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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 10. 1971

1951—never again

page break

1951—never again

"The Great Safe Robbery"

Great Safe Robbery cartoon

On Tuesday last a large contingent of uniformed and plain-clothes police swarmed all over and around tho Trades Hall, accompanied by itchy-fingered [unclear: oceivers] and a character who refrained from saying anything in the vain hope that he wouldn't be detected as a Scotland Yard [unclear: slouth].

When Freezing worker Secretary Sid Giles rightly refused to give "Call-me-Dave" Patterson the keys to the Union's safe, the coppers called a lock-smith, and five happy hours were spent in drilling holes in the safe. (A couple of unaccountable power failures held up proceedings a little)

We understand that tho police, Receivers etc, wish to express their thanks to the freezing workers present who made their long stay such a pleasant one.

On this occasion the police were actually [unclear: enuipted] with that old-fashioned commodity, a search warrant, but habit dies hard, and they tried to stretch a warrant to search premises into one to search persons.

Just what the police were looking for is a mystery, and from their actions and behaviour will probably remain so as far as normally-minded people are concerned.

While this episode had its lighter side, it also points' a serious warning to the wide power a without discrimination or accounting that the police possess, and their attitude shows' that they now look upon those powers as a normal right.

Services shambles

The womens Auxiliary (who wore refused permission to state their case to the woman of Wellington by the "wharfios boot friend," McLennan) inform us that they understand that the Town Clerk is refusing tho Services tho use of the Town Hall as a result of tho disgraceful exhibition and conduct at the recent Services Ball.

Pillaged whiskey and other "harmless" beverages "incited disorder," and as there wore 3 men to every women, the party developed in a very unpleasant manner - woman present were disgusted and some of them had to seek police protection and assistance in order to escape from the hall.

george rosenberg

Government sources regard stoppages on the scale of the 1951 Waterfront lockout as "almost inevitable", reports Chief Reporter Pat Plunket in the Dominion of Saturday May 29. "In the event of such stoppages", the report continues, "It is almost certain the government will counter deregistration and emergency regulations."

The stoppages are likely to arise in the next stage of the container handling dispute. Employers have agreed to pay Wharfies rates about 20% higher than normal storemans' rates for container packing, in designated off-wharf depots. But Plunket quotes a high Government source as saying that the Government will not designate any off-wharf depots for Wharfie-labour until it gets the result of its Royal Commission of Enquiry into container handling. The F.O.L. has refused to accept the terms of reference of this Commission, because all matters designated in the terms have already been settled in various agreements between the Union, the employers and the Government. Last September the Minister of Labour wrote to the Wellington Waterside Workers Union saying: "I accept the depots already designated by the F.O.I...." The Unions are thus unlikely to accept a long wait for the results of a Royal Commission, which might overrule concessions they have already achieved by industrial action, at considerable sacrifice to all the workers involved.

The container packing dispute is an almost inevitable consequence of the move to containerisation in freight. For the Wharfie it means a massive reduction in work available, because actual handling of freight on the wharf is reduced to a minimum. The only way to avoid massive redundancy, unemployment and reduced earnings is thus to gain control of the area where the freight handling will now, in the main, take place—the off-wharf consolidating depots.

This has naturally met considerable opposition from the employers because one of the most tempting aspects of the container revolution was the prospect of having only the non-militant right-wing Storeman and Packers Union to contend with, instead of the Watersiders who have a long history of militancy. This is evidenced by the alliance of the employers, the Manufacturers' Association, and the Storemen, against the F.O.L. and the Wharfies. The Storemen and Packers have almost no history of working in this field of the transport industry, and, in the light of their past history are unlikely to be able to gain the improvement in conditions justified by the increased productivity. The F.O.L. has sided with the Wharfies in the inter-union dispute, in what has been both a backs-to-the-wall stand against a reduction in the Wharfies conditions. They have also backed the Watersiders as the most likely to be able to gain the best conditions. The Wellington Branch of the Store-men left the F.O.L. and now a 20% margin has been negotiated. This is small concession compared with that which could have been gained had the Storemen not caused a break of unity in Union ranks, and this will harden Watersiders' and F.O.L. determination to stand up for the small concessions the Union has gained. That is why a confrontation is likely.

But any comparison with 1951 is unreal. In 1951 the Wharfies Union stood alone, opposed in its actions both by the Government and by the F.O.L., and most of the Trade Union Movement. In those circumstances de-registration and the emergency regulations were highly effective in smashing the union, although it still took five months. In the situation where the entire Trade Union movement is united, the weapon of deregistration is a weak one. A united union movement can wipe out a union created to replace a de-registered union in support of Government policies. The Waterfront can no more run without drivers and railway men, maintenance workers and clerical staff, than it can without Watersiders. In 1951, the government could bring in non-union scab labour, and provide army assistance to keep the wharfs open, because the Trade Union movement gave its assistance, by letting the rest of the economy run as normal, and by handling the fruits of scab labour. But a policy of non-co-operation on the part of the Unions would have meant the failure of the policies of coercion on the part of the Government. Furthermore registration under the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act, means nothing more than that the Union can benefit from the provisions of the Act. Employers can be forced to negotiate if the union goes through certain formalities. Awards declaring legally required wages and conditions for an entire industry can be made. Conditions can be included in the Awards requiring universal union membership. All these things are desirable for a trade union movement which is too weak to defend itself, but they do not mean much for a movement which is strong, and can impose such provisions on employers without Government assistance. If one union was to withdraw or be withdrawn (by de-registration) from the provisions of the Act, it would be in a weak position, and could find Itself losing its members to an employer-created, employer-subservient union. But if the vast majority of unions, the entire F.O.L., were to withdraw from registration, there would be little change in their position. Many worker-employer agreements at the moment are negotiated despite, rather than because of, the provisions of the I.C.& A. Act. The agreements are negotiated within the broad terms of the I.C.&A. Act; conciliation councils do meet, arbitration does exist, the Arbitration court still sits. But if the decision of these processes is not to the liking of either party it Is ignored, and, page break ultimately, it can be said that every change in conditions results not from an "objective view of the matter resulting from the semi- judicial processes of the Act but from a trial of strength between employer and union. The union demands what it thinks it can force the employer to give. The employer gives what he gives, not on the basis of economics, but on the basis of what he hopes the union will take without retaliation by industrial action If most unions were to withdraw from registration under the I.C.&A. Act, new procedures for negotiation would quickly be developed, and the present situation would continue essentially unchanged. Any unions registered under the I.C.&A. Act for the purposes of breaking strikes, or weakening the bargaining position of the unregistered unions, could easily be forced out of existence by combined union action within the F.O.L.

In today's situation the threat of deregistration thus carriers less weight than it did in 1951. More disturbing is the threat of emergency regulations. The 1951 Waterfront Strike Emergency Regulations provided.

There is no right to trial by jury. The Minister of Labour decides whether or not a strike exists.

You are liable to a fine of $200, or three months jail, or both, if—you make any payment or contribution for the benefit of any workers who are parties to a declared strike.

  • The rules of evidence are overridden. You are presumed guilty until proved innocent for certain offences.
  • Power for any police sergeant to prohibit any meeting or procession is provided in regulation 6.
  • A police sergeant is empowered by regulation 18 to enter your home at any time using force if necessary, for the purposes of enforcing the regulations.

Some of the specific regulations are interesting. They create nothing less than a police state.

Reg. 15 (1) Every person commits an offence against these regulations who -
(a)Carries or displays or drives or causes to be driven any vehicle carrying or displaying, or affixes in any place where it is in sight of any other person, any banner, placard, sign or other thing which contains any words to which this regulation applies; or
(b)Writes or prints or displaces etc (as r.a.) any words to which this regulation applies.
(2) This regulation applies to -
(a)Any words counselling, procuring or inducing any person to do any act to which reg 12 hereof (banning encouragement of striking, or encouraging a breach of these regs.) applies.
(b)Any threatening, intimidatory, offensive, or insulting words in relation to any person or class or classes of persons in respect of his or their refusal or failure to do any act tow which regulation 12 hereof applies.

(3) Every person who commits an offence under this regulation may be arrested without warrant by any constable.

Reg. 17 (1) Every person who is found committing or has committed or is suspected of haying committed an offence under these regulations shall, if required to do so by any constable give to that constable his true name and address and verify them to the satisfaction of the constable. (2) Every person who fails to comply... may be arrested without warrant...

Reg. 16 (l) If a member of the Police Force of or above the rank of Sergeant is satisfied that the holding or continuance of any procession in a public place....or within view of a public place, or the holding or continuance of any meeting (whether in a public place or elsewhere) is likely to be injurious to the public safety or to the public interest, he may prohibit the holding or continuance of the procession or meeting.

(2) Where the holding... is prohibited...every person commits an offence who...takes part...or continues to be present thereat after being requested by a constable to leave.

Reg. (4) Every person commits an offence against these regulations who -

(d) Prints or publishes any statement, advertisement, or other matter that constitutes an offence against these regulations, or that is intended or likely to encourage, procure, incite aid or abet a declared strike or the continuance of a declared strike, or that is a report of any such statement made by any other person.

Laws of that nature can only be combatted by enormous opposition. They are certainly as repressive as any legislation in any totalitarian country, and are worthy of no respect. Of course the chief advantage of them as far as the government is concerned is that they give an opportunity for them to lock up any trade union leader or "agitator" almost by reason of his existence. The only way for such an advantage to be removed is for the person to step into the shoes of every person removed, and for every person, leader or not, to do everything in his power to defeat the regulations. In 1951 many courageous people defied the regulations. A continuous stream of illegal pamphlets, putting the wharfies case were produced. Corageous individuals like Walter Nash defied the ban on meetings to give support to the locked-out workers. A lecturer at Victoria University College allowed a Wharfies' representative to speak during his lecture time. But because of the split in the Trade Union movement, and the country, the regulations largely achieved their aim of allowing only the Government's propaganda to be aired, and of ultimately smashing the Watersiders' Union.

If emergency regulations are to be introduced again the possibilities of enforcing them will be, and must be made, much less than in 1951. A massive civil disobedience campaign - strikes, demonstrations, public meetings, illegal pamphlets and newspapers, even illegal radio - must be organised. Such a campaign would be not only in support of Workers to settle their conditions of employment in the way they wish, but also in opposition to the proclaimed right of government to use repressive measures to impose the wishes of a minority on the majority (the freight companies' wishes on the workers). It would also be a fight for democracy - for the right of people to decide questions through frank and free discussion, even in times of crisis. It would be a fight against a government imposing its wishes by sheer brute force.

We do not live in a democracy as long as the government has such powers, as the right to make emergency regulations up its sleeve. For as long as it has those powers it can allow freedom of speech and action when it can afford to; and when there is a risk to its interests, it can remove all democracy. It is at times when the country is in such a state of turmoil that democracy really means something in terms of power to alter the course of events. If it can be removed at those very times it is mere sham.

Of course we cannot hope that any government existing under the present economic system in New Zealand will abolish this power. Such powers exist as the final prop of government when its power to influence through persuasion or bribery is lost. They exist to teach a lession to groups within society who wish to challenge anything more than the day-to-day running of society, who wish to achieve their aims by methods which are not stamped with the "Good-Government Seal of Approval", that they cannot go any further than the government wishes. If the government succeeds in smashing the Wharfies, it will serve as a salutary lession to all unionists, in fact to all people whose interests or ideas are opposed to this system, that to do anything more than talk is dangerous. If the trade union movement succeeds in uniting the people of New Zealand into a body that succeeds in preventing the emergency regulations from doing their job, that will serve as a salutary lession to every person in New Zealand, that by united action that they can do what they will. That if, they so desire they can overthrow this system and replace it by a system that does not outlaw worker's rights to struggle for better conditions, but in fact exists entirely to improve these conditions, and in improving those conditions improving our whole way of life. It will serve as a lession that there is no need for a minority to continue for its benefit to impose its wishes on he majority. That the majority itself can take stale power and create a socialist state.

Wellington Watersiders Official Information Bulletin

National Strike Committee says:

After twenty-two weeks of the greatest industrial struggle in New Zealand's history in which 20,000 workers have stood alone against the most vicious employers' Government seen outside [unclear: fascism], the locked-cut workers end strikers hold to the principles of unionism more tenaciously and more consciously than over.

After squandering tens of millions of money and their last remaining moral asset to smash at the heart of the New Zealand trade union movement, the employing class has failed Only the abandonment of union policy by the rank and file and the repudiation of their fighting leadership would rep-resent victory to tho employers.

But, despite their heroic stand in the face of sacrifice hardship and persecution for themselves and their families, the workers would have victory only if an aroused people had joined them to wipe out the Emergency Regulations and had compelled the shipowners and shipowners Government to negotiate.

Neither capital nor labour can claim complete victory. The issue is yet to be decided.

In this situation the maritime unions could turn their backs to the sea and leave the employers to the chaos of their own making - and to the scabs. But the ships and the wharves are the [unclear: seamens'] and the [unclear: watersiders'] own workplaces. They are the ground, together with mines, freezing works and other industries, where the battle for trade union rights must be fought and won. Now is the time for that battle to be joined. Now is the time to consolidate tho magnificent fighting unity developed during this epic struggle.

Supremely confidant of the conscious discipline of our ranks we call upon every individual member to return to work and hold up the banner of his union on tho Job.

We call upon watersiders, seamen, miners, freezing workers, drivers, and all other unionists to stand by their fellow workers in a positive fighting programme to overcome screening, hold conditions, and clean out scabbery root and branch.

In unity we have fought and in unity we return to our industries to fight again.

In twelve months it will be time to say whose is the victory! We are confident in Our strength!"

(The above resolution was carried by tho National Strike Committee on July 9, and endorsed by the Wellington Branch on July 12, 1951)

Barnes ban lifted?

As we go to [unclear: press] we learn that our "National president has been able to book the Auckland Town Hall for a meeting on Sunday week.

Apparently the authoritias in Auckland, with unhappy memories of the consequences of refusing the Hall to Walter Nash, did not consult Inspector McLennan, who never be "Bernes will never be allowed to address another meeting in New Zealand!"

The next step is radio time -

Our Future

With the return to work of the involved unions, this is the last "Look-out" edition of this Information Bulletin.

During the course of the dispute this Bulletin has been the only answer to the welter of press, radio and Government lies and distortions, and has been the only medium through which people could learn tho true foots of tho waterfront lock-out.

The look-out is over - but the lies and distortions will go on - and this Bulletin will go on too, answering the lies and continuing to bring the truth about the industrial movement to its members and to the public.

Let's have a K.O. in round two?

Workers strike cartoon

The great waterfront Lock-out of 1951 is now over - in its [unclear: prellianesy] stage - for the return to work of the unique involved in what will go down in history as the goat momentous industrial at struggle in New Zealand brings about the start of a now phase of that struggle.

The resignation of the Government marks the end of the first round - the sound will be decided in six weeks time at the special General Election.

The call for the resignation of the Holland Government has been, one of the [unclear: leases] at a [unclear: take] in this dispute, and it has been forced on them by the unparalleled solidarity and self-sacrifice shown by the [unclear: watersidere] and their [unclear: allies].

We have said repeatedly that the Government was groggy; that there was a wide [unclear: rift] among its followers (even among the members of Cabinet) regarding the handling of the dispute; and that they could not ignore the [unclear: widespread] protests against the [unclear: legielated] fascism of the so-called Emergency Regulations Their resignation, hard on the heels of [unclear: innumerable] statements about how the whole country was [unclear: solidly] behind their actions, proves the accuracy of our [unclear: accousmont] of the situation.

The Government had committed itself or completely to its [unclear: no] compromise role that it could not even negotiate without committing political hari-kari - the return to work of the involved unions (after inflicting what must be one of the [unclear: heaviest] [unclear: loasen] of profit ever suffered by [unclear: employerdom]) now loads the to [unclear: gramp] at the only straw in sight, in the vague and vain hope that they will be able to [unclear: ourlate] the [unclear: Menzies] Government in Australia and bluff the [unclear: electora] into giving them the chance to continue with their plans to build [unclear: feacism] in New Zealand.

Our task is now clear - we must [unclear: organise] every men and woman in the country to end the [unclear: poraecution] of the trade union movement; to remove the obnoxious Emergency Regulation; and to free our country from [unclear: tion] with the Yankeo war—[unclear: planners] - we have won a chance by [unclear: haltin] reaction - let's make sure of victory!