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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 8. 19th April 1973


Aerial photo of a striking crowd

1951 Waterfront Lockout: Police struggle with watersiders outside Auckland's Town Hall on the morning the scab waterfront union was formed, April 28 1950. One of the features of the Lockout was the bitter conflict between militant unions like the watersiders who opposed any form of arbitration, and the moderates led by the Federation of Labour.

"No doubt the workers' fight will go on regardless, but they will find it somewhat easier with only one hand tied behind the back instead of both arms fettered", writes Bert Roth in reply to Mike Law's analysis of the Industrial Relations Bill in Salient, March 21st.

Law argued that if the Bill was enacted with all its penal clauses against strikes intact it would inevitably produce bitter conflict, especially in the transport and freezing industries. Roth however believes that the discussion an the Industrial Relations Bill should not be entirely negative. "While hoping and working for the millenium, when all our problems will find their ideal solution, we still have to make the most of the present Bill here and now".

In the article below Roth focuses attention on the demand of many trade unions that the right to bargain directly with employers, as opposed to a system of compulsory arbitration, should be included in the Bill.

The Industrial Relations Bill constitutes the first thorough revision of our industrial labour law since the Arbitration Act was passed in 1894. For this reason alone it deserves serious consideration. Inevitably, workers in confronting the employers will continue to press for the best possible deal, regardless of what laws are imposed from above. But this does not mean that we can be indifferent to the laws that are enacted, or that we should wish to sec the worst possible laws passed because this would "inevitably produce bitter conflict". Back in the thirties, some people on the left looked forward to the day when Hitler came to power, because after that it would be "our turn". Unfortunately, very few survived the experience.

It was to counter radical-sounding but essentially defeatist arguments of this nature that Georgi Dimitrov, in his speech to the seventh world congress of the Communist International in 1935, reminded his audience that "the millions of toilers living under capitalism are faced with the necessity of taking a definite stand on these forms in which the rule of the bourgeoisie is clad in the various countries. We are not anarchists and it is not at all a matter of indifference to us what kind of political regime exists in any given country: whether a bourgeois dictatorship in the form of bourgeois democracy, even with democratic rights and liberties greatly curtailed, or a bourgeois dictatorship in its open, fascist form".