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Salient. Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 25. October 4, 1976

Civil Liberties Threatened

Civil Liberties Threatened

The NZ Council for Civil Liberties, concerned at the recent proposed industrial legislation and the trend towards fascism, held a seminar last weekend centred round three themes: the historical framework of Trade Union Civil Liberties; Recent Developments in New Zealand; and What of the Future.

The first speaker, Noel Woods, former secretary of Labour and fellow at the "Industrial Relations Centre, Victoria University, outlined the major historical developments. He pointed to the maritime strike of 1890 and its subsequent overwhelming defeat as the turning point in industrial relations.

The unions lost confidence in their ability to look after themselves and looked to the government for legislative protection. In 1894 the first Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act was passed. This was primarily designed to set up an organizational structure which would safeguard the rights of workers and prevent strikes.

It's interesting to note that lockouts and strikes were subject to penalty only if they occurred while the dispute was before a board of Conciliation or the Court of Arbitration. It was not until 1905 that the sweeping prohibition on strikes and lockouts was introduced.

From that point onwards until 1973 the definitions of strikes and lockouts were expanded and the penalties increased in scope and severity until they occupied ten pages of the Act. Deregistration of unions as a penalty was introduced in 1939 and expanded on in the 1973 Act (see S 130(1)(5)). In effect this allows for ministerial interference in the internal functioning of union membership.

After 1973 strikes and lockouts during voluntary negotiations for a new collective agreement became allowable. The Act terms all other stoppages, breaches of the agreement and subject to penalty as such. It is interesting to note that Noel Woods stressed that penalties and fines placed on industrial stoppages have never facilitated industrial mediation and in fact, worked very strongly against any industrial solution.