibid., pp. 94–100
345 A to J1945, H–45, pp. 6, 88
346 Report to special conference, Apr 41, p. 3, Roberts Papers, B44
348 The Commission in 1945 estimated that the average age was something over 50 years. A to J 1945, H–45, p. 6. A Union deputation to the PM on 18 December 1943 stated that of 1800 Union members at Wellington only 80 were less than 40 years old and that in the 6000 watersiders employed before the war only 400 Grade I men remained. WHN, ‘The Waterfront’, p. 189
349 A to J1945, H–45, p. 6; WHN, ‘The Waterfront’, pp. 190–7
350 Star–Sun, 31 Oct 42, p. 4
351 A to J1945, H–45, p. 73
352 Press, 24 May 44, p. 6
353 A to J1945, H–45, p. 73
354 Ibid., p. 74
355 WHN, ‘The Waterfront’, pp. 178–9, 181
356 Ibid., p. 183
358 WHN, ‘The Waterfront’, pp. 187–8
359 The rate rose to 7s 4d later when the cost of living bonus was added.
361 Ibid., 6 Apr 42, p. 6
365 These two bodies shared an active secretary, P. M. Butler.
366 Report of meeting with NZWW Union and Wellington Builders and General Labourers, 12 Jun 42, Labourers Union Papers, 8.41.1, Carton 12
367 J. Roberts to P. M. Butler, 17 Jul 42, ibid.
370 A to J1945, H-45, p. 6
371 Auckland Star, 7 Nov 42, p. 6
373 WHN, ‘The Waterfront’, p. 76
374 Ibid., p. 83
375 Ibid., p. 74
376 Ibid., pp. 74, 77
377 WCC ‘Report on Organisation and Activities as at 31 March 1944’, p. 5
378 WHN, ‘The Waterfront’, pp. 81–3
381 A to J1945, H–45, pp. 6, 75, where the main disputes are briefly listed, 1946, H–45, p. 61
382 Ibid., 1946, H–45, p. 62
384 WHN, ‘The Waterfront’, p. 84n
388 Report of biennial conference of NZWW Union, 27 Nov 45, pp. 12–19, Roberts Papers B42
389 An official report was published in 1941 and another in 1945; for the years between, publication of reports was prohibited by the Director of Publicity, at the request of the Navy Office, lest they give information to the enemy.
390 NZPD, vol 263, pp. 337–54
391 Hare, Labour in New Zealand 1943, pp. 47–8
393 A to J1946, H–45, p. 3, 1947, H–45, p. 70
394 Ibid., 1945, H–45, pp. 72–3, 1946, H–45, pp. 5–6, 57–8
* Electricity supply